The Institute of Unnecessary Research: public engagement in science through art and performance

Whitby, Blay and Dumitriu, Anna (2009) The Institute of Unnecessary Research: public engagement in science through art and performance. In: Fourth Annual Science and the Public Conference, 13-14 June 2009, University of Brighton, UK.

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The Institute of Unnecessary Research (IUR) is an international interdisciplinary group of artists, scientists and researchers, involved with innovative research, disseminated through participatory art and performance, to diverse audiences. Traditional approaches to the public understanding of science suggest that it is about encouraging scientists to explain their work to a receptive public. This is perhaps mistaken. The public is not always receptive – sometimes rightly so. Public understanding is not just a matter of being told something by an authority. Also most discussions of public understanding of science do not give an account of what ʻscienceʼ is. The public is aware that information dissemination is controlled by many factors, including commerce, politics, and cultural assumptions. This is worsened by media attention to ʻbig scienceʼ or to scientific work that can be cynically linked to profit. In short, the ʻpublic understanding of science movementʼ often seems to neglect public understanding in general. Public understanding would be a necessary precursor to the public understanding of science. The IUR engages with the very nature of what constitutes scientific research through artistic practice, directly widening participation in those debates as well as bringing about a deeper appreciation of contemporary scientific research. The word ʻunnecessaryʼ in the name of the Institute is a very important reminder that science should be driven by curiosity and not by the military or large corporations. The IUR demonstrates that we all can and should debate about the direction of research, its ethical implications, and what exactly science should be. The IUR is made up of variousʻ departmentsʼ specific to the interests of each member of the group, and include ʻJoyʼ, ʻEthicsʼ, ʻNeurofeedbackʼ, ʻTissue Cultureʼ and ʻMagicʼ. Past events have included performances at Shunt Lounge and The Whitechapel Gallery in London as well as science festivals, hospitals and academic settings.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Depositing User: Blay Whitby
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:27
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2012 11:16
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