Public Engagement at Bath

Supporting researchers to engage the public with their research

Posts By: Laura Newton

Exhibiting research through art - Equity is the Answer

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We are a community of motivated and active researchers and it's always interesting to hear of the public engagement projects our researchers are running. Public engagement is a broad term that can cover a wide range of activities and events. Combining art with research gives a visual stimulus that can encourage people to think and connect with research. Oli Williams from the Department for Health invited artists to submit peices based on his theme of 'health as a social issue' and hopes that the created works will inspire people. The artworks will be on show at The Edge this Friday 18th November. Details are below.


The Public Engagement Unit can suport you if you have an idea for a public engagement event, from talking through ideas, putting you in contact with partners, providing training or helping with evaluation.


Equity is the Answer

Friday 18 November 2016

18:00 – 21:00

The Edge, University of Bath


Health is usually presented to us as a personal choice: choose to live healthier, you'll live longer and happier. Really?

Research has long shown that social circumstances often overwhelm our choices. This is why more wealth tends to mean better health. Our governments, however, would rather we didn't think like that. They frame bad health as a result of bad choices. That's far easier for them and it maintains the status quo.

But we need change. We need to see health as a social issue - to highlight the devastating impact of inequality and challenge the focus on individual choice. That is exactly what this exhibition is about.

Oli Williams is a Research Associate in the Department for Health and co-founder of the AWL art collective. About two years ago AWL started a project called ‘Picturing a Thesis’ which has ultimately led to the Equity is the Answer exhibition. Oli explains:

"I started this project shortly after completing my PhD in the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester. I wanted to make my research findings as accessible and engaging as possible and so decided to work with partners in the creative industries to translate elements of my thesis into artworks.

"My doctoral research explored relationships between health, place and inequality. I conducted an ethnography in a deprived neighbourhood that highlighted how social factors inhibited the residents’ capacity to adopt a ‘healthy lifestyle’. I presented an argument for reducing health inequalities by addressing the social determinants of health with equitable interventions. It was these arguments that led to me receiving the NIHR CLAHRC West Dan Hill Fellowship in Health Equity."

More than 50 pieces were submitted to the ‘Picturing a Thesis’ project and 20 have been selected for display in the 'Equity is the Answer' exhibition. It's a public exhibition and there will be a wine reception on the evening. Reproductions of the work and other related items will be sold on the night to raise funds for the social change organisation Edge Fund.

If you have any queries or comments about the exhibition please do not hesitate to contact Oli via e-mail:


Why I chose the Public Engagement Unit for my internship

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I’m part of the South West Bio Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the BBSRC and as part of my PhD program I got the opportunity to carry out a 3 month internship that’s not related to academic research. During my PhD I’ve been involved in doing little bits of public engagement and have always believed that it’s a good thing to do. I was interested in learning more and getting more experience in this area so I joined the Public Engagement Unit for my internship.


My motivation as a researcher has been to work on something that will lead to benefits to society and I think that it’s important to remind people of that. Engaging the public with our research is a great way of breaking down the misconception that scientists are detached from the rest of society, just working for profits or think we are superior to everyone else. Hopefully this kind of work goes a little way to countering the ‘anti-expert’ view that has become prominent in the last year .


It’s incredibly rewarding talking to non-scientists and being able to explain something that they didn’t understand. To make some stop and think ‘that’s interesting!’ Before starting this internship I will admit I had a very narrow view of what public engagement actually was and how to do it. I wanted to work with the Public Engagement Unit not only to learn more about engagement events themselves but the whole process around them, who, what, when, where and how to engage effectively.


I knew Ed, Helen and Joanna as lovely, passionate people from working as a Pint of Science Pub Event Manager and working with them further over the last two months has been a great experience. They have really made me feel welcome and involved.


PhD students are often told that we know more about our specific subject area than anyone else. While this is (generally!) a good thing it hints that we are often so focused on our little piece of the puzzle that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Not only of why we’re doing research in the first place but of what’s going on in the rest of our research community. I have vague ideas of what other people in my Department are doing but less so of the Faculty of Science, let alone the rest of the University. This internship has been a really great way to step back, put my own research into context and learn a lot about what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ at the University.