Public engagement schemes often provide training, funding, administrative support and guidance on carrying out an activity. Schemes may run on a national or more local level, or there may even be internal schemes run specifically by your institution.
Participation in someone else’s scheme will:
- Provide you with support and guidance for your first forays into public engagement
- Provide you with specialist training to build on your skills portfolio and give you the confidence to take part in public engagement activities
- Help with the administration of setting up a public engagement activity i.e. the scheme administrator may contact schools or other groups and make arrangements on your behalf
- Introduce you to different events and opportunities you can get involved with and connect you to the public engagement community at large
- Build up your experience and standing as an engaging researcher, through the kudos of having worked with a recognised scheme
- Introduce you to other researchers and key contacts, allowing you to build up a network of potential partners
- Give you ideas for thinking about your own research and the type of activities you can run
Not surprisingly, different schemes vary in their expectations and the commitment required, so before you sign up find out what you would be expected to do. Some expect you to commit to running a certain number of activities a year, whilst others may involve a placement of a number of weeks. If you are not sure if a scheme is for you, ask around! You might be surprised how many of your colleagues have taken part in engagement projects and schemes.
Before you join an external scheme, you might want to consider looking a little closer to home. Most higher education institutions have ‘Widening Participation’ or ‘Outreach’ schemes. Some even have their own public engagement team or university ambassador scheme. They can help you to get involved with visits to and from schools, take part in activities during open days and to join the cohort of exhibitors at festivals and other public events.
There are a number of national schemes and these are often a good starting point for people new to engagement. Don’t be afraid to contact them for advice and to ask them about opportunities to get involved.
STEMNET (the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) creates opportunities to inspire young people in STEM. One of their schemes is STEM Ambassadors. This provides you with the opportunity to engage with young people in schools around STEM subjects, through a variety of activities such as clubs, careers talks, helping with school events, lessons, competitions, and much more.
What do they expect from you? At least one activity per year.
I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here! is an online event where students get to meet and interact with real scientists. It’s an X Factor-style competition between the scientists, where students are the judges. Over the course of two weeks, participating scientists use the ‘I’m a Scientist’ website to talk to school students. Students then vote for the scientist they would like to win a £500 prize, with which to communicate their work. Scientists with the fewest votes are eliminated until only the winner remains.
What do they expect from you? You must be available to participate in discussions with students over the designated two week period.
Famelab is an annual competition to find the next ‘new voice’ of science and engineering. Contestants take part in regional heats, where they give a presentation or intriguing demonstration about science or engineering. 10 finalists are chosen to receive training from some of the world’s best communicators before competing in the final.
What do they expect from you? You will need to be available, both for your regional heats and for the UK final if you are lucky enough to get through. You will also be expected to attend the training provided.
British Science Association Media Fellowships are intended to create a greater awareness and understanding of the workings of the media among practising scientists, social scientists, clinicians and engineers. Media Fellows spend 3 to 8 weeks working with a national press, broadcast or internet journalist, and learning to work within the conditions and constraints of the media to produce accurate and well informed pieces about developments in science.
What do they expect from you? You will need to be available for a 3 to 8 week placement and to attend the British Science Festival as a representative of your host organisation.
A partnership between the AHRC and BBC radio 3, provides successful applicants with a chance to develop their programme-making ideas with experienced BBC producers through a series of dedicated workshops. The ten winners will benefit from a unique opportunity to develop their own programmes for BBC Radio 3 and a chance to regularly appear on air.
What do they expect from you? You will need to be available for the opening workshop and be prepared to work with the BBC to develop your own radio content.