Information for researchers
We give considerable flexibility to our researchers in the delivery of their research, and in return expect them to communicate their work and demonstrate the impacts of what they do as widely as possible.
NERC science can have social, economic, political and practical impacts, and is often of great interest to the public. By undertaking public engagement as part of the research process researchers can reach, inform and involve many people.
In 2008 Research Councils UK (RCUK) issued a Statement of Expectations for Societal and Economic Impact . This lists ways researchers can ensure the different impacts from their work may be realised.
All researchers are now required to write a 'pathways to impact' plan for every grant application they submit. Funds are available to support activities identified in the plan which can help achieve societal and economic impacts; public engagement is just one way to deliver these kinds of impact.
Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research
NERC is a signatory to the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research . The concordat outlines the expectations and responsibilities for research organisations, managers and supporters of researchers, and researchers themselves.
The concordat consists of a set of key principles for the future support of public engagement and, under each principle, an explanation of how it may be embedded into institutional practice.
The concordat's key principles:
- UK research organisations have a strategic commitment to public engagement.
- Researchers are recognised and valued for their involvement with public engagement activities.
- Researchers are enabled to participate in public engagement activities through appropriate training, support and opportunities.
- The signatories and supporters of this concordat will undertake regular reviews of their and the wider research sector's progress in fostering public engagement across the UK.
Why do public engagement?
Public engagement is just one way of achieving societal impacts from your work. It can be anything from visiting a local school and talking about your work, to creating a suite of activities to engage a science festival audience or even taking part in a TV production about your science.
Public engagement can be a challenging but enjoyable process, it allows you to practise and improve your communication skills and in the process gain a different perspective on your work from the people you engage with.
Public engagement training
NERC runs an engaging the public with your research course six times a year which allows you to concentrate on developing your communication skills with the media and general public. This training is free to all NERC-funded researchers and NERC staff.
There are a number of ways for you to gain experience in public engagement activities. Many existing schemes provide you with appropriate support, advice and training relevant to the levels of interaction and contact of the scheme.
Your research organisation may also offer training, help or advice on public engagement and may even have some schemes you can take part in.
If there is a specific training course you would like to attend you may also apply for funds to do this as part of your 'pathways to impact' work; you may need to justify why a particular course should be taken rather than NERC's in-house training course.
There are many different ways that researchers can do public engagement. The archive of activities can give you a better idea of some of these.
To begin with it is sometimes easier to work with recognised schemes to get a feel for the types of engagement that suit you and your research. There are a number of different schemes that enable you to make use of pre-existing knowledge and tap into networks of people already involved in public engagement:
You can apply to do many of these activities throughout the year. You can find links to some of the schemes in the right hand menu of this page - some are listed with further information on a page detailing current opportunities for researchers.
However, you may wish to develop bespoke activities for your particular research and the audience you have in mind.
Other ideas include:
- Science festivals
- Working with schools
- Café scientifique
- Lab open day
- Multimedia - blog/tweet/podcast
- Citizen science
Another very beneficial activity researchers can be involved in is public dialogue and debate. There are different levels to this and it can be undertaken at various stages of the research cycle to achieve specific aims. Taking part in this process can give researchers greater insight into how their work is perceived and can suggest different ways to approach it.
Sources of funding
When planning your research you should consider the different ways you might engage the public with your research. You can apply for funding to carry out these activities as part of your 'pathways to impact' plan submitted with all research grant applications.
If you are already being funded by NERC you can contact the Communications team to discuss your ideas and explore possible sources of funding.
Examples of work and activities undertaken by NERC-funded researchers can be seen in our archive of activities.
NERC has also produced a guide, Engaging the public with your research, to help you communicate your science to different audiences.
NERC's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology worked with the Natural History Museum to produce a Guide to Citizen Science which shares good practice on how to plan, carry out, and evaluate citizen science projects to provide benefits for both participants and potential data users.
RCUK has compiled a series of best practice guides and publications to help you undertake public engagement activities.
Help and advice
For further information please contact:
Tel: 01793 411974
Mob: 07917 456694
- British Science Association - CREST scheme
- I'm a scientist, get me out of here!
- National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement
- Nuffield bursary hosts
- RCUK - Public engagement with research
- RCUK - Public engagement as a pathway to impact
- STEM Ambassadors
- Training for scientists working with school teachers