KiW – Know it Wall

By Peter Shatwell

Know it Wall (KiW), is a public engagement project run by students at Imperial and UCL. It was founded in the summer of 2014 by three UCL students, and a few months later I noticed a friend of mine from Imperial (now doing an MSc in Science Media Production) working on it. I thought it sounded like a pretty cool idea, so I got in touch with the team asking to get involved. Luckily they saw I could be of some value to the team, and so the five of us decided to make KiW a collaborative project between UCL and Imperial, launching the website in 2015.

The aim is to bring the excitement of academics’ work to the general public through short audio and video documentaries. Academics who are interested in getting their research ‘out there’ in an accessible and engaging way simply send us a script of around 1000 words and we take care of the rest. I think what’s most interesting about the KiW project is that we endeavour to include *all* disciplines: sciences, arts and humanities.

I have always been interested in science communication, but there’s always an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind worrying about ‘scientific elitism’ and all that. I’m a big fan of science, but I don’t think it’s the only thing worth having vast resources at its disposal for its effective communication. KiW is about championing the links between subjects, and showcasing research across disciplines alongside each other. This is one of the main reasons why I find KiW so interesting.

An exciting time for the project happened last year, when we entered Jisc’s ‘Summer of Student Innovation’ competition. The first task was making a short video that described our idea.

Having impressed the organisers with our video pitch, we were invited to a four day ‘design sprint’ in Birmingham. It was a thrilling experience where we worked intensively on the project, gaining a wealth of knowledge and expertise from mentors at Jisc.

The competition culminated in a final pitch day in August, and we prepared extensively for it. Luckily the presentation went smoothly and our work paid off, as we were awarded £10,000 funding from Jisc! This was a big boost to the project, and enabled us to start venturing into making films. Our first film was with UCL historian Zoltán Biedermann on Italian Renaissance maps (it’s actually much more interesting than it sounds!).

We’ve continued to release content since our win with Jisc, and our most recent film is about Imperial researcher [Dr Emily Mayhew’s]( work on blast injury. The film explores the ‘invisible killer’ of World War I, and the pioneering work first done by one neuroscientist in Paris a hundred years ago.

There are nearly 30 episodes on the KiW site now, showcasing academic research across the arts and sciences – from Italian Literature and Art History, to Neuroscience and Theoretical Physics. Four of these are from Imperial academics, with more to come in the near future. You can currently learn about Antarctic exploration from Martin Siegert, the possibility of life on Jupiter from Mehdi Ben Slama, and even about the Stegosaurus from former researcher Susannah Maidment.

Although life is certainly busy being a graduate student, it’s still rewarding to find time to help grow this project, working with academics, and learning about things completely unrelated to my research.

If you’re interested in contributing to Know it Wall, or want to learn more about the project, then please contact Peter Shatwell at

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