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BSI public engagement strategy

Public engagement illustration

Public engagement is integral to the British Society for Immunology mission to support our community to make a positive impact on health and increase public understanding and knowledge of immunology and science. We’re committed to immunology research being accessible to all and inclusive, engaging a diverse range of people and communities. As an evidence-based and responsible organisation we recognise our role in building trust and openness between the public and scientists.

We have four goals, to:

  • Increase the impact of immunology research and strengthen public knowledge so everyone can make informed decisions to improve their health
  • Discover opportunities where the BSI can add value to public discussions on immunology and health and be proactive and responsive to the needs and concerns of the public
  • Inspire public opinion and engagement in key immunology matters
  • Support our members and encourage immunologists to engage with the public through advice and guidance, as well as providing funding, training and resources to facilitate their public engagement activities

This strategy sets out how the Society will carry out public engagement as well as how we will support our members to engage with the public. We work closely with our Public Engagement Secretary, Professor Matthias Eberl, who we’d like to thank for helping with developing this strategy.

Who will we engage with?

BSI volunteer talking to childWe are committed to helping everyone make informed decisions about immunology topics and want to ensure immunology is accessible to all, including people with relevant lived experiences of conditions affecting the immune system, healthcare workers and historically underserved communities. It’s important that we engage with and involve the right people in our projects and tailor our activities for each audience. For example, when engaging around vaccinations we will aim to reach families with babies, adults over 65 and teenagers as these people are offered routine vaccinations. However, we are not best placed to engage with schools directly.

Our members are particularly well placed to engage with:

  • Schools, through existing university networks
  • People with lived experience of their immunology research topic
  • Their local communities and organisations e.g. local museums, festivals etc.

How will we engage?

The Society will:

  • Attend 3 – 4 in-person events each year and provide members with volunteering opportunities (e.g. at traditional science festivals) but we will prioritise non-traditional community events where science is not the main theme
  • Develop educational resources e.g. videos, animations, infographics, activities
  • Build on our social media presence and the public facing element of our website
  • Deliver community engagement activities through ongoing collaborations, to empower community groups

We will support our members through:

  • Connecting to external activities e.g. suggesting speakers for local and national events
  • BSI Communication & Engagement grant. Ring-fenced funding for our Regional & Affinity Group engagement activities
  • Working closely with our Regional & Affinity Groups to attend local events and represent the BSI

What topics will we engage about?

BSI volunteers engaging with public

We recognise that all immunology is important and encourage our members to engage on their specific research area, but the Society’s primary focus will be on:

  • Vaccines: routine vaccinations, seasonal boosters, changes to childhood vaccine schedule and new vaccines
  • COVID-19
  • Cancer and immunotherapies
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Immune dysfunction/deficiency
  • Transplantation/organ donation
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • One Health topics
  • New emerging topics in response to future health emergencies related to immunology

Our commitment to working in partnership to increase impact

Building connections is key to maximise impact of our engagement activities. We will continue to:

  • Ensure public engagement is an integral part of our activities with partner organisations from other areas of our work
  • Work with local authorities on community engagement training programmes
  • Engage with national public health teams and those supporting healthcare workers around COVID-19 and vaccines
  • Collaborate with national health bodies to work on key messaging and communications around vaccines and COVID-19

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

In line with the BSI’s Diversity and Inclusion Framework, we will strive to ensure our public engagement activities conform to best EDI practice. Examples of the types of activities we will undertake are listed below:

  • Aim to, out of our public engagement events each year, attend at least one in a devolved nation (Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales), one in a non-university town/city and one at a non-academic setting
  • BSI Communication & Engagement Grant applications have a section focused on EDI for applicants to consider best practice. We will ensure a diverse representation of individuals on the grant review panel
  • Identify and engage with underrepresented communities that have lower vaccine uptake, through building relationships and partnerships with appropriate organisations who have grassroots links and co-develop tailored community engagement projects
  • Language and imagery used in our resources remains inclusive and representative of the diverse communities we are serving
  • Involve diverse representation from our membership as volunteers in our public engagement projects
  • Our members must follow our BSI code of conduct and Diversity & Inclusion framework with their public engagement work

If you have any comments or questions around our public engagement strategy, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Chris Snowden-Smith, Engagement and Careers Officer, at