University of Aberdeen

Why we've signed the Manifesto

"The University of Aberdeen is committed to achieving distinctive excellence across all aspects of its activities including the vital objective of engaging with society. We are building on a considerable track record, where public engagement has become ever more embedded in our core business. Our strategic plan reflects our ongoing commitment to support and empower our staff and students to help deliver a diverse, creative and accessible programme of activities with a measurable public impact. Partnership is central to our strategy and our active involvement with the work of the NCCPE extends back to its inception. We therefore endorse the principles of the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research and fully support the NCCPE Manifesto."

Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen

Our approach to public engagement

The University of Aberdeen hosts a rich calendar of public events, enabling researchers to engage with a variety of publics in a range of formats. Working with researchers through the lifecycle of their research project, from grant application to impact, the public engagement with research unit (PERU) at Aberdeen provide support, training and facilitation of engagement activity. The PERU also represents an interface between researchers and external organisations, from community groups and schools to science centres, museums and public authorities, helping researchers to involve the outside world in their work. Working as part of the University’s Knowledge Exchange team, the PERU connect with colleagues working on policy and commercial engagement, bringing together the Institution’s activities that lead to impact.

Our public engagement hallmark

European Science Heads at EXPLORATHON

The PERU team at Aberdeen lead the European Commission funded project EXPLORATHON, Scotland’s celebration of European Researchers’ Night. The project has 5 Scottish partners, who work with museums, science centres and community organisations across the country. Over 11,000 members of the public attended events in 2017 and with new regional partners involved for 2018/19 we hope to get into harder to reach areas of the country.

EXPLORATHON is a great project because it develops partnerships with Universities and community groups across Scotland. It also provides researchers with opportunities to participate in public engagement with activities of their own design, or using established formats (e.g. Bright Club, PechaKucha, Café Sci). Our participants vary from PGR to senior academic level, and engage with different publics and varying group sizes - from small conversations to a room of 500 people. This allows researchers to experiment and develop their own style.

Our public engagement talking point

We spend so much time asking our researchers to involve the public in their work we thought it was time we also included the public in our PE practice, so have recently involved the public in judging our institutional PE prize, We plan to extend this to assessing applications for public engagement funds and would be interested to hear about other ways of involving the public in the facilitation of public engagement activity.

Our public engagement people

Beatriz Goulao at Soapbox Science

The Health Services Research Unit (HSRU) is a leading research unit at the University of Aberdeen, who undertake a substantial PE programme. They have a PE working group which has several award winning members celebrated for their efforts in engaging the public with science.

Two great examples of activities that use storytelling elements to engage the local community, focus on the themes of randomised controlled trials and evidence synthesis. ‘EXPLORAPOLO’ used a mock clinical trial with different coloured polo mints to demonstrate the process of randomisation in the streets of Aberdeen, during EXPLORATHON. The team also worked with science festivals and schools to deliver treasure hunts. The main goal was to teach participants about evidence synthesis in a fun way – the different steps of the treasure hunt mapped onto the stages of the evidence synthesis process – and to develop critical thinking.

The HSRU were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2017 jointly with the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU) for sustained excellence in health services research over the last 40 years. Both units have a strong interest in involving the public with their research. Their collaborative approach has led to many directly measurable impacts and achievements.


Jenifer Scott, Public Engagement Development Coordinator