Top tips for Public Engagement & Involvement
Posted on: 24 February 2023 by Dr Becky Glennon-Alty in February Posts 2023
We’re really lucky in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences to have such an amazing breadth of research, everything from lameness in sheep to maternal mental health.
As a Public Engagement Officer, I have the really rewarding job of supporting researchers to be able to share and involve the wider public with their work.
Involving or engaging the public with research can come in many guises, and can be a truly rewarding experience for both the researcher and members of the public. I was lucky enough to attend a recent Patient and Public Involvement showcase hosted by the Institute of Population Health where we heard from a number of Public Advisors on how valued they felt to be able to share their lived experience and have a voice in research. We also have a duty to build a trust with the broader public around research; if anything the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that there can still be a certain level of public mistrust which ultimately limits the impact the research can have in the real world.
Often, when people chat to me they say ‘My work isn’t very interesting’ but I’ve yet to find anyone whose work I haven’t then found instantly fascinating! That’s often another rewarding element to it – just how interested a public audience will be in your research and how refreshing and different the questions they will ask are.
The second thing that people often say to me is ‘I just don’t know where to start’, and that too is music to my ears. The most exciting things I’ve worked on whilst at the University begun with that very phrase and went on to be developed over a brew and a brainstorm!
Now on to some top tips to consider when thinking about how to engage or involve the public in research:
• Purpose: Think really clearly about why you want to engage or involve the public in your research, what is it you are aiming to achieve? Do you want to inspire the next generation of researchers? Are you looking to raise awareness of your research?
• Audience: Who is it you want to engage in your research? Try to be a specific as possible so you can target your engagement or involvement to meet their requirements.
• What: The list of ways you can work with or engage the public is enormous, and runs from arts and crafts to focus groups. Just think really carefully about your chosen audience and what interests and limits they may have.
• Evaluate: Public Engagement without evaluation is like a dissertation without a conclusion. Did your engagement or involvement achieve what you set out to do? If not, how could you do it differently next time?
We run a range of things to help support people taking their first steps into engagement, including ready-made events such as our award-winning Meet the Scientists programme, or the annual Pint of Science festival. We’re looking forward to running these events and more this year and engaging more people with the Faculty’s amazing research!