PEP Insights Research Study

The NCCPE PEP Insights Research study aims to explore the impact of COVID-19 on UK public engagement professionals and the engagement work of universities. 

This in-depth study offers the opportunity for public engagement professionals (PEPs) working within a higher education context to share their perspectives on engagement, the impact of COVID-19 on their institutions, their work and their professional lives. 

We are interested in gathering the experiences of a broad range of PEPs during the pandemic: unearthing the challenges faced and opportunities taken; and seeking to identify lessons learned and how we might negotiate the future together. There will be many opportunities to get involved including peer-to-peer interviews, focus groups and an online questionnaire.

Explore our findings

The PEP Insights Report is out! Explore findings and recommended actions to inform a revitalised approach to how the Higher Education sector engages with society.

Discover our findings and download the report

Who took part?

The Higher Education engagement ecosystem is diverse and those working to facilitate engagement in higher education institutions represent different roles, experiences, forms of engagement, and types of employment Our definition of ‘PEP’ covers anyone with roles relating to public engagement, whether they call themselves a public engagement professional or wear a different title. 

This included:

  • Those who are new to engagement, as well as those who have some or lots of experience
  • People whose roles have come to an end over the last 12 months, those for whom the role has changed dramatically, those who have experienced furlough, and those whose roles have remained the same
  • Those who work part time or full time, who are employed by a university, or another organisation, or working as a freelancer
  • Those whose role is all about engagement, or those for whom it plays a small part of what they do
  • People working across all forms of engagement including patient engagement, public engagement, outreach, impact, community engagement, civic engagement, evaluation and more.

he majority of respondents have a public engagement with research role, so that was the main focus of our findings.

Meet the team

To ensure that the research is relevant to PEPs, we recruited a team of 10 peer researchers to work alongside us in shaping and conducting the research. 

The Pep Insights study is also supported by our Friends Group - who provided the team with advice, trialing some of the tools, and helping to disseminate the results.

Why did we do this research?

In assessing public engagement in the current context of COVID-19, we have the opportunity to take stock, reflect and imagine new futures for engagement - futures that represent a collective vision for the sector.

The findings and evidence from this piece of research will be shared with PEPs, and senior leaders in HE institutions and funders. Whilst this research is being rapidly undertaken in order to capture the current context, we expect the outputs to be rigorous and relevant for use:

  • by PEPs, to inform their own leadership and advocacy within their own contexts
  • by senior leaders in HE to inform and support the future development of engagement within their institutions and communities
  • to inform the NCCPE’s work – ensuring we offer appropriate support to the sector, including PEPs, university leaders and partner organisations
  • to inform funders to consider how they can best support the engagement ecosystem, which is so critical to the future

Watch the video below to learn more!

Our Ethics Framework

For this study, the PEP Insights Research group has developed an ethical framework informed by the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) guidelines (Durham University / NCCPE). The BERA guidance has greatly influenced the research group's approach to survey respondents and interview/focus group participants, while the CBPR advice has guided interactions between peer researchers.

All peer researchers have signed a declaration committing them to act in accordance with the project a) Code of Ethics, b) Data Management Plan, and c) Research Ethics Processes Document.

The Code of Ethics summarises the ethical ethos through which the team approaches the research and the Data Management Plan captures the ethical treatment of the project's research data, including how we remain compliant with GDPR. The Research Ethics Processes Document is a living record, based on a university ethics application form, which captures all the decisions made in the development of our project. Furthermore, an internal Ethical Principles in Practice document raises potential ethical challenges, and captures our ideal actions, for reference by the research team.

Although we have acted to reduce the chance of potentially complex scenarios in the course of our research, a sub-team has supported researcher training and debriefing and remains on-hand to support other peer researchers if necessary.

Back to top