PEP Insights Research Study

Public engagement and COVID-19 – facing the future together

UPDATE: This study has now launched and we have recruited our peer research team. To find out more about the study and how to get involved, please visit the PEP Insights Research page.


The NCCPE is launching a research study to explore the impact of COVID-19 on public engagement professionals and the engagement work of universities.

Over the past few months, the NCCPE has been involved in a range of initiatives to respond to the current pandemic, and its impact on all of our lives. In all of this we have sought to respond to the present and emerging context, offer support to all those involved in the public engagement ecosystem, and work with funders to explore how to ensure that engagement is embedded into our collective responses.

Specifically, our work to engage with Public Engagement Professionals (PEPs) has included:

  • The PEPtogethers, an opportunity for people to come together, at first weekly, now fortnightly, to share responses, experiences, stories and ideas, and to work collectively to make sense of life in a global pandemic
  • The PEP Network – which is now free to all those who want to engage with other public engagement professionals
  • PEP Network events – which have offered the opportunity to access training, support, and collective problem solving
  • Creating quick access guides and training, including engaging online, hyperlocal engagement, and community engagement during COVID-19 context

This current context has provided a real opportunity to step back, and reflect, and to plan differently for the future. It has also shone a light on inequalities, and how these have and will be exacerbated by the pandemic.

The research project aims to understand better the experiences of PEPs and their institutions, researchers and partners within this context, and consider the opportunities and challenges raised.

Therefore we are inviting you to join us to do a piece of peer research. There are four ways to be involved.

  • Volunteer to be a peer researcher: Peer researchers will have the opportunity to participate in online training, to develop and enhance your research skills. You will be part of a small team who will conduct the research, and help us to make sense of it through a two data analysis workshops.
  • Volunteer to be interviewed: We are looking for a group of PEPs who are prepared to be interviewed for 35 minutes, about their experiences of our current context, and their hopes and fears for the future.
  • Volunteer to participate in a focus group: We are planning to run online focus groups to promote discussion and exchange addressing the research questions
  • Do our survey: We will also be running an online questionnaire, which we hope you will be prepared to complete

If you'd like to volunteer to be interviewed, participate in a focus group, or take the survey, please fill in this short expression of interest form. 

The results of this piece of research will be:

  • Shared with PEPs, to inform their own leadership and advocacy within their own contexts
  • Used to inform funders to consider how they can best support the engagement ecosystem which is so critical to the future
  • Used to inform the NCCPE’s work – to ensure we offer appropriate support to the sector, including PEPs, university leaders, partner organisations, etc

The research will build on the insights and intelligence gained through a consultation process run by the NCCPE and UCL in 2019, which sought to take stock of the current ‘state of play’ in supporting public engagement in higher education.

For further information about this research project, please email