Why does recognition matter?
"Across the groups there was a strong view that public engagement needed to be built into the criteria for reward and recognition – and should therefore become a routine element of performance review, appraisal, workload management, promotions criteria and so on. There was a widespread view that it is currently implicitly and explicitly discouraged." Embedding Public Engagement in Higher Education: Final Report of the National Action Research Programme, NCCPE, 2011
Reward and recognition is a key way in which you can demonstrate to staff and students that your institution genuinely values public engagement. In many HEIs staff and students feel they get little or no recognition for the work they do around public engagement, evidenced for instance in the Royal Society’s 2006 report 'Factors affecting science communication by scientists and engineers'. If people feel that their career prospects are not improved (or are even sometimes jeopardised) by engaging with the public then many of them will choose not to.
Much has changed since 2006, for instance with the publication of the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research in 2010, which outlined the expectations of the UK’s main research funders. One of the four key principles is that 'Researchers are recognised and valued for their involvement with public engagement activities.'
There are a variety of ways in which institutions can recognise the public engagement activity of their staff and students. Here are some you might try:
- Make public engagement part of appraisal and performance reviews
- Your university could review its appraisal processes and develop a policy to ensure public engagement is recognised in relevant role reviews.
- Include public engagement in relevant job descriptions
- Your institution could conduct a systematic review of its role profiles and integrate public engagement into relevant roles.
- Include public engagement in promotions criteria
- Public engagement could be an explicit part of the promotions criteria at your institution, and recognised as a legitimate career pathway.
- Celebrate public engagement
- Your university could celebrate public engagement with high profile awards; formal and informal recognition could be offered at school, department or research group level.
- Encourage and incentivise public engagement activity
- You could encourage public engagement activity by offering incentives. These could be as simple as small bursaries. More profound change can be effected by ensuring that public engagement is a legitimate activity in workload planning.