Showcasing scientific research at conferences is nothing new for academics but, when presented with a chance to speak to the general public, the quality of the lecture needs to step up a gear.
Such was the challenge facing Professor Miratul Muqit from the University of Dundee’s MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit who was to be awarded the prestigious 2018 Francis Crick Medal and Lecture in recognition of his research into Parkinson’s Disease.
With the event at The Royal Society in London approaching, Miratul was looking to give a clear and engaging lecture. What’s more, as a public lecture, it was essential that his presentation not only appealed to scientists but was relevant for a broader audience.
With just a few weeks until the event on 17 January 2019, Miratul got in touch with us, looking for animations to bring his lecture to life, including depicting the 3 billion letters of DNA contained within our genes. The countdown was on but thankfully Miratul had firm ideas in place, giving us a head start.
After our first brainstorming meeting, where we got to grips with the finer detail and began to sketch down ideas, we set to work on creating the first draft.
As with all of our projects, it was essential that the aesthetics of the animation hit the spot – too garish or busy and the audience becomes distracted, missing the main points; badly timed and the lecture and animation fall out of sync and make the speaker look unprofessional. Essentially, there are many boxes to tick to ensure a slick and impressive end result.
But an impressive end result is exactly what we achieved with Miratul in the form of five animations, each of around 10-15 seconds in length, which added a highly visual and memorable dimension to the lecture.
So how did Miratul find the process of working with us?
Miratul said, “I had a specific outcome in mind when I contacted Vivomotion. Usually, I rely on slides, words and stills but this was a different dynamic – I was looking for an animation which would bring our research to life. I was also acutely aware that the lecture was going to be streamed online, live, so I was motivated by that wider audience and therefore needed a resource which went beyond the event itself. A few of my colleagues had enjoyed positive interactions with Mhairi and her team, so I got in touch to see how she could help.
“Thankfully, the whole process was fairly straightforward. After our initial meeting, most of our communication was conducted by email. We could have met or spoken on the phone, but I was juggling a lot of plates at the time, with many deadlines to meet, so email suited me better and it was still a really interactive process as we were able to modify it back and forth.
“The end result was just fantastic. I could have just used normal slides, but videos add an edge, and give a sense of the challenges we’ve been working with. I will definitely be using the product again, for both scientific and non-scientific audiences, here and overseas. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Vivomotion and would love to work with Mhairi and her team again.”
And, putting Miratul’s own views aside, did the animation meet the brief for the audience?
“The event was full to capacity, with around 75% of the audience made up of the general public, including patients and carers, as well as students and scientists. After the event, I received a letter noting the efforts I had gone to, to make the talk general. Of course, as well as the event itself, these lectures are posted on YouTube where they will remain in perpetuity, often attracting thousands of hits, so the animations had to be of a very high standard.”
Last but by no means least, when it comes to financing such projects, Miratul submitted a proposal for public engagement funding from the School of Life Sciences in Dundee, explaining, “This particular lecture had a significant public engagement element to it – I was presenting my research findings to people at the very heart of what we do, including patients themselves and their families. The value of these lectures is immense and we as scientists have a duty to interact with the general public, to be accountable and, of course, to justify the public funding of our work as scientists.”
Although not required by Miratul, we are also able to add subtitles, voiceovers and music onto our animations, as well as providing stills for future use.
Miratul’s lecture can be viewed at https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2019/01/francis-crick/
If you’d like to hear more about what we can do, please call Dr Mhairi Towler, Director, Vivomotion on 07709 939 557 or visit https://www.vivomotion.co.uk/.