Academics get pen pals to spread word on research

Academics at Newcastle University have been matched with members of the public as pen pals.

May 29, 2015
Pen hand writing letter

The hope is that the exchange of letters will help researchers to understand what the general public thinks of their work, and will help the public to engage with the latest thinking at the university.

Initially six academics are involved, drawn from disciplines including neuroscience, marine science and the arts. But it is hoped that the “Letters for Learners” project could be run again with more participants.

Michael Richardson, a lecturer in human geography, is among those taking part.

“Many academics feel a sense of responsibility to communicate publicly-funded research,” he said. “This project aims to help us do that, by creating an opportunity to communicate the relevance of our work and helping people feeling connected to it.

“A letter is more personal and immediate than reading about something in a magazine or even seeing someone talk about it at a public event.”

The project is being funded by the university’s Institute of Creative Arts Practice, and is being delivered in partnership with Newcastle-based theatre company Cap-a-Pie.

When a member of the public receives a letter from the researcher they have been paired with, they will be asked to do something creative in response – such as a drawing or a piece of creative writing.

Cap-a-Pie has previously worked with Paul Cowie, a research assistant in Newcastle’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, to stage an event called The Town Meeting.

This combined theatre with research about decision-making and community organisation, and has recently finished a sell-out tour.

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