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Cross-Institutional Collaboration

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Who: Staff of the Edinburgh Beltane Partners who had an expertise in training staff and students in public engagement or a remit to provide training and personal development

What: A cross institutional working group

Why: The aim of this initiative was to help establish effective support for public engagement activities across the Edinburgh Beltane partnership

Where: Edinburgh

When: December 2008 - present 


The aim of this initiative was to help establish effective support for public engagement activities across the Edinburgh Beltane partnership. It was aimed at members of the Training and Staff Development Group, who cover a wide range of disciplines and institutions – they are public engagement training developers, early stage career researchers, senior academic staff with an interest in public engagement, and directors of staff development programmes, representing institutions across the Beltane Beacon.



Building capacity of researchers (Credit: Dan Ridley-Ellis)

Project description


Many of our the Edinburgh Beltane partners have expertise and experience in Public Engagement training, including ROE Visitors Centre, the media and company partners and several groups based in the lead institution: Researchers in Residence (with expertise in training and support for researchers conducting engagement activities), Transkills (focused on postgraduate students), Scottish Institute for Biotechnology Education, Research Communication in Action, Office of Lifelong Learning and Professor Dorothy Crawford, author of a number of popular science books and a former Senior Media Fellow.

Members of the Beltane partnership joined The Training and Staff Development Working Group, whose inaugural meeting took place in December 2008, chaired by the Edinburgh Beltane Project Manager (the Edinburgh Beltane's Administrator has the role of secretary to this and the four other Working Groups in the project).

This inaugural meeting provided an opportunity for members to meet and introduce themselves, to discuss the remit of the group, the type of training the Beltane should offer, possible programme ideas for the Beltane, and the membership of the group.

The Group members represent the following institutions: The University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh College of Art and Vitae.  


The Training Sub-Group was established to bring together staff with expertise in delivering public engagement training, researchers with experience in public engagement and staff running transferable skills and personal development programmes. This was done at an early stage to assess how best to deploy their expertise for the benefit of the partnership to identify needs and prioritise development. This initiative was entirely driven by the Edinburgh Beltane project, and made good use of its extensive partnerships and their collective experience in public engagement skills training. 

Collaboration at the 2009 Annual Gathering (Credit: Ruth Cooper)

Results and outcomes

What worked well

  • Co-operation and collaboration between Higher Education Institutions (HEI) training providers to develop to Beltane bursaries where staff and researchers will be able to access training from throughout the partnership.

  • Development of the Training Database by the Training Officer to collate and share public engagement training.

  • Identification of key capabilities and pathways of public engagement which formed the basis of the Beltane Certificate, a means of encouraging a strategic approach to personal development.

What didn't work well

Initially the actions decided by all the five working groups fell to the project manager, which was too high a workload. After having established this, project funds were then identified to cover the cost of a part-time Training Officer; however, the appointment process for this role took longer than anticipated. Nevertheless, a part-time Training Officer was eventually appointed for 24 months.   

Resources required

The group had access to funds to implement the Training and Development strand of the Edinburgh Beltane's programme, which provided focus and opportunity to work together.

The approximate cost of some of the initiatives were:

1. Pilot bursaries, £5000

2. External development of the database, £10,000.

The main resource of running the working group was administration time and the time required for the convener of the group, which was detailed in the remit for the convener. This totalled to approximately 8 days each. In addition to this, meeting space and refreshments were required for the meetings themselves.  

Top tips

The organisers offer the following tips for anyone contemplating putting on or becoming involved with similar activity

  • Start with a group of volunteers and then co-opt additional members in due time
  • Do not expect to appoint a chair/convenor until the remit has been defined and agreed
  • Provide a guide to the number of days of commitment required of the convenor, and the support that will be provided (administrator and other officers)
  • Aim to hold meetings every two months
  • Encourage members to share their own work with the group
  • Allow 2 - 2 ½ hours for the meetings
  • Always supply refreshments!  

Quotes from participants

"Within the training committee ourselves we're looking at trying to share training and offer students training and developing a certificate so I think this is a really good thing because we have some excellent activities here, but they're not always full up and what a waste to have them having excellent activities too which aren't full up."

"In terms of the training side of things I think they're going about it absolutely in the right way, I think that through the certificate we've identified something that really adds value to all of the partners, potentially adds a very great value to all of the partners that probably wouldn't have happened – no in fact it wouldn't have happened without the Beltane." 


Name: Heather Rea

Name of organisation: Edinburgh Beltane Partnership

Telephone: 0131 650 4875