Dr. Cedric Tan awarded Public Engagement with Research Impact Award from the Division

February 12, 2020

Based on his research on large carnivores in Asia, Cedric created three interactive public engagement activities to demonstrate how our individual daily actions in the UK could have an impact on the tropical forest elsewhere. These activities are an interactive theatre, a carnivore conservation game and an escape room, all of which led to increased awareness and a positive change to the attitudes and behavioural intentions of the public.

For these works, Cedric Tan has been awarded the Public Engagement with Research Impact Award from the Mathematics, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division.

The aim of MPLS Impact Awards is to foster and raise awareness of impact and prepare the ground for the impact case studies that will be needed for Research Excellence Framework 2021. The Public Engagement with Research Impact Award recognises researchers who have attained significant impact with public engagement activities.

One major challenge in public engagement is that it is often one-way and researchers are often unsure of the impact of their activities. Cedric designed his to listen to the audience and examine their impacts. After each activity ended, his team asked the audience about their views on selected issues. They demonstrated positive changes in perception and behavioural intentions with regards to conservation issues.

One case study is the interactive theatre on clouded leopards, which had a choose-your-own adventure format. The audience were asked to make decisions for the actors at checkpoints and different decisions led to different theatre paths (Fig 1). For instance the audience had to decide whether to convert part of the forest to palm oil to save the remaining forest.

They showed that adults exposed to the “Oil-palm” ending were less likely to buy palm oil products in the future (Fig 2).

“I am very honoured to have received this accolade. It has certainly motivated me to continue ensuring that my research will lead to positive changes in what we can do as individuals. I would like to show my appreciation for my collaborators: Amy Hong, Ran Peleg, Jennifer Spencer who have contributed substantially to these public engagement activities. The University’s Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund and Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund have supported these outreach activities and I would like to thank these funding schemes” – said Cedric

Cedric was also awarded the “Social Impact” award from the Division and the “Early Career Conservationist” award from the Society of Conservation Biology in 2019 for his work to influence the conservation decision to protect the habitat of clouded leopards at Ulu Muda forest.

David Macdonald, Director of WildCRU said “Cedric Tan inspires WildCRU Panthers and motivates our e-learning courses in Asia and Africa, helping WildCRU open access to high-level conservation skills. Anybody who can teach statistics with chocolate and undertake role play in the competitive quest amongst sperm chasing an egg is surely an unusual teacher. Cedric is not just unusual, he is as gifted as he is inventive. And the icing on the cake is that he designs his teaching so that we can measure its impact”.

  • Figure 1. Theatre paths differed
  • Figure 2. Adults were less likely to use oil palm products when exposed to the “Oil-palm” ending