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Different forms of engagement achieve different things, and will be appropriate for different audiences, so the first key step to deciding what to do is figuring out what your purpose is and who the key audience(s) are.

Purposes of engagement can be broken down into three main categories:

  • Informing: Informing and inspiring young people, adults and family audiences about your research, and to increase its accessibility. E.g. Podcasting; engaging presentations and writing for non-specialist audiences. 
  • Consulting: To better inform you on the public’s views and concerns about your research, and also an opportunity to hear fresh perspectives and insights. Possible techniques include: online consultations; panels and user-groups.
  • Collaborating: To encourage public participation in your research by involving people as researchers for your project or to develop collaborative research projects or helps define future research direction, policy or implementation or application of research outcomes.

Take some time to define who you want to engage and be explicit about what you want to say to them. Your department may have a communications and public engagement lead, who will be able to help you refine these ideas. The Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division has some case studies about excellent ways in which public engagement can be used.

Who you decide to engage with could be dependent on a variety of factors such as your own interests (are you more inclined to talk to students or adults?), your research (does your research have a broad impact or would you rather engage in a more local communities?), and even your own personality (are you more comfortable giving a large lecture or would you rather be standing in a booth explaining your research more personally?). The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement also has  guidance to help refine your idea of who you want to engage and what you wish to say

Understanding your audience is important. To get you started, The British Science Association published an exploration of the views of young people. Another useful resource is the UK government’s public attitude to science survey, which demonstrates that scientists and engineers are seen as some of the most trustworthy professionals in the eyes of the public.

With a clear understanding of who you are engaging and what you are engaging them with, you’ll need to think about where. We list various opportunities and potential venues you can explore. Additionally the University lists opportunities as does the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division