Scientists in regenerative medicine have two choices: to champion the technology to the public, ensure an acknowledgement and public understanding of the risks and benefits that exist, to ultimately negotiate approval through constant and sincere public engagement – or not.
If we fail to maintain public support for regenerative medicine research, approval for regenerative medicine research may dry up and philanthropic and public funding may follow. Not wishing to sound alarmist, but to make a very clear point, that public outreach and engagement is fundamental to the ongoing success of regenerative medicine research in Australia.
“Sharing the excitement that discovery brings and the long and patient road we must travel to create new knowledge, brings me such pleasure’, said Professor Pete Currie, Director of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).
‘I thoroughly enjoy the moment when I can convey the intense desire I have to explore, and the person I’m explaining it to just gets it. Their face lights up and I can see their curiosity to learn more comes alive – that’s the moment that I’ll never get tired of.’
This month ARMI opened its lab doors to a very large public audience, 120 people in total, on 10 May, co hosted by the Convergence Science Network and led within the Institute by PhD candidate, Celia Vandestadt.
‘The importance of outreach shouldn’t be underestimated’, said Celia. ‘It’s one of those things that just makes sense for all involved. It benefits the public, the researchers, the institution and the research itself.’
Inviting the public into our research world and demonstrating the lure of the lab is deeply satisfying for so many scientists. The overwhelming sentiment from scientist who volunteered their time to participate in the event was in the reward of seeing the wonder and excitement guests had for the research,- ‘which we often forget ourselves, when we’re stuck in the details of our work,’ Said Celia.
Celia reported, ‘the number one comment we had on the night was that people wanted more time at each of our stations – and the researchers too wanted to give more time to talk about their work!’
The opportunity of scientific outreach and communication can also reveal undiscovered talents within our laboratory team. “Learning to engage with the public is as important as learning to speak at scientific meetings’, suggested Prof Currie.
‘Providing our scientists with speaking and engagement platforms such an the Convergence Science Network’s Opening the Vault Series has been fantastic for everyone at ARMI. There is nothing like a face-to-face conversation to convey the excitement of regenerative medicine research and to show our community the value of this new frontier in science to their future.