Human evolution

Telling the story of human evolution

Most people are curious about human evolution. The story of where we came from is an interesting one. The scientific evidence for human history is complex, but LJMU researchers are at the forefront of the effort to communicate this science. We engage and educate worldwide audiences by contributing high-quality scientific input to support the commissioning and production of television programming.

The University’s Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology (RCEAP) works with broadcasters and the creative sector, contributing its research and approach to the study of human evolution. Our work underpins programmes that attract a large and diverse viewing public.

LJMU research is influential because our focus is unique. We go beyond the study of fossil bones and relationships between different species. We focus on the biology of the organisms themselves: what they looked like, what they were capable of, what their environments were like. This research provides a strong scientific basis for how human ancestors are reconstructed visually, as living and moving organisms. The programmes based on this research have more impact on how the audiences ‘see’ human evolution.

LJMU’s established reputation for research into human evolution has steered its researchers into scientific consultancy – including scripting and production support. Our researchers informed the content and were involved in the presentation of television programmes broadcast on the BBC (two episodes of Horizon, plus Origins of Us and Prehistoric Autopsy). Together, these reached 7 million UK viewers on their original broadcasts alone and were seen by considerably more people through repeats, downloads and overseas broadcasts (in more than 16 countries across the world).

The researchers worked within the public engagement strategy of Prehistoric Autopsy which included lectures and exhibits at a range of museums around the UK, all of which attracted a large number of visitors. After one event in London (2012), an audience survey revealed that 63% had changed their ideas about evolution because of what they had heard, 13% felt their knowledge was expanded and 77% were able to recount something new they had learned from the series or talk.

LJMU’s research expertise feeds into the successful communication of scientific ideas before, during and after programmes are commissioned and produced. Our involvement helps ensure that programmes are commissioned. The early input of LJMU researchers has helped to secure £1 million in commissions as having such expertise on board provides a guarantee that the end product will be factual, engaging and informative.

Visit the Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology pages where you can discover more about the Centre's research interests and watch videos that summarise some of the current projects.

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