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We help universities engage with the public

University of Oxford

Image: University of Oxford's Social Sciences Live Friday - 'Social Animals' at the Ashmolean Museum. Credit Ian Wallman &

The Catalyst Seed Fund (CSF) award came at a very opportune time for us at Oxford as the University takes steps to enhance institutional support in public engagement. Public Engagement with Research (PER) is one of the key priorities in the University’s Strategic Plan and Professor Sarah Whatmore has recently been appointed as the Academic Champion for PER. 

Our longer term aim is to embed PER in our thinking and action as an institution; empowering and supporting researchers across the career spectrum to engage the public in creative, inspiring ways that benefit research and the community.

The CSF project provides us with the opportunity to build on the many innovative engagement activities already taking place at Oxford and to develop a coordinated effort that can deliver on our vision. 

We will look at what public engagement means at Oxford in the context of different disciplinary traditions and forms of knowledge and develop our first PER Strategy. With a focus on increasing quality rather than simply quantity, we will celebrate excellent public engagement and foster a vibrant interdisciplinary network that embraces best practice and encourages an increase in partnership working.

Sharing learning will be at the heart of our journey, listening to others and communicating our successes and challenges with both national and international public engagement and academic communities.

We will maximise opportunities for increased coordination and collaboration and build upon our strengths to better effect, including our museums and collections, digital platforms and education programmes.

Professor Ian Walmsley FRS (Pro VC, Research and Innovation) is leading the project and will ensure PER is embedded into core and senior governance structures. Professor Sarah Whatmore is head of project planning with support from Dr Lesley Paterson, Senior Facilitator and Coordinator, Public Engagement with Research and a network of colleagues from across our collegiate University.