Involving the public
“Until last year I saw universities as another world, it didn’t seem they were engaging with the community. Now, we are co-researchers developing our own research project.” Community member, Gateshead
“The ‘public’ are not just a homogeneous group of people; they are everyone from the primary school child who in ten years' time may either be your PhD student or a merchant banker, to your elderly aunt who is wondering what her taxes are spent on......Collectively they are more experienced, cleverer, more creative and more perceptive than you can hope to be. Individually they can be challenging, fun, grateful for your time and generous with their own. They are the people who ultimately will live with the consequences of your discoveries, good or bad, and they want to know what you think.” Dr Clare Davy, Research Scientist, Virology, MRC: National Institute for Medical Research
Public engagement is a mutually beneficial activity, and therefore it is important to put in place mechanisms to facilitate public involvement in your engagement work – both at an institutional and at an activity level. It is important to seek feedback on your approach, and to review the impact it is having.
The following are useful focal points for considering the impact and involvement of the public:
How aware are the individuals and organisations that have contact with your institution of your goals for public engagement, or of the opportunities on offer?
How carefully have you considered the accessibility of your institution and its engagement activities to a wide range of potential participants? Are you reaching out beyond the ‘usual suspects’, and involving community members in assessing the range of needs and interests you could connect with?
What investment have you made in infrastructure to support access and involvement – for instance, through your website, enquiry handling, the accessibility of your buildings and campus, and brokerage such as a helpline or helpdesk?
In what ways do you seek feedback from the public on aspects of your engagement activity, and how do you use this feedback or evaluation to inform you planning and strategy development?
We have other resources to help you work through this area which you can download below.