Susannah Fleming is runner-up at the 2009 British Science Festival
This competition, which has been running since 2003, is co-ordinated by the British Science Association and funded by Research Councils UK. The competition provides the opportunity for researchers at the beginning of their careers to develop their skills in discussing the social implications of their research. Postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists, engineers and social scientists, funded by one of the UK research councils, are encouraged to communicate the social and ethical impact of their research to the public by entering ”Perspectives” – a poster competition. The competition uses posters to bring issues alive and more accessible to the public.
Picture: Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson hears from Susannah Fleming about her research into measuring children's breathing rates using a non-invasive device. Credit: UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
This year over 90 researchers made written entries about what impact their research has on society and how their work has been shaped by society. Out of the 90 entries 36 were selected to design and exhibit a poster at the British Science Festival, which was held at the University of Surrey. Out of the 36 finalists there was one overall winner and five runner-ups. The panel of judges comprised science communicators and media representatives. Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Drayson also attended the Festival and visited Susannah’s display stand.
The 36 finalists were also asked to display their posters in
Guildford Shopping Centre and talk to members of the public. Susannah
explained that after being told she was selected as a finalist she was
‘invited to a one day workshop, run by professional graphic designers
and communicators, to learn how to produce a really effective poster
that would be aimed at the general public.’ Susannah and the other
finalists had one month to produce their own posters.
Susannah’s poster focused on her work with Professor Tarassenko on vital signs and data fusion - monitoring heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen levels and temperature in children to help GPs and Emergency Departments with early diagnosis of serious diseases such as meningitis. She said:
"The impetus for my Perspectives poster came partly from GPs and partly from media interest – misdiagnosis of meningitis was hitting the headlines, particularly when a child died. Meningitis is still an ongoing problem that people worry about and although not massive in the number of cases it is a very serious disease that develops very quickly so early diagnosis is key".
Asked how she would spend her prize money of £200 Susannah said: "I might go slightly mad in a book shop!"