Helen Featherstone wins prestigious national award for informal science learning

Posted in: Leading Public Engagement

We are delighted to announce that the Head of Public Engagement at the University of Bath, Dr Helen Featherstone, has been awarded the prestigious Beetlestone Award in recognition of her exceptional work and leadership in the field of informal science learning.

The Beetlestone Award

Now in its second year, the Beetlestone Award, run by the BIG STEM Communicators Network, aims to recognise someone working in informal science learning who has already made or is creating a significant legacy in the sector. The award is named after John Beetlestone who was founding director of the UK’s first purpose-built science discovery centre, Techniquest in Cardiff and is considered one of the pioneers of hands-on informal science learning.


Leadership and Legacy

Helen has been at the forefront of several developments in the sector with a strong commitment to understanding and supporting the people who engage with and work in informal science learning. In awarding Helen the Beetlestone Award the panel praised her significant contribution to the sector over the last 20 years:

Helen's many expert contributions to the field and her enthusiastic advocacy has already built a solid legacy which will  continue to facilitate the sharing of expertise and raise standards in public engagement with science.

In winning the award, Helen has been recognised for her work over several different phases of her career. Helen has extensive experience of working with audiences to create practical STEM engagement activities at Science and Discovery Centres across the country, has undertaken research into public engagement with STEM, and has developed significant practice on building capability and capacity for public engagement. 

Helen's expertise in developing, running and critically understanding high quality training and professional development has led to her being selected as one of six Training Associates for the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement while her experiences in creating positive cultures of public engagement has resulted in her being a formal and informal mentor for many other public engagement professionals across the sector.

In recognition of her expertise in the informal science learning and public engagement sector Helen is regularly invited to contribute to decision-making processes by funders such as UKRI, Wellcome Trust, Natural Environment Research Council and the Science and Technology Funding Council and has also worked with them to influence the development of practice .

Commenting on the award Professor Ian White, FREng Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bath said:

I am thrilled to hear that Helen's excellent contributions to the informal science learning sector have been so rightly recognised and I offer her my sincere congratulations on this excellent award.


Advancing practice

Helen will receive the award at the annual BIG Event taking place in Edinburgh where colleagues from across the informal science learning sector come together to share and disseminate practice. Each Beetlestone Award carries a personal cash prize of £500 and an additional bursary to facilitate dissemination of the holder’s vision and legacy and Helen has some exciting plans to share and advance practice.

Over 2019/20 Helen plans to bring together academics and practitioners to co-write short summaries of key topics creating a series of ‘What We Know About…’ booklets which will summarise the key topics in informal science learning and bust some common myths and misconceptions.

Co-creating a suite of guides that summarise our current understanding of issues will begin to address the lack of documented wisdom across our sector. As a practitioner I had to learn by working closely with others - an apprenticeship model of learning; as a researcher I had to draw on a wide and varied literature across many disciplines. There is little available that is brings the two together in an accessible format. I am hoping that we can create something really useful for the sector.

If you are interested in finding out more and would like to be involved in these plans drop us an email public-engagement@bath.ac.uk 

Dean Veall is Deputy Head of Public Engagement at the University of Bath

Posted in: Leading Public Engagement


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