Introduction

Translating Science is an experiment. There is so much exciting scientific research under way in Norwich. This research, carried out across the six partner organisations on the Norwich Research Park (University of East AngliaNorfolk & Norwich HospitalJohn Innes CentreEarlham InstituteQuadram Institute and The Sainsbury Laboratory) tackles major challenges such as ensuring that we have a plentiful and nutritious food supply, understanding human health and nutrition, combatting disease, and finding creative solutions to biodiversity loss and climate change. Norwich is recognised internationally for its scientific research. It is also world renowned as a hub for the creative arts. Although there is cross-fertilisation between science and the arts in Norwich and the wider region, there is also considerable unrealized potential for synergy. Translating Science is a collaborative project between the Norwich Research Park and the National Centre for Writing (also based in Norwich). Its initial aim was to test the water – to take one small step towards a bigger ambition – towards diving in.

Translating Science project brought scientists from Norwich Research Park together with established writers, so providing an opportunity for experts within two very different fields of work to collaborate and gain fresh insight and inspiration from each other. At the kick-off workshop, the scientists began by sharing their research with the writers through brief presentations and discussion. This was followed by a ‘speed-dating’ session that enabled the writers and scientists to find out more about each other. The whole cohort (writers and scientists) then took part in some writing exercises, led by Sam Ruddock from the National Centre for Writing. There was a real feeling of excitement in the sharing session at the end of this process when the creative works were read out. Following an offline polling process, the scientists and writers then teamed up in pairs to begin their adventures together. Each writer was commissioned to write a piece inspired by the research of their partner. The writers were encouraged to position their work within the overall theme of Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Planet. The process involved a lot of exchange, follow up discussion, and in some cases visits to the research laboratories. The outputs are showcased in this anthology. It is fascinating to see how each partnership led to such distinctive and captivating outputs, and to reflect on how the interaction with the research scientist has shaped the writing.

By triggering the readers’ excitement and imagination, we hope that the readers will in turn be supported in developing a deeper understanding of the benefits of science-based research

In its second phase, with the publication of the Translating Science anthology, the project aims to engage more people in science by articulating research conducted by world-leading scientists at the NRP in new ways. Readers will encounter science-based research that they may not have been familiar with before. NRP science will be opened up as a meeting place – a place of exchange – in new and intriguing ways.

By triggering the readers’ excitement and imagination, we hope that the readers will in turn be supported in developing a deeper understanding of the benefits of science-based research for solving the many challenges we face and help to influence policy and decision makers to make the right choices. The commissions present a positive outlook for the future of our world.

As Norwich celebrates its tenth anniversary as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2022, this is a timely project which demonstrates the power of storytelling in our city. We are incredibly lucky that the Research Park and National Centre for Writing both call Norwich home.

— Prof Anne Osbourn

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