The University of Edinburgh

Why we've signed the Manifesto

"On behalf of all of us at The University of Edinburgh, I am pleased to renew our commitment to the NCCPE Manifesto. Our research yields new information and new understanding; our teaching helps to prepare our students for their future. Both of these aspects of our contributions to society must be bi-directional. We need to communicate our research findings to the public, to governments and funding agencies, to media and to all other interested parties. Our students and graduates must interact with the world that they will go on to shape. We must all be prepared to listen and learn as well as to proclaim. If we were ineffective at this two-way flow of information, our value to the world and to society would be diminished. Hence committing to a Manifesto that enshrines these principles is logical for us: we pledge to play our part."

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Edinburgh

Our approach to public engagement

The University of Edinburgh is a large, devolved, institution that hosts a hugely diverse range of research activities. Our view is that excellent public engagement is as diverse as our research and our publics. Our approach, outlined in the University’s Strategy to Support Public Engagement, is to enable researchers to work collaboratively with those beyond academia, and in doing so realising benefits for all involved. Our vision is that our excellent researchers will be found not only on campus, but also within different communities, online, at festivals, in museums and galleries, on TV and radio, at shopping and community centres, in schools and colleges, in cafés and pubs, and in national think tanks.

We coordinate this diversity through our Public Engagement Strategic Coordination Group supported by a central public engagement team. Engagement skills-development is embedded in our Institute for Academic Development’s training programmes and through engagement opportunities organised at the numerous Edinburgh Festivals.

This collaborative approach supports the development of interdisciplinary engagement centres such as Edinburgh Living Labs and the Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health

Collaboration is also key in our involvement with the innovative Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas and our MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement.

Our public engagement hallmark

Susan Morrison and the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas’ 2017 line up

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CODI) brings controversial research topics to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and invites the audience to share their views and experiences on the topics under discussion. Developed in collaboration with comedian Susan Morrison, arts production company Fair Pley, and the Beltane Public Engagement Network, this innovative format takes academics through a series of boot-camps to develop their performance and engagement skills. The result is a genuine two-way process that has both our academics and audiences learning from different perspectives in the 60-minute show time. 

The CODI format has grown over the years from a run of 28 shows during August to 48 shows (two per day) and spin out to other Festivals the country including shows at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Glasgow International Comedy Festival and the Belfast Imagine Festival. 

You can find out more about the CODI here.

Our public engagement talking point

Do research funding models need to change in order to improve the recognition and reward of public engagement efforts?

After years of sustained work at culture change, concerns around the time required to build relationships, develop engagement skills, and – consequently – the career benefits of engaging publics with research remain. In particular, young researchers wonder if expending efforts on public engagement will positively impact their career prospects, and senior staff are understandably looking squarely at REF metrics (where evidencing public engagement impacts are challenging) and research funders for prioritising their time.

So we ask is it time for the funders to stop treating engagement as a “nice to have” element, and instead fund and monitor engagement more closely to highlight its importance in the research cycle?

Our public engagement people

Nicola Stock, Public Engagement Officer, Roslin Institute / Project Lead, EBSOC

Dr Nicola Stock became the Public Engagement Officer for The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush campus in 2012 after four years at Newcastle’s Centre for Life. She has brought her experience as a researcher and science communicator to bear in developing a comprehensive public engagement programme. She works to engage new audiences, getting researchers involved with diverse events from immersive science theatre and Museum Lates to Maker Faires and Crufts. 

Nicola designed and manages the recently opened Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, a lab space for public engagement with a programme of research-linked workshops for schools and adult groups, CPD for teachers and public engagement training for researchers. 

In addition to supporting Roslin researchers to engage, Nicola has worked strategically through the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine’s public engagement forum, acting as convenor for several years. She co-founded Science Insights, a College-wide work experience programme, working with the University’s Widening Participation team to provide placements for Scottish high school pupils from a wide range of backgrounds.

Most recently, Nicola has been working internationally, helping to inspire future women scientists in Africa by providing engagement training for African women scientists.


Fiona Murray: