What is Researchers on a Train?

Posted in: Doing Public Engagement

Researchers on a Train is returning for FUTURES 2019 on Saturday 28th September. In this blog post we want to explore what Researchers on a Train is and why you might be interested in taking part. If you'd like to take part in Researchers on a Train please get in touch with the Public Engagement Unit at public-engagement@bath.ac.uk 

Researchers on a Train is an innovative public engagement activity that was first carried out for Futures 2018 in Bath and Bristol as part of the European Researchers' Night programme. This year we are running Researchers on a Train again on Saturday 28th September. Here's a quick reminder of what it's all about...

Researchers on a Train has a lot in common with 'science busking' which involves using simple science 'tricks' and demonstrations to engage audiences and create a sense of excitement at events like science festivals or even in the street! Watch David Price science busking in Manchester.

For Researchers on a Train we took this concept one-step further and invited researchers onto trains at Bristol Temple Meads to engage passengers with their research using just one research object and their science busking skills. This involves being brave enough to start chatting to passengers about your research and using your research objects to grab their attention. This is a great way to improve your communication skills and learn a bit more about how people outside of academia view your research.

Researchers on a Train is about more than just science. The same busking skills used by science buskers can be used for any kind of research from economics to engineering, no topic is off limits!

This year Researchers on a Train will be taking place on Saturday 28th September between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa.

A training session run by David Price (Science Made Simple) will help prepare you for the session and will take place on Tuesday 3rd September, 10:00 - 17:00 in 1W, 2.104

Below you can read reflections from two researchers who took part in the activity in 2018:

Dr Richard Fairchild is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society in the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I really enjoyed ‘Researchers on a Train’. It was very different from the way that I normally present my research e.g. lectures, presentations, conferences. I started off feeling very nervous, especially when I saw that the train was quite empty! Beforehand, I had planned in my mind that I would be holding forth to packed carriages, hanging on my every word. The reality was completely different! I had to adapt my two-player game, improvise, act ‘off-the-cuff’, and be ‘brave’ by going up to people and engaging them. Interacting with and talking to members of the public on the train was a lot easier than I was expecting, and great fun! It was good to be pushed out of my comfort zone. Overall, the event was fun, exciting and unexpected. I can’t wait to do it again!

Dr Melanie Chalder (@DrMChalder) is a Research Fellow in Population Health Sciences at the Bristol Medical School at the University of Bristol.

It's not every day that you find yourself telling strangers about what you do for a living, especially when those people are sitting on a train from central Bristol to the outer reaches of the city.  As an academic whose research considers how we can stay happy and healthy in older age, I’m used to talking to other academics, students, NHS staff, care workers, patients and their families in a wide variety of settings and venues – but not while I’m being pulled along by a diesel engine and having to negotiate platforms, sliding doors, luggage racks and automated announcements.  Over the course of the day I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions - moving from trepidation, worry and resignation to acceptance, enjoyment and elation.  It’s easy to see why I was unsure about getting on that train to Severn Beach but, with hindsight, that hour of interaction with passengers, rail staff and fellow research geeks reminded me of why I do the job I do because - when it comes to research - everybody has a story to tell, and everybody’s experience counts.

If you'd like to take part please get in touch with the Public Engagement Unit at public-engagement@bath.ac.uk 

Rob Cooper is a Public Engagement Officer at the University of Bath

Posted in: Doing Public Engagement


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