Engaging the public with research broadly means sharing the benefits of research with the public.
Who are the public?
The public can be anyone, from the general public on a high street, to a group of professionals within a multi-national organisation.
The most important element of ‘public engagement’ is the engagement itself; the quality or meaningfulness of the interaction between the public (or publics) and the research.
Having a specific public group in mind for an activity might generate better engagement; worthwhile activities are tailored with their audience in mind.
Why would I want to engage the public with my research?
- It is a great way to ensure that your research maintains relevance to the wider world and meets its needs
- Public engagement with research can lead to demonstrable impact where evaluated well. 50% of the case studies submitted in REF 2014 referred to public engagement of some kind.
- Engaging with those outside of your research environment can open the door to valuable insights and perspectives, generating innovation and new directions in research
- It is becoming more important to funders in an age of increased call for accountability
- It builds trust and understanding between institutions and their locality
- It’s fun!
How can the public be engaged with research?
The NCCPE has defined four common ways that researchers can engage the public with their research.
- Communicating research activity and outcomes
Goal: to find effective ways of informing the public about research, and to increase its accessibility. This can involve a range of methods to inspire and involve different audiences
- Listening to public views and concerns
Goal: to make sure that you get better informed about the public’s views and concerns about your research, and more sensitive to the social and ethical issues that relate to it. It’s also an opportunity to hear fresh perspectives and insights which can fundamentally challenge and help to develop your own thinking and lines of enquiry
- Involving the public as researchers
Goal: To encourage public participation in your research by involving people as researchers for your project
- Developing collaborative research and co-inquiry projects
Goal: to develop genuine collaboration, where the research questions are developed and explored in partnership with the public