Engaging with our neighbours on data, research and the environment

9 Nov 2022, 10:29 a.m.

A woman in a headscarf gestures towards some micro-gardens with a group of children looking on

Over three days at Senate House in University College London, GOSH scientists engaged with the public as part of the Bloomsbury Festival. This year’s theme was Breathe as experts, artists and locals got together to investigate our local and global environments.

Micro-gardens: a vehicle to explain the value of data

One way to engage children in data, research and our environment is through the creation of micro-gardens. The GOSH scientists involved with the festival picked this activity to teach young people about the importance of natural spaces in urban areas, particularly for enhancing health and well-being. The researchers could use these micro-gardens to demonstrate how scientists might use data to examine children's health.

Over 350 school children joined a session with the team over three days, with local families visiting throughout the festival. The team received over 500 visitors by the end of the festival.

Along with these interactive demonstrations and workshops, the team showcased projects related to the festival's Breathe theme:

  • Green spaces and mortality with Dr Sam Hajna, UCL ICH
  • The link between air pollution and childhood with Dr Pia Hardelid, UCL ICH
  • Monitoring children in intensive care from Ofran Al-Mossawi
  • Drug dosing and fungal lung infections with Fan Cheng

Ofran Almossawi led the team, as a NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow from the faculty of Population, Policy & Practice Department at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS ICH).

Dr Lucy Natarajan (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) and Professor Helen Roberts (UCL GOS ICH) were co-applicants for the Bloomsbury Festival. Together with Ben Newell (Worcester Terrariums), they helped to run the interactive demonstrations and workshops.

Members of the national group useMYdata, Paul Saunders and Chris Carrigan, also supported the team at the festival. Paul is also a member of the project advisory group for Ofran’s research project.

Working with our Young Advisors to communicate the value of data research

Among colleagues from across UCL and GOSH, Ofran was joined by members of the Great Ormond Street Hospital BRC Young Persons' Advisory Group (YPAG) for Research. Ofran and Fan previously ran an event at UCL GOS ICH in the summer, on research using routine data, the success of that event contributed to the Bloomsbury festival.

Both the seminar in August and the three days at the festival were a smash success with members of the public signing up to take part in research activities, in particular the YoDA project (Young Data Advisors) which aims to create a national group to represent the voice of young people in relation to projects that use routine data.

We hoped the day would be a success as we ran a similar event in the Summer but this was beyond all our expectations! We were thrilled to see members of the public and families engage with our topic and ask really important questions around our use of data.

Ofran Almossawi, team lead. NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow from the faculty of Population, Policy & Practice Department at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UCL GOS ICH)

"Engaging with the public and in particular young people is pivotal when it comes to using routine data," Ofran continues. "The data we use comes from the public and it’s really important that we ask them what research questions are most important for them.

"Young people are very savvy when it comes to social media and have strong opinions on the sharing of data. Children as young as seven have a good level of understanding of their personal information being private – they want a say in how it is used.

"For this reason, having a young person’s advisory group (YoDA) is an important step in facilitating meaningful engagement between researchers and young people, giving them a voice in how data can be used safely to benefit others."

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care, a major funder of global health research and training and supports its researchers in patient and public involvement.

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