Public Engagement at Bath

Supporting researchers to engage the public with their research

Posts By: Ed Stevens

Bath's first-ever public engagement conference: Seeds of Change

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In late January, we held the University's first conference dedicated to Public Engagement with Research (PER). Seeds of Change saw over 60 researchers and professional services staff gather to share their experiences of public engagement, to learn more about national perspectives (particularly those of the Research Councils), and to hear from some of the many local community partners we've worked with in recent years.

 

It's been almost five years since the Public Engagement Unit was launched during which time, we've funded over 50 engaged research projects. The conference provided an opportunity to critically reflect on these and other PER experiences and to create a step-change in delegates' public engagement work.

 

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We were fortunate to hear from a range of public engagement experts. The conference kicked off with reflections from our current and previous winners of the Vice-Chancellor's Award for Public Engagement with Research. Drs Paul Shepherd (Architecture & Civil Engineering), Sarah Bailey (Pharmacy & Pharmacology) and Kit Yates (Mathematical Sciences) shared reflections on what PER had done from them. From increasing their confidence, to sourcing collaborators, from thinking about new ways of communicating, to raising their profile and from recruiting PhD students to developing grant writing skills, it was clear that PER had offered that a lot!

 

We then heard from the following key figures influencing public engagement at a national scale:

 

In particular, the speakers addressed the future opportunities and challenges facing the PER agenda including Teaching & Research Excellence Frameworks and the impact of Brexit.

 

The afternoon sessions in the conference gave space for delegates to raise and address their own critical issues in relation to PER and to hear the experiences of some of our regular non-academic collaborators drawn from: 44AD, Fringe Arts Bath, Bristol Natural History Consortium, At-Bristol and the Holburne Museum.

 

It was great to have the conference fully booked and to see so many researchers enthused by PER. Ideas generated from the event will be helpful as we plan the sustainability of our Unit beyond 2018.

 

New small-scale public engagement projects launched

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Following our recent annual seed fund call we've funded 11 small-scale public engagement projects in departments across the University. As part of what we call 'Tier 1' of the call, researchers could apply for up to £500 to deliver their own projects.

 

Tier 1 provides an important opportunity for those new to public engagement to 'give it a go'. We designed the tier as a chance for researchers to trial an activity or an idea - to develop proof of concept - and / or to reach a public / publics that they hadn't worked with in the past. As well as actually 'doing' something, we're keen for those we fund to learn from the experience and to consciously develop their engaged research practice further.

 

Project titles and researchers that we funded are outlined below. The projects demonstrate a diverse range of activities from running a Human Library to contributing to Bath Digital Festival, from puppetry to citizen science opportunities and much, much more. The grants may only be small but that hasn't stymied the creativity in terms of engagement! And the publics being reached are equally diverse - museum professionals, young children, volunteers in a local shop, young carers, actors to name but a few.

 

If you'd like to find out more about any of the below projects, just drop me an email (e.stevens@bath.ac.uk)

 

  • Dr Sophie Parsons (Dept of Mechanical Engineering) - A tiny solution to a big problem? Public acceptance of using yeast and microalgae to make deforestation-free consumer products
  • Sarah Bloomfield (School of Management) - Theatrical reflection of paradoxical tensions experienced within a community enterprise
  • Daniel Finnegan (Dept of Computer Science) - Trialling the Human Library at the University of Bath
  • Dr Matthew Alford (Dept of Politics, Languages & International Studies) - It’s Fun to Empower the Public:  Threshold Concepts, Social Justice and the Use of Multi-Platform Storytelling
  • Caroline Hickman (Dept of Social & Policy Sciences) - Not so wild about seagulls in cities
  • Dr Janet Goodall (Dept of Education) - Super shoppers: Engaging parents with children’s learning
  • Dr Nick Priest (Dept of Biology & Biochemistry) - How Animals Find Medicine in Nature
  • Professor Ed Feil (Dept of Biology & Biochemistry) - Antibiotic Resistance: Public Engagement and Risk Assessment
  • Daniela De Angeli (Dept of Computer Science) - Game Tale 2017
  • Bailu Xie (Dept of Pharmacy & Pharmacology) - Reducing Animal Use in Cancer Research and Drug Delivery
  • Russell Arnott (Dept of Architecture & Civil Engineering) - Plankton: what lives in a drop of water?

 

Thanks to the Widening Participation Office who provided additional monies that allowed us to fund more projects than we were originally planning.

 

Our seed fund call will next open in September 2017.

 

Ignite Your Mind! My experience of organising a public engagement event

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This blog post is posted on behalf of Elizabeth Kaplunov (a postgraduate researcher in the Department for Health) who is part of the organising team for this year's Ignite Your Mind event.

 

Ignite Your Mind is running on Monday 21 November 2016, 7 - 9.30pm, in the Ring O' Bells pub, Widcombe. Tickets are free and available here.

 

Last year I presented my research in the pub for 5 mins at Ignite Your Mind , a public engagement event organised by postgraduate researchers for postgraduate researchers. I enjoyed the event so much that I volunteered to be on the organising committee for this year.

 

I’ve been heavily involved in speaker recruitment and somewhat in marketing. Our work on this year’s event is coming to an end and I have much enjoyed working with Ed Stevens (Public Engagement Officer), being supported by the past organisers and also getting to know different teams at university such as the Marketing and Audiovisual teams. It’s been a large learning experience – about teamwork, social media presence, flyering, organisation skills and so on.

 

The event is upcoming so I feel there is still much more to learn! I’m very grateful and impressed by the rest of the organising team, all postgraduate researchers – Anna (face of Ignite, general organiser), Holly and Gaby (marketing), Gareth (speaker recruitment). There’s more of us than last year which makes it easier in terms of workload but harder in terms of coordination. We’re all from the same department (Health) whereas the team last year was from different ones, which made it easier for them to recruit speakers from all the departments in the Faculty. We had to be more creative and proactive in terms of speaker recruitment such as going to PGR events (PGR breakfast), including MA and MSc students, asking our friends and contacts and directors of studies to spread the word, doing shout outs before department seminars etc.

 

Last year’s organisers have been on hand to give us advice and talk about their experience of organising Ignite, as well as providing us with a detailed plan for conducting the event. This year however, we split the speaker support differently – I took 3, Holly took 4 and Gareth took 3. This has made it easier on us in terms of workload and intensity. Despite doing Ignite last year, I’m not as comfortable with my presentation style as Holly and Gareth so I’m happy that I don’t have to look after anymore speakers! However, all the Ignite Your Mind organisers and speakers will soon receive presentation training from Ed Drewitt, a public engagement expert. This has been funded by the Public Engagement Unit and it’s great to have this additional support. As an organiser, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the 3 speakers that I’m supporting do at the event!

 

A reminder that Ignite Your Mind is running in the Ring O’ Bells pub in Widcombe on Monday 21 November, 7 – 9.30pm. Get your free tickets here!