Why we've signed the Manifesto
"We signed the Manifesto for Public Engagement in 2011 because we fully supported, and continue to support, the aims of the manifesto. Since signing the manifesto we have worked hard to ensure that the University of Bath has a positive culture of public engagement with research. With support and leadership from the Public Engagement Unit, researchers at all career stages and from across all departments are now developing and delivering world leading public engagement with research.
Public engagement activities improve our research by bringing alternative voices and experiences into our research environment. This insight is vital when tackling the fundamental challenges society faces today and in the future. Engaged research is both accessible and relevant, meaning it makes positive contributions to society locally, nationally and internationally."
Professor Jonathan Knight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)
Our approach to public engagement
The Public Engagement Unit operates through four strands of work:
Doing Public Engagement – we provide opportunities for people to get started in public engagement through existing activities, offer grants for those who want to develop their practice and foster relationships with community partners.
Learning about Public Engagement – we offer a wide variety of training and professional development opportunities including one-to-one mentoring, workshops, and online resources.
Celebrating Public Engagement – an annual award for public engagement rewards those with a longstanding commitment to excellent public engagement, case studies illustrate how public engagement brings professional benefits and media coverage of public engagement raises the profile of engaged researchers.
Leading Public Engagement – the Public Engagement Unit leads the agenda for the university and frequently contributes to the broader sector through mentoring others, feeding into consultations and presenting our work at conferences.
The Public Engagement Unit embraces reflective practice to ensure that our work, and the work we support, contributes meaningfully to the university strategy and meets the professional needs of our researchers and community partners.
Our public engagement hallmark
We firmly believe that the highest quality public engagement comes when everyone involved is fully supported. We recognise there are barriers to getting involved with public engagement and work proactively to reduce those barriers through brokering relationships, financial support and skills development. We offer this support to both researchers and community partners.
The Community Matters programme involved asking local organisations to come forward with issues and problems they were facing. These organisation were paired with appropriate academics who, through a community-based participatory research process, and with funding provided, collaborated to address their questions. These included:
Wansdyke Play Association, who explored the impact that outdoor, outreach play services had on alleviating play deprivation across Somer Valley communities;
Triumph over Phobia, who explored how to encourage people with anxiety problems to seek help;
Black Families Education Support Group, who investigated the role supplementary schooling can play in narrowing the educational achievement gaps between different ethnic groups;
Creativity Works, who examined how peer-led creative arts interventions help people overcome anxiety and mental health challenges;
and Transition Larkhall, who raised awareness of the impact of the school run in Larkhall.
Our public engagement talking point
Training and professional development for researchers is an important aspect of supporting public engagement with research but there are challenges. These include: a mismatch between what is on offer and what is sought; people with experience of public engagement feeling they learn more through the practical experience than they do through a training workshop; and most training focusing on encouraging participation in public engagement rather than raising standards. Through our ChallengeCPD@Bath project we examined our own provision, within the national context. We found:
- The issues associated with CPD for public engagement are not unique to public engagement training – there is a wider culture of resistance to formal professional development within universities.
- The lack of agreed and documented quality standards for public engagement make it challenging for those developing and delivering training to feature publicly agreed excellent examples. Learners are left unable to assess their own public engagement practice.
- The learner is rarely at the heart of any training interventions – for example, through involvement in developing activities, assessing their existing skills from other non-public engagement work, and evaluating the impact of the intervention on their broader professional development.
What are your experiences of developing, delivering and participating in public engagement training?
Our public engagement people
Justin Rogers is a lecturer in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences. Justin coordinated the Fostering Hope project which was shortlisted in the 2016 Engage Awards. The Fostering Hope project was a remarkable piece of work in its own right, achieving a huge amount on a very small budget. However, Justin has really made the most of the project. As a direct result of Fostering Hope Justin has shared his work at conferences, published papers based on the project, produced training for social workers creating a real legacy and has appeared on television and broadcast media locally and internationally. The way that Justin has managed to extract so much professional and personal value from a modest project is a real inspiration for others thinking about getting involved with public engagement. You can read more about Justin’s background here.
Dr Helen Featherstone, Head of Public Engagement