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Media Release on Wellcome Trust International Public Engagement Workshop

Media release from the Wellcome Trust

For immediate release


More than 60 public engagement practitioners from across the world are to share skills and experiences at an innovative conference to be held in South Africa, organised by the Wellcome Trust.

The conference – entitled “Science and community: engage to empower” – will take place from 2-5 December at the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, KwaZulu-Natal. It will bring together practitioners working in the fields of public engagement and communication of biomedical and health research.

The programme of activities and workshops will include interactive sessions on the theory and practice behind public engagement, as well as the ethics of involving communities. Hands-on sessions will equip researchers with science engagement and communication skills, and build bridges between scientists and policymakers. Delegates will be able to explore the potential of science cafés, theatre and cultural events, science centres and science journalism as public engagement tools.

“This conference will be one of the first of its kind, with public engagement professionals from around the world coming together to share their knowledge,” says Dr Bella Starling, who heads the Wellcome Trust’s international engagement programme. “Many of these practitioners will be working on their own, with only virtual communication with counterparts in other countries. Meeting face-to-face will enable us to develop a strong and dynamic network, leading to valuable improvements in the field.”

“We look forward to welcoming public engagement experts from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and many more to the Africa Centre,” says Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Head of External Relations at the Africa Centre. “It will be fascinating to compare experiences of sharing science from such different parts of the developing world.”

Resources from the workshops, including session reports, daily news updates and audio and video casts, will be posted online at https://scienceincommunity.wordpress.com soon after the conference.

Justa Wawira is responsible for the strategic development and management of external relations for the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme in Kilifi and Nairobi, Kenya, liaising with health-related public and private stakeholders from the international to the local level as well as with the community, the Ministry of Health, civil societies, professional bodies and the media.

The Wellcome Trust, the UK’s largest medical research charity, is one of the world’s leading funders of biomedical and health-related research. Through its public engagement activities, it aims to develop new pathways of communication and interaction between scientists, policy makers and communities, as well as to stimulating informed debate about the interface between science and society.

The Trust has recently made a significant investment in international engagement projects through its International Engagement Awards. Recently funded projects include establishing Café Scientifique events for adults and schools in Uganda; a cinema workshop two produce short films on health research in Coastal Ecuador; and a project to engage teachers in rural areas of Brazil with ongoing pesticide and health research in order to better communicate results and to promote best practices when using pesticides.

Recipients of the International Engagement Awards will join researchers and outreach staff from Wellcome Trust-funded centres in the developing world and a number of other key stakeholders in networking with science communicators from around the world.



Thulani Cele
Public Relations Officer
Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies
Tele: +27 (0)35 550 7575
Cell: +27 (0)84 236 5841
Email: tcele@africacentre.ac.za

Notes for editors

1. The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing. http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

2. The Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies is at the forefront of efforts to understand population and health dynamics in developing countries. Based in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, it brings together African and international scientists to conduct research, develop local capacity, and identify ways to overcome the health challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa. In its eight years, the Centre has created Africa’s most comprehensive demographic surveillance system, established a successful antiretroviral drug treatment programme for local people living with HIV/AIDS, and carried out clinical trials in a range of areas of critical importance to health in developing countries. The Africa Centre is a joint project of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Medical Research Council of South Africa. http://www.africacentre.ac.za

3. Media Practitioners are encouraged to attend the event and altert the Public Relations Office of their intentions by e-mail (tcele@africacentre.ac.za) or phone (+27 (0) 35 550 7575

4. We also invite journalist to attend the Science Café on the 4th December 12h30 – 14h00.