Background We aim to reach new heights in diagnosis and treatment of arthritis through research and we believe that part of this encompasses public engagement. Engaging the public is an essential part of scientific life, as the majority of work carried about by researchers is publically funded. Therefore the public are entitled to and should be encouraged to see the conclusions of this work in an easily accessible manner.
Objectives 1) Engage the public about rheumatic disease, what it is, what it does to the body and how we, as scientists and clinicians, address unmet needs in this field.
2) Empower patients in order to help them understand their disease and treatments thereby improving patient satisfaction and compliance to therapy.
3) Inspire the next generation of scientist by encouraging children to study science at school and raise the profile of these subjects with education authorities and the government.
Methods Rheumatosphere was established to address public engagement needs in the arthritis research field. We have used a variety of techniques to capture the attention of small and large audiences of all ages. Techniques include: Ultrasound scanning, coffee with a scientist at our cell cafe, posters displays, multidisciplinary classroom lessons in a school environment and comic book drawing. These resources and activities have been deployed at 5 major science events across Scotland in the last 3 years, and at the British society for rheumatology's annual conference in 2016. Further to this we have also attended regular events at the Glasgow science centre and schools across Scotland.
Results During our first three major events we have had approximately 3000 encounters with the median age of participants being 33 years. Over half (51%) of the people that we engage with directly knew someone affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Engaging the public and patients with visualisation of their own joints using ultrasound is effective in demonstrating how joints function. This then serves as a starting point to highlight current research and celebrate the newer treatment strategies which have resulted in better outcomes for our patients. Feedback from our events show that people are keen to engage and learn more about arthritis, with 80% wanting to know more about autoimmunity and 83% wanting to know more about the clinical work going on throughout Glasgow.
Children at these events and in the classroom are encouraged to learn about the immune system and it's role in health and disease through the medium of comic books and art. Allowing the children to relate scientific topics to an already established and popular media has proven to be an effective learning tool. In 2016, 94% of school pupils who interacted with Rheumatosphere said that they had learned something new about arthritis, including careers options through which they could become involved in helping to better understand and treat disease.
Our future plans include partnering with Government and National Science Centre stakeholders to further develop educational curricula in the arena of musculoskeletal science and immunology.
Conclusions We feel that engaging with the public and patients is an essential part of our vocation as scientists and clinicians and only by empowering them will we be able to reach new heights in diagnosis and treatment of arthritis.
Disclosure of Interest None declared