Imperial College London

Lates Online events take Imperial's research into homes around the world

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Imperial Lates Online artwork

From insect-inspired yoga to art-science workshops and expert panels, Imperial engaged global audiences as part of Imperial Lates Online.

Over 80 Imperial staff and students brought their research to global online audiences as part of Imperial Lates Online over the last year.

The Lates offer a more human face of the College Imperial Lates Online attendee

Inspired by ‘museum lates’, Imperial Lates launched in 2012 as in-person evening events aiming to engage young adults with Imperial’s cutting-edge research. They usually feature an array of science-themed activities including panels, shows, workshops and hands-on exhibitions - all inspired by Imperial’s research and usually accompanied by a fully-stocked bar and a DJ.

Following the first national lockdown in March 2020 and the introduction of social distancing, the team set about redesigning the Lates as a series of digital, week-long celebrations of Imperial's research to continue engaging audiences with fascinating science and innovations during the pandemic. In total over 40 events were delivered ranging from an insect-inspired yoga class and a cardiology Valentine’s workshop to expert panel discussions on the future of work and what to eat to save the planet. Over 3000 households tuned in to the live events with thousands of people watching post-event recordings and tens of thousands getting their burning science questions answered through a series of Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) events.

[I] might not have thought of attending an event on these subjects, but found lots to interest, intrigue and entice me! - Imperial Lates Online attendee

Sharing Imperial’s cutting-edge research

The Lates online series ran from July 2020 to April 2021 exploring topics ranging from ecology, conservation and wellbeing to astrophysics, computational privacy and vaccine research.

September’s series, Imperial Lates Online: Staying Connected was sponsored by Huawei and took place as part of London Tech Week. It looked at the role of technology in maintaining human connections. Academics from Imperial Business School shared their insights into the future of work in a panel discussion while members of Imperial’s Computational Privacy Group took to Reddit to answer the public’s questions on their research into privacy considerations for COVID-19 contact-tracing technology.

December’s 'Food for Thought' Lates explored the science of food and nutrition. It included a live Kimchi make-along with Dr Kirill Veselkov and the Hyperfoods project, and discussion with celebrity chefs, climate scientists and public health scientists on how to enjoy a healthy ‘green diet’.

It was great to see the level of interest from the public. Aygul Dagbasi Research Postgraduate

“I really enjoyed it and I felt the public found it a useful discussion,” says Aygul Dagbasi, a Research Postgraduate from the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, who took part in the Green Cuisines panel on dietary choices for a healthier body and planet. “It was great to see the level of interest from the public. I only wish the event was longer, so we could have addressed even more of the public’s questions.”

Novel public engagement

The Lates organisers took the opportunity to try different formats for the events. “Moving the Lates online was a great opportunity to test out new approaches to engagement and reach people who can’t attend an event on campus. While we are all looking forward to in-person engagement being possible again, the chance to broaden the ways we can help our academic community engage public audiences with their research has been really exciting,” explains Public Engagement Manager, James Romero.

[I] loved the collage aspect and the intersection between art and science. Was great having an artist and the scientists. Imperial Lates Online attendee

For March’s Lates exploring the Sun, astrophysicists Dr Emma Chapman Ian Hothi and Kimeel Sooknunan teamed up with CERN artist-in-residence Helen Cawley to deliver an online workshop. The event invited the public to create “Sun prints and solar collages and join a discussion into how art can help us visualise what we cannot see.” The event was inspired by Dr Chapman’s new book First Light, which pieces together the story of the first Suns of the universe.

As part of the first nature-themed Imperial Lates Online last July, scientists and poets came together for a poetry slam in which they performed spoken-word art, competing for the public vote - a first of its kind for the College. In another first, yoga and dance teacher Abbie Biscoe ran an insect yoga class as part of April’s Wildlife Lates that was inspired by Imperial research into the movement of bees, dragonflies and stick insects. "I loved the way wildlife and yoga were connected in the class" one attendee said.

Doing a Reddit AMA was great! I think it's a very nice way to engage with the public, as people on Reddit generally really care about the topic. Researcher who took part in Imperial Lates Online

Each online Lates series featured some regular events, including a “pub-less” quiz and a Reddit AMA. A notable example of the latter came in November when two of Imperial’s COVID-19 vaccine researchers took part in that month’s Healthcare Heroes Lates. They answered hundreds of the public’s questions about their work and about vaccines more generally.

What next for the Lates?

We’ve found that online platforms can be both be convenient for our academics and help us reach new diverse audiences. James Romero Public Engagement Manager, Imperial

The team are now looking ahead to the 2021/22 season of Lates and hope to be back with face-to-face events. However, they plan to keep some online programming to continue engaging wider audiences with Imperial’s work, beyond those who can access Imperial’s South Kensington campus.

“We’ve found that online platforms can be both be convenient for our academics and help us reach new diverse audiences. We don’t want to lose that and will continue to support our scientists to design and deliver compelling engagement activities in both digital and in-person spaces,” says James, who hopes to hear from more teams across the College interested in engaging audiences online or in person.

Staff and students interested in getting involved can get in touch with the team at societal_engagement@imperial.ac.uk or sign up to the Societal Engagement newsletter to hear about the latest opportunities to engage wider audiences with Imperial’s work.

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Reporter

Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Office of the Provost

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6228
Email: e.cawthera@imperial.ac.uk

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Public-engagement, Societal-engagement
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