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The Open University

Why we've signed the Manifesto

“We are delighted to become a signatory to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement. The Open University (OU) is committed to embedding the principles of public engagement within our research culture, putting people at the heart of everything we value. Public engagement has always been an integral part of the OU's mission, whether it was late night BBC programmes, our continued partnership with the BBC or reaching wider audiences through open and engaged pedagogies.

We are now working to create the conditions where public engagement with our research can flourish and where excellence in research engagement is recognised and valued. In embedding the principles, values and reflective practices of public engagement within The Open University, we want to ensure that our research has relevance beyond the Open University, embracing an ‘ecology of openness’ as we become an open research university.”

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University

Our approach to public engagement

The Open University’s commitment to public engagement with research is informed by our long-term commitment to social justice and inclusion. We are undergoing a process of organisational change, led by Professor Tim Blackman, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research, Scholarship and Quality), supported by an RCUK-funded, cross-Faculty team of researchers.

Adopting an action research approach we aim to embed public engagement with research within The Open University’s strategic planning for research and the operational practices of researchers at all levels. In other words, we are working with researchers, research managers and senior executives to create the conditions where engaging research can flourish, and where excellence in these activities is recognised and rewarded.

OU ChampionsOU champions of Engaged Research: Richard Holliman, Joe Smith, Natalia Kucirkova, John Maiden, Tim Blackman, Peter Wood, David Gowing, Nick Mahony and Christothea Herotodou


Our approach is discussed in the following interview between Lucian Hudson, The Open University’s Director of Communications and Dr Richard Holliman, The OU’s first Champion for Public Engagement with Research.

Framing organisational change

A technique developed by the NCCPE and the Beacons for Public Engagement, and known as the ‘EDGE Tool’, provides a set of prompts that shapes and frames our programme of organisational change. (EDGE is an acronym that stands for Embryonic, Developing, Gripping and Embedding.)

We have used the EDGE Tool to assess the university’s support for public engagement with research in relation to nine categories: leadership; mission; communication; support; learning; recognition; staff; students; and publics. And we are now working with Faculties to help them to assess their approaches to engaged research using the EDGE tool.

Together, these assessments, combined with research to explore how academics plan, enact and assess public engagement with research, are informing the development of action plans with aims and objectives that relate to each of the categories from this tool. 

Aims and objectives

Through the PER Catalyst programme of organisational change, we are:

  • Exploring the roles and responsibilities that different academic domains value in providing leadership for public engagement with research
  • Supporting discussions to develop a shared understanding of public engagement with research as it applies in different research domains
  • Implementing an awards scheme, recognising researchers for excellence in engaging publics with research
  • Investigating the requirements and support mechanisms that can facilitate effective digital engagement with research
  • Exploring how researchers plan, enact and evaluate their public engagement with research work, with the aim of creating engaged communities of reflective practice
  • Building on existing work in career development and doctoral training programmes for researchers and postgraduate research students
  • Issuing calls to researchers for seed funded projects on public engagement with research, providing a network of support
  • Offering structured opportunities for publics, students, user communities and other stakeholders, e.g. through Participation Now and Engaging Opportunities, to engage with OU researchers and research 


Name: Richard Holliman

Title: Open University Champion for Public Engagement with Research