Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A project bringing science to Kenyan schools, led by Dr Alun Davis from Kemri Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya and Nuffield Department of Medicine, has won a Project Award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards.

Students visiting a lab

The announcement was mPoster: The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awardsade at an awards ceremony at Keble College, Oxford on 10th July, hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

Our students don’t have African scientists to look up to” is a frequently-heard remark. As such, a School Engagement Programme was established enabling students and teachers across Kenyan schools to interact with scientists.

The initial pilot began in 2009 with just three schools. Ten years on and working with local communities and stakeholders has ensured these engagement activities are locally owned and culturally appropriate. Now over 2000 students and 100 teachers in over 50 Kenya schools take part with 60 participating researchers.

Activities include a three-month attachment scheme for talented school-leavers, school visits to the laboratories, and a two-week, online event I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here in which students ask questions and ‘chat’ to researchers online. “We also work closely with local primary teachers to develop science clubs and have established Young Person’s Advisory Groups in secondary schools to encourage debate about ethical aspects of research and inform its implementation” says Dr Alun Davies, KEMRI-Wellcome Research programme. Kilifi, Kenya.

All participating researchers expressed satisfaction at being able to ‘give back’ and contribute to local education and engagement. Through these activities, researchers also gained insights into local perspectives and strengthened bonds with the community.

It’s like instant benefit for me as a person because when I do it, I really feel like I have done something good for people who really deserve it,” commented one of the researchers.      

As well as nurturing positive attitudes towards science careers, the evaluation of the students yielded evidence of improved understanding of research processes and increasingly positive attitudes towards health research. “For example, we saw a statistically significant shift towards the statement ‘Biology is fun’ which was measured against a control group that was not part of the programme” adds Dr Davies.

Dr Alun Davis and his team

These awards highlight the many ways that Oxford’s researchers engage with the public. This includes informing and empowering people by sharing research findings; working in partnership with communities to shape research and enabling citizens to take part in the research by collecting and analysing data through Citizen Science. These winning projects also demonstrate that excellence in engagement results in a ‘win-win’ for both researchers and publics alike.

Professor Alison Woollard, University Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research

About the awards

The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards are in three categories – Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome.

Similar stories

RECOVERY Trial announced as overall winner of Best COVID-19 Response Project Award in the UK

The RECOVERY Trial has won the Project Management Institute’s Special Covid-19 UK Response Project Award. The award specifically recognised RECOVERY’s work to investigate whether the cheap steroid dexamethasone was an effective treatment for patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19.

Simple blood tests may help improve malaria diagnosis in clinical studies

About one-third of children diagnosed with severe malaria may instead have an alternative cause of illness, but simple blood tests could help researchers distinguish between the two and speed up research on new treatments.

Professors Peter Horby and Guy Thwaites recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

The pioneering work of members of the University of Oxford has been recognised in The Queen's Birthday Honours List. The honorands include Professor Peter Horby and six researchers that have played key roles in leading the University’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, from the development of new vaccines to the discovery of new drug treatments. Professor Guy Thwaites is appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

RECOVERY trial named David Sackett Trial of the Year 2020

The RECOVERY trial has been named David Sackett Trial of the Year by the Society for Clinical Trials. The award was presented today at the Society for Clinical Trials’ 42nd Annual Meeting.

Buddha Basnyat joins the RSTMH Board of Trustees

Director for the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit Nepal, Professor Buddha Basnyat is a medical doctor based in Kathmandu, Nepal. His research interests are infectious diseases and high altitude medicine, and he has almost 300 publications in peer-reviewed medical journals. One of his primary interests is to encourage young people to do clinical research.

Arjen Dondorp, Peter Horby and Rose McGready elected Academy of Medical Sciences Fellows

"Although it is hard to look beyond the pandemic right now," says President of the Academy of Medical Sciences Professor Dame Anne Johnson, "I want to stress how important it is that the Academy Fellowship represents the widest diversity of biomedical and health sciences. The greatest health advances rely on the findings of many types of research, and on multidisciplinary teams and cross-sector and global collaboration."