Post-doctoral Research Associate and Lead for Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement for the Centre for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis
My work spans two main themes. The first theme is concerned with health intelligence for musculoskeletal (MSK) diseases, and focuses on creating updated estimates of the incidence and prevalence of MSK diseases in the UK.
The second theme is concerned with the impact of MSK diseases, specifically focused on the occurrence and progression of symptoms such as fatigue, pain and mood.
Public engagement highlights
I’ve been passionate about public engagement since starting my PhD.
I’ve been involved in various activities. One that was particularly notable was Manchester Day in 2016, where we worked with a local artist to produce a seven-metre tall pain mannequin onto which circus performers pinned stickers to represent the location of pain reported to us by the public. Probably something to be seen in order to be believed!
A personal highlight for me is also having been appointed as the lead for PPI/E for our centre. This is a really great opportunity for me to shape what we do at a local level within our centre, as well as contributing to the overall aims of The University of Manchester.
Best public engagement advice
I think there’s three things for me:
- NEVER assume knowledge. Just because something makes sense to you, don’t assume it will make sense to everyone. It’s your job to take people on the journey with you, so you need to make sure you give everyone an equal chance to understand what you are talking about.
- Just have a chat. Often scientists and researchers build public engagement into quite a terrifying prospect – it’s not something we all do and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be scary. At the end of the day, though, you are just having a chat with someone about your work. It shouldn’t be scary and actually it benefits you equally, if not more than, the person you are aiming to talk to.
- Make it personal. People will respond to your work better if you give them your personal experience of, or motivations for, researching what you do. Also, don’t be afraid to try and find common ground with people in order to make your work personally tangible for them.
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