Public engagement with research


Support for public engagement

Public engagement is diverse in the ways it can help us conduct meaningful two-way engagement with public audiences on the topics of research, innovation and environmental science. We aim to inform, listen and respond, and collaborate with the public, based on their interests, opinions, concerns and aspirations.

By engaging with public groups in this way, we can inspire audiences while also helping the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) fund the best environmental science relevant to society, and enable informed, evidence-based decisions to be made.

We do public engagement through different types of activity:

  • providing insight, including to inform NERC’s policies and processes
  • grants to support public engagement with environmental science research
  • projects about environmental science research for the public

Engaged research should include public engagement throughout the life cycle of the grant:

  • issue formation: before research begins to help shape research questions
  • during research as part of the research process: for example citizen science and public dialogue
  • evaluation and knowledge sharing: at the end of the grant to feed back on the findings and potentially influence the future research portfolio

UKRI’s good research resource hub will help you get the most out of your public engagement activities, including evaluating their success.

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement offers guidance, expert advice, training and tools for public engagement.

Purpose and audience of your public engagement work

Considering the purpose for engaging members of the public in your research is important. What are you trying to achieve through engaging? There are three main purposes for doing public engagement work:

  • informing, inspiring and educating members of the public to make environmental science and the process of research more accessible
  • to actively listen to views, concerns and insights of members of the public, and using these in research
  • working in partnership with members of the public to solve research problems together, drawing on each other’s expertise.

One of the most important parts of any public engagement is considering and identifying your target audience, based on evidence. Who are the people you want to engage with and why? Clear, insightful thinking about your audience will help target your engagement and maximise quality.

We understand that some groups in society have more opportunities to participate in activities related to research and innovation than others. Thus, we are committed to encouraging and enhancing researchers’ ability to close this gap and engage under-represented communities and places through public engagement.

NERC public engagement mailing list

Sign up to the NERC public engagement with environmental science JiscMail list if you would like to share and receive information about public engagement with environmental science research (including funding opportunities, published reports, events and so on) with NERC and other members of the list.

External groups and networks

If you want further information about public engagement or wish to join a network:

Resources for public engagement

The NERC Research Engage Academy was a capacity building programme lead by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, which developed resources with and for environmental researchers and project staff on:

Case studies

Find out stories of engagement and its impacts:

Citizen science

Citizen science can broadly be defined as the involvement of volunteers in science.

You can find out more about NERC’s citizen science activities:



Last updated: 20 February 2024

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