Whoever came up with the idea of combining science and beer deserves a serious pat on the back. This genius concept, Pint of Science, came to the pubs of York this week and on the whole it definitely did not disappoint.
My partner and I bought tickets, for a cheap £4 each, to the Beyond Curing Diseases session at the Fulford Arms. The room was filled cosily by 30-odd people, seemingly from a range of science and non-science backgrounds. The evening consisted of three talks with time for questions from the audience, interjected by short breaks to allow sampling of the ale selection on offer (and chips for my lab friends too).
The first talk was by the University of York’s Paul Genever and was my personal favourite. It featured Sam, a PhD student in the Genever lab, who was strapped up to mimic the effects of osteoarthritis. This really worked to weave some humour into a talk otherwise vaguely reminiscent of a second year undergraduate module. Paul spoke with fluent and evident enthusiasm about the use of stem cells to treat bone disorders such as arthritis, and the use of hand outs like a super-bendy bone (after EDTA treatment) and a bright blue mouse skeleton really helped to engage an audience slow to settle amidst the excitement of free stickers and pieces of card.
After the first break came Sam Bardsley from GSK on the topic of digital drug development which, to his own admission, was lacking in interesting props but ‘had brevity on side’. I was initially concerned that his deadpan delivery would lead to a dull talk but quite the contrary; Sam’s witticisms kept the interest alive as he described contact lenses which could measure a diabetic’s glucose levels and an app to remind you when to take your medication. This was my partner’s favourite talk of the three; he felt less ‘like he was back in a school biology lesson’ and much more engaged with the subject matter.
Last up was Stephanie Mathisen from Sense About Science with her presentation about the AllTrials campaign. I had been most keen to hear her talk after reading the programme online as the transparency (or not) of clinical trials is a current and engaging issue. I was however somewhat disappointed. Whilst Stephanie and her passion for the campaign came across strongly, it was unfortunately clouded by a slight air of idealism, highlighted in her desire for total ‘public access’ to the trial results which will actually only be available to researchers upon application.
The organisation of the whole evening was excellent and the little additions, the quiz questions throughout and the game of ‘draw your favourite science’ (which my partner somehow won…), really topped it off. And we found a nice pub that is dog-friendly. The only downside was that we had booked for one night and not three!
For more information about the AllTrials campaign or to sign their petition, visit alltrials.net.