• Photo of Paula Burton

    Paula Burton

    Project Director

One of the most inspiring aspects of working in science communications is engaging with new developments that have the potential to deliver life changing health benefits – and meeting the people behind such innovative thinking.

Complex chemistry

At Sciad, we’re excited to be starting our third year of collaboration with the Royal Society of Chemistry, producing a series of films to celebrate the work of this year’s RSC Horizon Prize winners.

To partner with the RSC for a third consecutive year is testament to our team’s ability to understand, engage with, and synthesise complex scientific concepts, as we help world-class chemistry scientists communicate the value of their research. Despite having chemists, biologists and biomedical scientists educated to PhD and master’s level on the Sciad team, some of the more complex conceptual thinking has meant they have really had to do their homework!

Showcasing international collaboration

Scientists collaborating across geographical borders and disciplines are likely to achieve far more than they might when working alone, and the RSC Horizon Prizes are designed to recognise the endeavours and achievements of chemistry scientists across the globe.

Working with our media partner, Cambridge Filmworks, we have been privileged to meet Nobel prize winners, such as Barry Sharpless, who has been recognised for his pioneering work in click chemistry. We have also met talented early-stage career researchers – the pioneers of the future. 

Within the UK, Professors Perdita Barran and Monty Silverdale at the University of Manchester have been working with Joy Milne, whose hyper-sensitive sense of smell has led them to develop a test to determine whether people have Parkinson’s Disease. The resulting Nose to Diagnose film has helped Perdita and the team to spread the word about their research.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to film face-to-face and a combination of online filming and/or animation can work well instead, particularly when a film has been produced for public engagement purposes. Partner a science writer with a talented animator who has the imagination to develop engaging and educational visuals and you can create a film with real impact.

Online interviews with scientists based at Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and start-up company, H2Pro, led to the creation of a bespoke animation to demonstrate their membrane – free water splitting technology for the low-cost production of green hydrogen at scale, which could significantly help towards achieving the goal of a zero-emission economy.  

Changing behaviour

In recent years, animated explainer videos have been used by the NHS to help change patient behaviour, examples of which include encouraging people to use A&E services sensibly at busy times or asking patients or their loved ones to consider organ donation.

Wouldn’t it be great if medical animations could be used more widely as part of a communications strategy, to help patients understand medicine at a deeper level, to improve their outcomes. All too often, patients are simply handed leaflets and directed to NHS web pages at hospital consultations – strategies that are far less likely to engage them or influence their behaviour.

The value of a simple animation, conveying relevant medical facts in a concise, visual format could really help patients to quickly understand their situation, while providing much needed reassurance.

As we review the winners’ submissions for this years’ RSC Horizon Prizes, we look forward to the challenge of helping chemical scientists promote their work through film – and to following the progress of these talented individuals in the years to come.

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Photo of Maria Taylor