VIEWS ON PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT – QUOTES FROM DEC ’08 WORKSHOP

The fundamental reason we do health research is to alleviate suffering and bring about benefit and change. Active community involvement is vital for success.

John Imrie, Health Systems Trust, South Africa

 

We are known as the noisemakers, because we are very vocal about giving people access to ART (anti-retroviral treatment).

Lihle Dlamini, Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa

 

Academics have a major task and responsibility to tackle the government – and act as activists – when the government gets it wrong scientifically. Scientists do, however, pay a price when they become activists.

Wim Sturm, Nelson Mandela Medical School, UKZN, South Africa

 

Policy makes are more likely to read newspapers than scientific papers. This is a wake-up call to scientists and media liaison staff about the role of mass media in reaching policy makers effectively.

 

 

Samuel Anya, CIAM – Public Health Research & Development Centre, The Gambia

 

People will ask: “How does this affect me?” To engage effectively, you have to crack the issue of significance and relevance.

Irwin Friedman, Health Systems Trust, South Africa

 

Researchers are from Venus, policy makers from Mars. Communicators are possibly from Pluto. It is a difficult relationship in some ways, because we have different perspectives and different challenges.

Wendy Graham, University of Aberdeen, UK

 

If you understand the politics of the policy making process, you can maximise the impact of your research.

John Young, Overseas Development Institute, UK

 

Using the media is a great public engagement tool that can be hugely influential, but academics have been slow to catch up with the benefits the media can bring.

Katrina Nevin-Ridley, Head of Media Relations, Wellcome Trust

 

Theatre does not necessarily provide answers, but it does inspire people to investigate things further.

Ms Rebecca Gould, Tinderbox – Theatrescience, UK

 

A research project is like an onion. It has many layers. Some have good flavours. Some will make your hands smell and some will make you cry.

Wendy Graham, University of Aberdeen, UK

 

People are able to learn while they enjoy themselves. That is why good science theatre can be highly educational.

Mondli Mkhonza, DramAidE, South Africa

 

Stories are what make the world go round. This is how people really communicate and it is therefore a very powerful tool.

John Young, Overseas Development Institute, UK

 

The government of Uganda is looking toward science and technology as a way to get people out of poverty and that is booking us, as science journalists, in a very strong position.

William Odinga, science journalist, Uganda

 

We have to teach journalists more science, but it is as important to teach scientists to use journalistic language so that they will be able to craft messages that journalists will take note of.

Wim Sturm, Nelson Mandela Medical School, UKZN, South Africa

 

Communication officers can take away a lot of the pain and fear on both sides of the scientist-journalist relationship. It is time-consuming, but the benefits can be huge.

Katrina Nevin-Ridley, Head of Media Relations, Wellcome Trust

 

It is not about whether we should have engagement, but how, who and when best to do it.

Wendy Graham, University of Aberdeen, UK

 

We need evidence of what works at the interface between science and media. How do we judge success? Are we really looking for numbers of journalists trained, or hits on web sites? How de we link that to real health gains?

Wendy Graham, University of Aberdeen, UK

 

Every time you do something, you should do it better than the last time. That is what evaluation is all about.”

John Young, Overseas Development Institute, UK

 

Researchers should do an internship at their country’s Ministry of Health to get to grips with the realities and constraints of policy makers.

Samuel Anya, CIAM – Public Health Research & Development Centre, The Gambia

 

Activism does not necessarily make you the enemy. As much as the TAC fought with government, we are now working with government.

Lihle Dlamini, Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa

 

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