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Public engagement

Our vision is for a research system that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and benefit.

Key principles

Public engagement can take different forms including:

  • open dialogue
  • participatory research
  • inspiring the next generation
  • open innovation.

Best practice

Having a clear reason for wanting to engage with the public and a clear purpose for your activities will help you choose the right approach. Thinking about your activities from the point of view of participants – who are they, why would they want to participate and how will they benefit from taking part – will help you design activities that benefit both you and the public.  You may want to consider working with non-academic partners (for example community groups, museums, people with expertise in co-production) who can help you reach the groups you want to work with.

When working with non-academic partners, you should discuss their motivations and expectations of the partnership, as they may have different perspectives and approaches. The best partnerships are ones that are transparent and based on mutual respect. All partners should have a clear understanding about the distribution of resources, responsibilities, efforts and benefits.

Some groups have more opportunities to engage with research and innovation than others. It is an important issue for the research and innovation system to close the gap between those groups who are able to participate and those who are unengaged. When developing your approach to engaging the public with your research, you should consider what barriers there might be to different groups engaging and what you can do to broaden the focus of your engagement activities to include more under-represented groups.

When working with the public you should ensure best practice in safeguarding, especially when working with children, young adults or vulnerable people. Schools and extracurricular clubs will have specific measures you will need to follow to ensure the safety and protection of the young people they work with. You will have to follow these and ensure that you have considered issues specific to working with children in your project. You should seek advice from your institution about their own safeguarding and child protection policies.

Ethics review

The partners should agree a process for ethics review. You should aim to follow your institution’s ethical review process, health and safety, and child protection policies.

You should also consider that some sectors may approach ethical considerations differently and that discussion may be required to reach agreement. For guidance on ethics, please refer to NERC’s ethics policy, the ESRC framework for research ethics and frequently-raised topics.

Further information

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