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Becoming an Engaging Researcher

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As part of Strathclyde’s demonstrable commitment to the manifesto for public engagement as an ‘Engaged University’ through the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), Becoming an Engaging Researcher is a module to inspire, inform and develop researchers to engage effectively with the public.

This accredited module comprises of:

  • A one day mini-conference exploring the role, opportunities and challenges of public engagement
  • The chance to take part in a series of specialised output driven workshops delivered over a two month period
  • Delivery of activities including science busking, developing a podcast, industry engagement and media training and writing an impact plan

Who: Becoming an Engaging Researcher was coordinated by the Researcher Development Programme team in partnership with all Faculties of the University of Strathclyde, and supported by the Glasgow Science Centre.

What: Becoming an Engaging Researcher was a new module, piloted in 2012, consisting of a core, mini-conference ‘Engage!’ and six specialised, optional workshops in a number of public engagement techniques. Having been set deliverables in engaging the public in the first series of workshops, participants were invited back to a second series of hour long evaluation sessions to share their experiences of having engaged the public using those routes, evaluate their impact and consider future engagements.

Why: In order to maximise the effectiveness and impact of public engagement, it is important that public engagement activities are of a high standard. The ‘Becoming an Engaging Researcher’ module was designed as an exciting and sector-leading way to support our research community by providing training in ways to communicate and exploit their outputs. 

Courses in public engagement had been identified running throughout the UK in some of the most prestigious Higher Education (HE) institutions. The University of Strathclyde houses a range of excellence and expertise in public engagement. The intention was to utilise this to develop a comprehensive course in public engagement that built capacity and strengthened the University’s position as a university that is engaged with the community.

Where: University of Strathclyde

When: Engage! mini-conference: Wednesday 1 May, Workshops: Wednesday 8 – Friday 10 May, Evaluation & Celebration event : Thursday 20 June.

Project description

Becoming an Engaging Researcher is an exciting and sector leading module to support our research community by providing training in ways to communicate and exploit their outputs. It was created to develop student and staff awareness and experience of the importance and challenges of engaging various audiences in their research, from the general public to policy makers and industry.


Results and outcomes

What worked well?

Our guest speaker for the Engage! mini-conference was Simon Watt, Biologist, Science Communicator and TV Presenter who delivered an inspiring session on the different routes to engaging the public in your research areas.

The presenters for the Engage! mini-conference fitted well with the rationale for the module and received really good feedback.

The outputs created by participants, group working, developing relationships with people from different disciplines, increased links with Glasgow Science Festival and the personal and professional development were all extremely positive outcomes from the module.

What didn't work so well?

The administration of the programme proved to be time consuming and will be streamlined for the 2014 module. We are proposing to provide additional clerical support for each of the workshop facilitators in 2014.

The chosen venue for our Engage! mini-conference did not meet our needs due to an increase in our participant numbers.

Participants who wished to undertake the optional workshops were asked to complete a form providing their workshop choices by preference with an explanation to support their choice. It became apparent that the process had been misunderstood by some, who did not realise their explanation would have an effect on whether they would be allocated a place on their chosen workshops. This process will be made clearer for the next delivery of the module.

As the module ran through May and June, attendance for the final evaluation sessions was not as high as expected, therefore we are looking for ways in which to achieve a higher attendance rate for 2014.

Due to the success of the module, the University is currently in the process of setting up ring-fenced funding, which will be made available to those participants who wish to continue to develop their public engagement activities.


Becoming and Engaging Researcher was evaluated in two stages.

All participants attending the Engage! mini-conference, were completed an evaluation form at the end of the event, then workshop participants did the same. Both sets of evaluations were then inputted into our Development and Training Gateway which allows us to view the scores and comments in an easy to read database. This information was then collated into a final evaluation report and disseminated to the Steering Group for review.

A final debrief meeting was also held with the Steering Group to discuss potential scope for improvement to the 2014 module.

Resources required

  • Time – the Steering group met from October 2012 – June 2013 to devise and develop the module
  • Adequate funding to support the full programme
  • Steering group committee
  • Administrative team to support the main module and individual workshops
  • Suitable venue and facilities to support the mini-conference and workshops

Top tips

  • Inviting a guest speaker who is high profile to draw in participants
  • Creating a programme of speakers for the mini-conference which incorporates University wide involvement from all faculties
  • Hold monthly meetings with your steering group to discuss the organisation and assist in troubleshooting
  • Partnership with other organisations e.g Glasgow Life, Glasgow Science Centre and Glasgow Science Festival
  • Ensure the module requirements are communicated to the participants as clearly as possible from the outset

Strathclyde team









Becoming an Engaging Researcher Steering Group committee with guest speaker Simon Watt.

From left to right: Derek Shirlaw – Glasgow Science Centre; Ashley Jackson; Alan Boyd; Simon Watt – Ready, Steady, Science; Carol Trager-Cowan; Claire Nimmo;  Linda Thomson; Mark Haw - University of Strathclyde.


Ashley Jackson

Ashley is a Public Engagement Ambassador, find out more about her here.


Tel: 0141 5484995