The Discover Science event run by theUniversity of Edinburgh at the NationalMuseum of Scotland during the EdinburghInternational Science Festival:an excitingrange of hands-on science activities forfamilies, provided mainly by Universitystaff and students.Douglas Robertson
IntroductionWe believe that engaging with the public should form part of the role of researchers in anydiscipline. By engaging with the public researchers can improve the quality of research and itsimpact, widen research horizons, enhance their communication and influencing skills, improvetheir personal and institutional profiles, and build new partnerships. Public engagement can alsohelp universities return to their roots, actively contributing to positive social change and the‘public good’.This Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research is part of our efforts to support andencourage researchers to engage with the public and overcome barriers that they mayencounter. It builds on the funders’ previous commitments to public engagement and aims toadd value to existing effective practice by providing a single, unambiguous statement of theexpectations and responsibilities of research funders in the UK regarding this critical area. Itcomplements the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. Together,we believe the two concordats will help us work with the research community to improve thequantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society and the economy.The signatories of the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research believe that much is tobe gained by using the agreed principles to reconsider institutional policies and practice anddevelop an institution-wide response. We therefore invited the National Co-ordinating Centrefor Public Engagement to produce these briefings to provide guidance for people working inuniversities and research institutes on how to embrace and embed the principles, drawing on theexperiences of the Beacons for Public Engagement.We appreciate your support in helping to create a culture in higher education and researchsectors that values, recognises and supports public engagement, and in the process helps ensurethat research contributes positively to society and results in greater relevance, accountabilityand transparency.Professor Alan Thorpe,Chair, Research Councils UKThe National Co-ordinating Centrefor Public Engagement andthe BeaconsFunded by the Higher Education FundingCouncils, Research Councils UK and theWellcome Trust, the Beacons for PublicEngagement initiative was set up toinspire a culture change in how universitiesand research institutes engage with thepublic. It consists of:The National Co-ordinating Centre forPublic Engagement (NCCPE), whichco-ordinates, captures, shares andpromotes learning between the Beacons,and across UK higher education institutionsand research institutes.Six Beacons: University-basedcollaborative centres that help support,recognise, reward and build capacity forpublic engagement work. The six Beaconsare based in Newcastle and Durham,Manchester, CUE East (UEA), UCL, Walesand Edinburgh.To coincide with the launch of theConcordat for Engaging the Public withResearch, the National Co-ordinatingCentre has launched a Manifesto forPublic Engagement. By signing up tothe manifesto, institutions can declaretheir strategic commitment to publicengagement, and access additional supportand guidance from the NCCPE.www.publicengagement.ac.uk
Implementing the Concordat principles: practical guidanceThe following table provides the NCCPE’s suggestions for how each key role can approach the implementation of the Concordat. Specific briefings areavailable for senior managers, managers of researchers, researchers and supporters of researchers, which elaborate on each area and give exampleof practiceAreas of focus Senior managers Managers of researchers Researchers Supporters of researchersUK research organisations havea strategic commitment topublic engagement.Clarifying why engaging with thepublic matters to your institution;including public engagement in yourinstitution’s mission and strategicplans; having senior championsfor public engagement across theorganisation.Championing public engagementin your school/department/teamboth informally and formally,and ensuring that it is supportedin departmental strategy andoperational plans.Being informed about yourinstitution’s strategy for engagingwith the public, and ensuring thatyou have thought through how andwhy public engagement is relevantto your area of research, and thebenefits it can bring.Being informed about yourinstitution’s strategy for engagingwith the public; being an effectiveadvocate and champion forthat strategy; maximising theopportunities to translate thatstrategy into operational support.Researchers are recognised andvalued for their involvementwith public engagementactivities.Considering whether publicengagement is appropriatelyrepresented in institutional HRpolicies and that those responsiblefor implementing such processesreceive appropriate briefing andsupport. Celebrating achievementsin more informal ways across theinstitution (eg communications,networks, awards).Supporting institutional HR policies(e.g. promotions panels or appraisalprocesses) to ensure any changesto include public engagementare implemented. Ensuringachievements are celebrated in yourschool/department/team.Making constructive use of appraisaland developmental reviews toreflect on your engagementactivity. Seeking opportunities todisseminate the outcomes of yourpublic engagement activity withothers, and to support colleagues’work in this area.Proactively engaging with seniormanagement to review institutionalHR policies. Liaising with managersand researchers to ensure thatformal and informal attemptsto recognise and value publicengagement are implementedeffectively.Researchers are enabled toparticipate in public engagementactivities through appropriatetraining, support andopportunities.Ensuring that researchers canaccess opportunities to engage withthe public, appropriate professionaldevelopment to advance theirskills, and practical support. Publicengagement should also be coordinatedacross the institutionto share good practice; and risksshould be assessed and managed.Being aware of the attributesrequired for public engagementand their value to a researcher;recognising the importance ofprofessional development andsupporting researchers in accessingopportunities to engage with thepublic; and actively encouraging aculture of learning and reflectionwithin your teams to enhance thequality and impact of the workundertaken.Being proactive in securinginformal and formal training anddevelopment to develop your skillsand understanding and seeking outopportunities to engage with thepublic.Providing appropriate professionaldevelopment for researchers,ensuring that researchers canaccess opportunities to engage, andthat there is practical support tohelp them engage; maximising thesharing of learning and expertiseacross the institution.The signatories and supportersof this Concordat will undertakeregular reviews of their and thewider research sector’s progressin fostering public engagementacross the UK.Ensuring that mechanisms are inplace to allow you to evaluate thepublic engagement undertakenin your institution, and to reviewthe effectiveness of the supportstructures you have in place.Considering setting explicit goals tohelp you monitor the quantity andquality of engagement undertakenby your school/department/team,and the effectiveness of support onoffer; and undertaking appropriateevaluation and review processes togather feedback.Evaluating your own publicengagement activities. Gettinginvolved in any institutionalor departmental reviews ofengagement activity.Proactively gathering insight andevaluation data to inform regularreviews of your department’s/institution’s engagement activity.
Other briefings to support the Concordat forengaging the public with researchYou can also access the following individual briefings and guidance onimplementing the Concordat from the NCCPE site:• An introduction and overview• Senior manager briefing• Researcher briefing• Managers of researchers briefingYou can download these briefings at:www.publicengagement.ac.uk/concordatOther NCCPE ResourcesThe NCCPE provides a ‘one stop shop’ for anyone in the university andresearch sector with an interest in public engagement. Set up in 2008as part of the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative, our focus ison supporting university staff and researchers to develop their skillsin engagement, and to assist senior managers to develop strategicapproaches to supporting public engagement.Our website provides:• Advice on public engagement practice: an extensive collection ofguides and case studieswww.publicengagement.ac.uk/how• Context: exploring what public engagement involves and whyit matterswww.publicengagement.ac.uk/what andwww.publicengagement.ac.uk/why-does-it-matter• Resources for managers: an extensive collection of resources tohelp institutions assess their own strategic and practical support forengagement, and a rich array of case studies and tools developedfrom the work of the Beacons and other institutionswww.publicengagement.ac.uk/support• The Manifesto for Public Engagement: by signing up to the manifesto,institutions can declare their strategic commitment to the Concordatprinciples, and access additional support and guidance fromthe NCCPEwww.publicengagement.ac.uk/why/manifestoOther Useful Links• Concordat for Engaging the Public with Researchwww.rcuk.ac.uk/per• Research Councils UK: Public Engagement with Researchwww.rcuk.ac.uk/per• Researcher Development Frameworkwww.vitae.ac.uk/policy-practice/234381/RDF-overview.html