5 December 2022, Royal College of Physicians, London
The first award of the evening was presented by Cherry Wainwright, Research Professor at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen and the event’s Paget Lecturer, to the University of Manchester for its multi-platform approach to engagement.
The University of Manchester has an excellent series of animal research webpages and a well-developed openness programme, which has been enhanced by a brand-new video featuring the day in the life of an animal technician. Led by one of the university’s lab technicians, the video gives an engaging overview of the facilities, species used, and the areas of research being studied. While the video itself represents great openness, the judging panel were particularly impressed by the sharing and promotion of the video across social media using a wide variety of platforms. Producing good, tailored content for each platform, and being brave enough to share it widely is challenging for any large organisation and requires considerable expertise and effort. The university’s considerable efforts were rewarded by the extent to which the video has been watched and shared widely.
The second award was presented by Lesley Penny, Director of Bioresearch and Veterinary Services at the University of Edinburgh, to the Francis Crick Institute, for its public engagement activities; in particular its use of Instagram stories.
The Crick does not shy away from talking about its use of animals. While they have received recognition before, this year the judges were impressed with the way that high-quality examples of openness were embedded throughout their public engagement activities. From patient stories of cancer survivors to technically complex scientific case studies, they ensure that the principles of the 3Rs and examples of where animals have been used can be found appropriately throughout their public engagement activities. Video interviews on the website include topics that are rarely found in public-facing animal research engagement material. For example, an open discussion of the limitations of both animal and non-animal experimental models.
What sets The Crick’s approach apart this year was the use of Instagram Stories to reach a new audience; an approach which is both novel and brave.
The third award was presented by Claire Cockcroft, Director of the Thatcher Scholarship Programme at Somerville College Oxford, to the University of Reading for its novel and sophisticated approach to communicating challenging issues.
At a recent two-day protest, timed to coincide with an Open Day, staff from the University of Reading spoke to a small group of protestors. Over a cup of tea (with soya milk) the two parties had an open chat about some of the issues. Material was exchanged, some photos were taken, and the University honoured a promise to share the protestors’ key points, including links to websites, to all staff involved in animal research, including PPL holders.
The judges felt that the University of Reading took a bold and sophisticated approach to debate and ethical commentary about animal welfare. They actively welcomed debate, rather than stifling it. Changing the narrative around a protest by supporting its principles, while showing that there are multiple voices and positions concerned with the use of animals in research, was disarming, helpful, and above all, open. The approach taken appears so simple that the skill involved in shaping this type of communication can easily be unrecognised. This is a highly professional approach developed by an empowered and insightful communication team, and they created an excellent news story.
The final award of the evening was presented by Wendy Jarrett to Bella Lear, Chief Executive at Understanding Animal Research Oceania, for her unwavering commitment to Openness during her time as Head of Engagement at UAR.
Many thanks to all our presenters and a huge congratulations to all the Openness Award winners!