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UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has launched its vision for public engagement, setting out their key areas of interest and focus to enable them to "promote world-leading research and innovation that is built on the knowledge and values of society and open to people from all backgrounds."

You can download the full document here.

UKRI will support researchers, innovators and institutions to:

  1. Engage under-represented communities and places with research and innovation
    The gap between researchers, innovators and the public is much more stark when it comes to certain kinds of communities and places, both in terms of participation in those fields and understanding, trust and buy-in. A research and innovation system that works for all needs to close these gaps, and we will be supporting researchers, innovators and institutions to rethink the audience they engage with, and how they can refocus their work on under-represented groups.
  2. Actively involve a wide range of people in their work
    Talking to the public, about climate change, about the latest developments in health research are important activities. Moving beyond communicating the findings of research, public engagement to seeing the public as active participants, whether that’s about shaping the questions that research and innovation focus on, or involvement as a participants through methods like citizen science.
  3. Nurture a future generation passionate about research and innovationThe UK needs an outstanding, diverse workforce if we are to secure our place in the world in the 21st century. Informal learning experiences at museums, science centres, festivals and school clubs are an important way for young people to engage with research and innovation. All young people should have access to these experiences, no matter what their background or where they live.
  4. Listen to public concerns and aspirations
    The UK has pioneered approaches to understanding public concerns and aspirations for research and innovation. As the pace of innovation continues to increase, it is more important than ever that policymakers, funders, researchers and innovators are able to engage society in the development of plans and priorities.

They intend to deliver against these goals via funding calls, piloting activities and also researching and collecting evidence about public engagement, good practice, and so on.

They have already today released a funding call to pilot 'place-based engagement' partnerships and activities (specifically for under-represented communities), with other schemes to come. Please note that as applications to this scheme require a letter of support from the VC and the number of applications from an institution is limited, if you are interested in or planning to submit a proposal, please get in touch.

Whilst some of this will be familiar approaches and activities to many, some of the goals around involvement, consultation and working to engage under-represented groups might be new or less familiar to many.

The Division's Strategic Plan for Public Engagement with Research (PER) outlines our commitment to PER and our intent to support and build capacity of researchers and staff to deliver high quality engagement, broaden the types of engagement typically carried out, and seek opportunities and partnerships to support researchers to engage with the public, as well as demonstrating the value of engagement.

Through our strategic activities we are currently piloting a consultative and participatory form of engagement with local communities, via our Science Shop Project, supporting creative and innovative activities in partnership with museums and libraries through The Public Engagement Lab project, and course seeking to provide advice, guidance and support through a range of activities at many levels to ensure that the value of engagement are realised, that barriers to researchers participating in engagement are addressed, and to enable researchers to effectively plan engagement as part of research proposals.

UKRI also today released a guidance document on planning for impact - specifically geared towards those writing Pathways to Impact that includes PER, but that is relevant for any impact-generating activity.

This is a welcome vision from UKRI that clearly sets out their priorities, sets some broad expectations and will be a welcome challenge for many Universities, including our own, I imagine, to progress the engagement agenda.

 

If you are seeking any support or guidance on Public Engagement with Research, and how this might affect your research, unit or department, get in touch.