So you’re new to…public engagement with research
What do we mean by public engagement and how can universities build a robust public engagement plan? Kevin Fearon and James Dillon explain how Queen’s University has tried to answer those questions.
Public engagement with research, known as PER, has become a major part of the research process in contemporary higher education. Its growth has been driven by factors such as the need to show the value of publicly funded research and increased scrutiny from both government and the public on how public funding is being used. There is also a general move towards better informed, evidence-based decision-making and a strategic push by funding bodies for social and economic impact.
Defining public engagement
Trying to pin down PER is no easy task. Its reach is broad and its activities diverse. Thanks to the work of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, one definition has become the most common understanding of PER. It describes public engagement as the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public.
The NCCPE goes on to say, “Engagement is by definition, a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.”
This two-way process is central to PER. It isn’t about a university preaching to the public, but rather about listening to and working with a wide variety of external stakeholders. It can include activities at many different levels, from schools outreach and giving lectures at festivals, to co-producing research with partners.
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Article first appeared on Research Professional.
James Dillon is Research Impact Manager at Queen’s University Belfast. Kevin Fearon is Business Alliance Manager for Arts Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast.