Two organisations have struck a deal devised to see Newcastle become an internationally recognised centre for excellence for bringing science to life for the public.
Northumbria University and the International Centre for Life have formally launched a partnership focused on bringing science to life for the public – a collaboration which will see both institutions work together on research projects, a postgraduate professional development programme, exhibitions, and is also hoped to create jobs.
The ambitious collaborative learning and research partnership will be sealed today through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Professor Andrew Wathey, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Northumbria University, and Linda Conlon, chief executive of the International Centre for Life.
The partnership has led to the creation of a unique degree programme called the MSc Public Engagement with Science degree – believed to be the first of its kind in the UK – which will be delivered by experts at both institutions.
Students will start this September, with intake dependent on the course’s popularity, and they will benefit from placements as well as access to Life’s facilities, where they will stage exhibitions and deliver public engagement activities.
Professor Wathey said: “This new partnership between Northumbria and Centre for Life reflects a joint ambition to encourage people to think about science in new ways.
“A new collaborative degree programme in Public Engagement with Science marks the first step toward realising this ambition, and is the first of a number of projects that will build on the strengths of our two organisations.”
Linda Conlon, who said £2.5m is ploughed into public engagement in science each year, added:“Of late we have been working a lot with Northumbria University and we both realised that we both found engaging the public with science to be critically important.
“We wanted to formalise that relationship and that’s what we will do today when we sign the Memorandum of Understanding .
“The signing of that agreement takes what we do to a new level.
“Northumbria University’s business focus has already given them a global reputation and with this new course – I’m pretty sure it’s the only one of its kind anywhere – we think we will get international attention.
“Science centres are starting to grow. There are plenty in Europe and places you’d expect them to be, but they are on the rise in Africa and Eastern Europe now too.
“We will try to promote employment by setting up outreach groups, placement opportunities and by using volunteers, which might lead to jobs being created, it might not – it’s not the main reason we are doing this but job creation would be great.
“The Msc is very, very specific. There are a number of science communications courses out there but they mostly deal with advocacy and lobbying so this one is a little bit different – it really is a bringing together of practical and academic components.
“We have got a big science centre here and the students can come here to practise their craft and talk to real members of the public, and I don’t think there’s another course of that kind anywhere.
“It’s not a question of people not having enough information – you can go online and anyone can have an opinion on social media, whether they have the qualifications and expertise or not.
“But science centres like ours are neutral and we don’t have any axe to grind politically so we are seen as a trusted source.
“This collaboration will also provides a fantastic opportunity for scientists who are at universities to actually learn a lot about how we communicate through the public.”
“In all, this not only recognises the unique contribution that both organisations make to Newcastle and the North East’s engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) but also serves as the basis for a continuing programme of activity that reinforces Life’s mission to be the best place in the UK for enthusing and engaging everyone in science.”