PLORAS – Outstanding Public Engagement Project 2019

The PLORAS (Predicting Language Outcomes and Recovery After Stroke) team, led by our Centre’s Director Professor Cathy Price, won the headline prize at the Centre’s Public Engagement Awards 2019, the Outstanding Public Engagement Project award.

The team consists of Prof Cathy Price, Dr Andrea Gajardo Vidal, Dr Diego Lorca Puls, Megan Docksey, Shamima Khan, Hayley Woodgate, Kate Ledingham, Sophie Roberts, Justyna Ekert, Sharon Geva and Storm Anderson.

They had tough competition but their firm commitment to public engagement, which included much enthusiasm and continual improvement, crowned them our winners this year.

PLORAS teamThe group have always embraced public engagement in the past, but they kicked off their 2018 public engagement activity with two Aphasia Workshops in March. These were definitely a memorable experience; “they were a disaster” laughs Andrea Gajardo Vidal, a post-doctoral researcher in the group and keen public engager. Though the workshops were aimed at carers and loved ones of those with aphasia, the audience was largely those suffering from aphasia themselves, requiring some improvisation that moved the focus of the session from ‘what it’s like to have aphasia’ to ‘ways of coping’. Both the Public Engagement team and PLORAS learned a lot from the experience and were also able to tweak their output for the second aphasia workshop that ran a week later.

Unphased, PLORAS took the learnings of the workshop forward and continued to champion public engagement within the Centre. Next up, they hosted three interns for one week through the In2Science scheme during July 2018. The interns worked largely with Andrea and her colleague Diego Lorca Puls, with Andrea reflecting on her time with the students “they taught me lots!”. The researchers felt that they learned much from the students; from social media, to the ins and outs of the education system. The appreciation was two way, with the students contacting PLORAS seeking permission to present some of their work from the internship to their teachers at school, showcasing all they had learned. This year, PLORAS hosted interns through our In2Science scheme again, but this time for the whole two-week placement. The team felt that there was plenty of opportunity to extend the work they were able to do with the students last year, and having more time with them this time helped this.

Finally, the PLORAS research group took part in UCL World Stroke Day Forum in October 2019, a day-long event that brought researchers and stroke survivors together to discuss the future potentials of stroke research. The team held a stand in the expo space and invited stroke survivors, their loved ones and carers to come and chat informally about their research and processes. Megan Docksey, research assistant, explained that “the event opened a two-way dialogue with stroke survivors regarding events they would like to see and their research priorities. Its success has given us new ideas, and we are excited to pursue future public engagement opportunities”. Continuing with their desire to grow and engage ever more meaningfully, PLORAS are developing an in-depth workshop for UCL World Stroke Day 2019 that will use stroke survivors feedback to steer the outcomes of their research.

The PLORAS team were glowing throughout the Awards ceremony and have used their prize to celebrate their success at Dishoom, a great opportunity for them to gather and pat one another on the back.

Thank you for your great public engagement efforts PLORAS, and congratulations!

Awarded March 2019