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MRC Cancer Unit


Public Engagement and Communications (PEC) 

PEC related activities are a key part of life at the MRC Cancer Unit. PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, research nurses, scientific support staff members and group leaders  from across the Unit have  teamed up from time to time to construct an excellent range of hands-on activities, demonstrations and talks that together highlight various aspects of ongoing research at the Unit with a focus on the Unit's scientific mission.

The overall goal of our PEC strategy is to support the delivery of our Unit’s scientific mission by increasing the academic and public profile of the Unit, through engaging with key stakeholders, in order to support activities such as acquiring funding, recruitment, facilitating collaboration, policy development, and contributing to the public understanding and support of the work conducted by the Unit.


Major Public Engagement events have included the University Science Festival (March) the Unit Open Day as part of the MRC Festival of Research (June) and Big Biology Day (October). From time to time the Unit hosts visits from experts and professionals from various walks of life (outside of science and research) including parliamentarians, sportsmen, civil servants that enable wider dissemination of our work in the field of cancer research. We routine collaborate with partner organisations (eg the MRC and University Public Engagement Networks in Cambridge, the Early Detection ED programme at the CRUK Cambridge Centre, University student led organisations such as the CATS, AGF or BBMS) or as part of the  country-wide initiatives such as the Pint-of-Science talks, towards  shared goals related to public engagement and dissemination.

A key focus area of public engagement at the Unit is our extensive interaction with schools (ranging from primary to sixth form) in and around Cambridge, organised with an aim to inspire the next generation of researchers, be it through our year-round schools roadshow programme or through enabling work experience visits for high school students at our research laboratories or through our Schools Open Day each year during which groups of High School students from local sixth form schools are given a hands-on-tour of our laboratories and have an opportunity to discuss their career trajectories from researchers at the Unit at varying stages of their careers.

Besides these major events, our group leaders and junior researchers, either alone or as part of larger consortia or panels regularly participate in a number of public facing talks/panel discussions/award ceremonies that all highlight the need and impact of current research approaches being pursued across the Unit. The impact of such engagements is diverse and has ranged from contributing to shaping national and international policies in research and healthcare to the modernisation of schools curricula to the development of citizen science projects. They have often contributed towards Career Achievement Awards for our staff (such as the Jane Wardle Prize for Rebecca Fitzgerald, the Basser Memorial Prize for Ashok Venkitaraman and the Joseph Steiner prize for Serena Nik Zainal). 

Communications of the Units research and its impact is a key aspect of our work that is encouraged and practised at all levels at the Unit. Be it through reputed print or broadcasting media (coverage in newspapers like the Guardian and Times and or through news-portals like the BBC news, Radio4, ITV, AlJazeera) or through social media (Twitter and Facebook) or through public lectures (the Croonian Lecture at the Royal Institute) our our goal is to ensure we lucidly reach out to the scientific community and beyond about our scientific efforts.



Knowledge Transfer and Exchange (KTE) is a joined up exercise along with PEC at the Unit. Thus, in addition to PEC events there are regular scientific talks, seminars, workshops and away days that our researchers have access to, throughout the year. These are both organised by the Unit (eg the Hutchison/MRC Centre's Annual Retreat, the MRC Annual Lectures, the Seminars in Oncology series) or organised by Unit group leaders in collaborations with other partner organisations (eg the ED programme of the CRUK Cambridge Centre). Students and postdocs are also funded and encouraged to lead on organising their own KTE events and participating in conferences and workshops both at the national and international level.