Reports and reviews

Learning from the Catalysts for Engaging the Public with Research (May 2016)

Learning from the Catalysts for Engaging the Public with Research (May 2016)

updated on 29 Sep 2023
2 minutes read

In 2012, building on the work of the Beacons for Public Engagement, Research Councils UK (RCUK) funded 8 Catalyst universities to develop their support for public engagement with research (PER). As the funding period came to an end, the NCCPE interviewed those involved in the projects to reflect on the learning they had done, and challenges they had faced. Our interviews revealed a rich tapestry of learning about the opportunities and challenges in creating a culture that supports engagement. To help us consider the factors that supported and hindered such change we analysed the interview transcripts, and categorised the comments in order of significance. What was clear was that all of the Catalyst projects had made significant progress in developing effective support for PER.

In spring and summer 2015 the NCCPE directors met key staff involved in the eight Catalyst funded institutions to find out more about what they had learnt about culture change and public engagement with research (PER), and to dig deeper into some of the challenges they had faced as institutions, teams and individuals. The intention was to create an anonymised report that would examine the challenge of embedding cultures of engagement within research involving university researchers, and how the funding and other contextual factors affected these processes. This report would enable those involved in the Catalyst projects to honestly reflect on some of the tensions inherent in this work and to share some of the more difficult aspects of the projects without undermining the success that those projects achieved. The interviews included a range of people involved in the work of the Catalysts including the Catalyst teams responsible for the running of the project (CT); the Principal Investigator (PI); academics involved in the work of the project (A), professional service staff (PS) and senior managers (SM). Whilst the work of each Catalyst was different, there was significant commonality between the discussions. The interview transcripts were coded, and synthesised into key topics which were then categorised as:

  • Key enablers: things that really helped the project have traction
  • Factors that could help or hinder depending on the context
  • Key challenges: things that were really difficult to address
  • Impacts from the projects