June 12, 2020, by Brigitte Nerlich


This is a guest/cross-post by Peter Broks on a new engagement tool he has developed, which looks fascinating.


Much of what we all do can be seen as a form of alchemy. We start with something; we process it; and, if all goes well, we turn it into something we value more highly.

Certainly, that is how I have begun to see my own work – whether this is in research, teaching, writing, handling complex problems or simply editing someone else’s text.
It was with this in mind that I created Alchemarium.

In part this is a personal website, but I also want it to be a platform for other people, a place where (as a team) we can offer a range of services. More generally, I want it to foster the crossover between science, the humanities and the public.

Engage, process, create

Already Alchemarium can draw on a team of experts from around the world. Subject specialisms include: history of science, citizen science, Responsible Research and Innovation, storytelling, sustainability, and the environment. Skills include communications, project management, evaluation and a range of creative arts.

The tagline for Alchemarium is “Engage, Process, Create” We can help you ENGAGE – with talks, training, and workshops. From start to finish, from planning to evaluation, we can help you with the PROCESS of developing ideas or creating content and communicating results in the most appropriate way. If you prefer, you can give us the material and we will CREATE a finished product by providing services from copy writing and visual design to media production and the creative arts.

The alchemical workshop

Finally, we have the Alchemical Workshop. This is an innovative format that more explicitly uses processes from alchemy to help participants make sense of complex issues or overwhelming amounts of material.

There are several steps to a workshop. The first is to identify the “coarse material” to work with. This might be pre-existing material (eg all the reports from a project) or generated specifically for the workshop (eg. through a simple questionnaire). The workshop will then apply different “alchemical” processes to this material. “Distillation”, for example, will try to find the essence of the material. “Calcination” will burn everything away as much as possible to see what gets left.

Finally, the “Chemical Wedding” is a plenary stage which combines the work from each process to turn it into something that is more valuable for the participants.

The key to success is to focus on the process at hand. In a more free flowing discussion it is easy to be doing too many things at the same time.

The Alchemical Workshop has been used both with small groups and in the setting of a large international conference. Alchemarium can adapt the format to your own needs.

It is still very early days for the site but I have lots of plans for how it can develop. I hope you like it, engage with it and maybe also one day become involved. If you would like to be involved or simply would like to know more then you can contact me through the site or by email: peterbroks@hotmail.co.uk

Image: Alchemy King and Queen, Wellcome Collection

Posted in public engagement with scienceresponsible innovationScience Communication