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‘Make sure to stay safe’: Using art and trust to navigate research collaborations through an evolving social crisis

Webber, Amanda; Jones, Verity; Gorell Barnes, Luci; Fogg Rogers, Laura; Williams, Sara-Jayne; McEwen, Lindsey; Deave, Toity; Hobbs, Laura; Gopinath, Deepak


Amanda Webber

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Verity Jones
Associate Professor of Education

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Dr Laura Fogg Rogers
Associate Professor of Knowledge Exchange in Engineering

Lindsey McEwen
Professor in Environmental Management

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Toity Deave
Associate Professor in Child & Family Health


Effective communication and engagement around a global pandemic require a thorough understanding of perceptions and experiences of affected groups. Children were significantly impacted by mitigation measures during COVID-19, yet their voices were seldom heard. The VIP-CLEAR project (Voices in a Pandemic – Children’s Lockdown Experiences Applied to Recovery) worked with six schools using arts-based methods to gather experiences of children living in socially disadvantaged areas in Bristol, UK. Their voices led to development of a book (Learning to Live with Fog Monsters) to support children during future social shocks or intangible hidden risks, e.g., pandemics and climate change.     

This paper shares learnings of finding common ground during COVID-19, an evolving social crisis where researchers, parents, teachers, and children were navigating their own diverse lived experiences and understanding of risk. There were also competing priorities to find and manage their own safety and what ‘safe’ meant to them. This resulted in practical and emotional challenges for all involved, and differing views and needs around engagement across the interdisciplinary project team. We explore the significance of using a flexible creative approach to allow children, researchers, teaching staff and parents, time and space to engage with their experiences as UK schools were under pressure to “get back to normal”. Creative interventions also encouraged access to personal experiences in a non-threatening way which was important when working with children from disadvantaged areas who were facing multiple uncertainties. Building relationships and trust between all collaborators was key, and was negotiated and re-negotiated through open communication, empathy, and repeat engagement.

Effective science communication and engagement, cognisant of a range of publics, will be crucial in supporting understanding and navigation of future events. We reflect on the notion of ‘staying safe’ through the unknown territory of a global pandemic and its impact on research collaboration and practice.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Public Communication of Science & Technology
Start Date Apr 13, 2023
End Date Apr 13, 2023
Deposit Date Jul 14, 2023
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