Writer in Residence at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Mullard Space Science Laboratory


Overall this project aims to develop a new approach to public engagement at MSSL through a one-year 'writer in residence'. We have recently developed a relationship with the award-winning poet Simon Barraclough and wish to capitalise on this to enhance and improve our public engagement programme by having Simon spend a year at MSSL. Although MSSL already has an extensive public and schools engagement programme that reaches thousands of people annually, we wish to improve our current programme by providing opportunities for staff and students to develop new skills and adopt a more creative approach to engagement activities.

During the project Simon Barraclough will be based at MSSL where he will collaborate with staff, students and members of the public to develop new poetic and creative written work inspired by the STFC-funded research carried out here. Four public events will be held over the course of the year involving readings, artistic collaborations and involvement from staff and the public. These public events will feature other poets and artists and will be held in the grounds of the MSSL where possible, in public venues close to MSSL and in schools where MSSL has an existing link. Simon will write and perform new work related to the research and interests of every level of staff member at MSSL and will be available to work with staff and students who wish to collaborate on artistic projects. For example, poetry surgeries will be held for those interested in writing creatively about MSSL and the research carried out here.

It is envisioned that the project will culminate in the creation of a 'poetic inventory' of MSSL that is developed by Simon Barraclough, taking into account the history of the site, the amazing historical artefacts it contains, and its current and future work. This inventory will be published in pamphlet form and online and will be a lasting legacy of the project. In addition, an anthology of all work written during the residency will be published in pamphlet form or online, depending on resources. Simon Barraclough will also maintain an engaging and informative blog of the whole residency year.

The aims of the project are:

- to develop a warmer relationship between MSSL and the public, fostered through joint events and collaborative work.
- a more democratic approach to public engagement where people share their passions and interests in space science through a medium that provokes a move away from the more traditional 'expert' scientist conveying information to a 'non-expert' audience through the mutual creation and enjoyment of written work.
- an increased understanding and awareness of the research carried out at MSSL on a local and national level.
- new ways of thinking and writing, which may enhance the ways in which MSSL staff work and communicate.
- an increase in the presence of poetry around the MSSL site: both physically and electronically to inspire and invigorate staff and students.
- an increased understanding of the history and current work of MSSL for staff, students and the public.

In summary, this project aims to challenge the current concept of what constitutes excellence in public engagement and broaden our horizons whilst creating democratic dialogue opportunities about space science. The project will add to the life and spirit of MSSL introducing new and creative ways of looking at the institution and thinking about its work, history and its future plans. The involvement of the public and schools in this process will improve communication and understanding between the MSSL and a variety of audiences.

Planned Impact

During the residency, Simon will write a detailed, entertaining blog about the project and disseminate it through various online routes for example his own website, the MSSL and UCL websites, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. Simon has good relations with Marek Kukula of the Royal Observatory and also with the South Bank Centre and the Science Museum and will be seeking opportunities to present some of the work through these organisations and to publicise some of the events occurring in the year of residency. Simon will also look into using his contacts at BBC radio and Resonance FM to publicise the residency.

Any resources that are developed for schools will be distributed via the National STEM Centre/ESERO-UK and the existing relationships that MSSL has with local schools and the UCL Academy.

The pamphlets of poetry that will be printed will be made freely available and distributed via the MSSL website and public events.

Outcomes of the project and lessons learned will be communicated to the academic community via the public engagement sessions at the National Astronomy Meeting, STFC community meeting on public engagement and through an article in the magazine Astronomy and Geophysics (RAS publication) and the CAP Journal (Community Astronomy with the Public).


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Description The most significant achievements from this award include: improved communication skills of MSSL staff and students and the development of new and novel ways to approach public engagement; reaching a public audience who do not normally engage in scientific research; further embedding public engagement into the everyday activities of MSSL. There has been a marked increased in public engagement activities amongst those who took part.

The objectives of the project were met except for the aim of reaching secondary school students. We were perhaps more ambitious with our aims than we was realistic. An arts/science collaboration always needs time to develop a mutual language and common understanding and we didn't have the resources (time) to develop secondary school lesson plans.
Exploitation Route Shared best practice through attendance at public engagement events and articles.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This was an award to host a writer in residence at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory. The findings of the project have been used in the day-to-day work of those involved through enhanced writing, communication and critical thinking skills. The findings were used in several public evening events held at MSSL the Royal Observatory Greenwich and UCL. There were also many interactions with the public through social media, podcasts and blog posts. The culmination was the publication of a book of poetry that has enabled us to share the heritage of MSSL and the current research with a wide audience who do not necessarily interact with science stories.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal