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MRC LHA drop into The Green Man Festival

A group from UCL have just got back from four days of public engagement in rural Wales. The Green Man Festival drops scientists into Einstein’s Garden- an area dedicated to playful interactive science within the music festival. 

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(L-R Steph Pilling, Gemma Archer, Fran Harkness, Sarah James, Mark Rawle, Aradhna Kaushal, Joanna Blodgett, and artist Rachael Pilston).

Scientists from the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL wanted to tell people all about their work- a UK birth cohort study of 5000 people who have been studied by the unit ever since they were born in 1946. 

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, artists helped to transform the study into ‘Tangle’, an activity designed to represent how scientists gather up the threads of many people’s lives and weave them together to answer research questions. Festival goers were asked to contribute their data on eight variables the scientists examine, for example stress, memory, and health behaviours. Instead of filling out questionnaires, the participants got a piece of coloured fabric for each of their answers, which they wound onto a rope to create their “life course”. Anything else that they thought was important in their lives they wrote onto a fabric luggage tag to share with everyone.

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More than 600 people came to talk to the scientists and make their own life course, which they then used to help answer a research question: “What is most important to your quality of life.” Against the backdrop of Welsh mountains a tapestry frame stood displaying various answers such as, “health”, “wealth” and “music” (well, it was a music festival). The new study members threaded their own life course into the section that represented them. It soon became obvious what was most important to their quality of life.

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And what did the researchers think about their quality of life after four days of swapping a quiet desk for the great outdoors? “It was brilliant. It was so nice to see how interested everyone was in the work we do, and to hear in person what is really important to people in their lives”.