The Virtual Activity Co-Creation Initiative for Novel Engagement (VACCINE) project was one of the ORION Open Science experiments in co-creation. Babraham Institute scientists and public engagement professionals worked with students at a local state school to produce a game which engages members of the public with the science behind infections, immunity and vaccinations. The result: Virus Fighter.
A group of 25 Year 9 students at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology self-selected to take part in two co-creation sessions to help develop the game. In a design workshop, students were able to share their ideas for what the game should look like, and how it should work. These ideas were used to build a prototype model which was then sent back to students for further input in a testing workshop.
77% of student participants agreed that “taking part in this project has shown me that young people like me can make important contributions to real-life science projects”. Two-thirds agreed that through participating they were “more aware of the benefits that vaccination has for our society”.
Quotes from participants:
“A unique project, very relevant to students at the moment that we were in lockdown… students engaged with the content and managed to put their ideas through in a very creative way.” – Teacher.
“Working on this project has had a very positive impact on my career and excitement about doing science outreach. It has been great to work collaboratively” – PhD candidate.
“[It] made me feel like I’m actually contributing to society”; “[I liked] that our ideas were actually considered” – Students.
ORION has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº741527.
These top lessons learnt were shared at the 2021 Future of Science Communication conference (24-25 June 2021) and the ORION Conference (27-28 September 2021).
High quality engagement requires significant resources - Especially where the end output is fairly complicated (such as a game), engagement requires significant time and financial investment.
Think about who you are choosing to engage - What is the benefit to each stakeholder in participating? How will you reach them? Who does your chosen methodology exclude?
Listen! And then act on what you are told - There is no point in collaborative projects if you don't listen to what your delivery partners are saying. Make sure contributions from all participant groups are valued equally.