Published On Fri 13 Jan 2017 by Cara Longmuir
Stephen Fry has praised University of Dundee academics for their efforts in communicating their research to the public and helping transform lives from Scotland to southern Africa.
The University will tomorrow present the 2017 Stephen Fry Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research during its annual Discovery Days ceremony at the Dalhousie Building, Old Hawkhill.
The winner of the Public Engagement Project of the Year award is ‘Growing up on the Streets’, a project seeking to improve the lives of vulnerable and marginalised street children in Africa. Professor Jennifer Woof has been named Engaged Researcher of the Year in recognition of her outstanding work with schools and the public to raise awareness of science.
Stephen Fry, the comedian, actor, writer, broadcaster and activist who served two terms as Rector of the University, congratulated the winners in a video recording that will be played when they receive their awards.
He said, “I want to congratulate the winners who have both done extraordinary work in fields which are, to me, the most important in academia. They are public engagement and education about the involvement of research in improving lives, especially those of the most vulnerable who are, of course, children in poverty in the urban areas of the world. I can’t think of two more worthy winners and so I want to commend them and all those who have contributed.
“I really am so proud of my involvement with the University of Dundee. I think it is extraordinary how the institution is growing and growing. In every direction it seems to be improving, from its research to its student experience which, as an ex-Rector, I find that to be a deeply important part of how an institution functions.”
Led by Professor Lorraine van Blerk, the Growing up on the Streets team worked with hundreds of street children and youth in the African cities of Accra, Bukavu and Harare. They aimed to understand the capabilities of youths on the street in their daily lives, in order to improve policies and practices that transform lives.
The team, which also included Dr Wayne Shand, Janine Hunter and three project managers in Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe, built strong and ongoing relationships with young people, local project teams, and peer practitioners across Africa. In collaboration with UK-based charity StreetInvest, the University researchers gathered and analysed over 3,000 interviews and focus groups, creating the largest ever database of the lives of young street people.
Professor Woof’s public engagement work includes hosting work experience placements designed to help school pupils progress to higher education. She involved one such pupil in the design of experiments and a public engagement event to raise the awareness of coeliac disease. Professor Woof and the pupil wrote a paper detailing the engagement activity that has been submitted to the international peer-reviewed Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.
Professor Woof’s leadership and boundless energy helps to share the latest research from the University. During Dundee Science Festival, she developed and delivered hands-on activities designed for people of all ages that help families and communities learn together. In addition, Professor Woof views the crossover of science and art as a particularly accessible way to engage audiences in both topics and has created her own pieces of art for this very purpose.
The Stephen Fry Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research celebrate the sharing of the world-class research carried out at Dundee with the wider public and is given to the project and researcher that made the greatest contribution to public engagement in the past year.
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