Tobias Hauser and Madeleine Payne – Excellence in Public Engagement 2022

With so many incredible public engagement champions in the department, it was challenging to select this year’s Excellence in Public Engagement Award. Therefore, this year we split the award between two outstanding researchers, both of whom have played key roles in different public engagement projects and shown strong understanding of public engagement in research.

Madeleine Payne, PhD student at Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry, collaborated with the community outreach project EMERGE(ncy) PARTY to co-design Becoming: Exploring Adolescence. The project aimed to explore the construction of self-concept during adolescence and how young people use their emerging autonomy to explore their sense of self. Madeleine worked with 4 groups of young people with partners Trinity Academy, King Solomon, Spotlight Youth Hub and Compass Collective. Targeting young people in marginalised communities that are under-served by neuroscience, Madeleine designed age-appropriate exercises to explore construction of self-concept during adolescence.

Through a series of 8 workshops, a wide variety of creative works were produced, including drawings, soundscapes, drama, and written pieces. Creations were shared online and with the local community, alongside weekly newsletters which Madeleine produced with arts and sciences sections summarising each workshop. The workshops culminated in the creation of two short films (one of which can be viewed here).

Through the project Madeleine has created partnerships with schools and youth organisations that serve a diversity of communities. These partnerships have already informed further projects and research, with Madeleine revisiting Trinity Academy to conduct a research study inspired by the Becoming project.

On winning her award, Madeleine said:

“Delivering this project has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my PhD. Working together with the young people and our partner organisations has taught me so much, helping me to reflect deeply on my research ideas and practices. I am delighted that our work has been recognised in this way and I am excited to continue to incorporate public engagement into my research. I am lucky to be supported by such a brilliant public engagement team at the Centre and to have supportive supervisors who encouraged the pursuit of this project!”

Dr Tobias Hauser, Principal Investigator at Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, has been leading the OCD and The Brain project, aiming to engage young people with OCD and bridge the disconnect between the lived experiences of OCD and what OCD research is focusing on. Tobias has shown strong commitment to co-production, designing the OCD and The Brain project in collaboration with lived experts and in partnership with OCD Action and the International OCD Foundation. The project was recently awarded funding from Wellcome.

Tobias has also taken a strong citizen science approach to his research, creating the Brain Explorer app, with over 10,000 users which provides in-depth information about computational psychiatry research and an accessible avenue for the public to contribute through playing brain games.

Both Tobias and Madeleine have shown thorough understanding and appreciation of public engagement, applying it in ways which feed back into their research. We are delighted to award them Excellence in Public Engagement 2022 and celebrate their incredible efforts and achievements.

On winning his award, Tobias said:

“I am very excited about being awarded this prize, and to share it with Maddy Payne. Thanks to the great public engagement team at the WCHN, I have learned about the importance of public engagement, and it has changed our approach to research. This recognition shows that we are on the right track and it encourages us to further promote public engagement in our research.”

Congratulations to Tobias and Madeleine on all their incredible contributions to public engagement!

Awarded June 2022.