2015 Postgraduate Student Conference: Public Engagement

March 2015

Public Engagement 101

What is Public Engagement?

Why do we need it?

What does it mean for Science?

Busy day at the Postgraduate Student Conference 2015!

This years theme of Public Engagement caused a stir of fresh ideas and well-delivered presentations all centred about this key and very “of the moment” topic (particularly in research)

Public engagement is vastly becoming an important and essential aspects of science today. Universities are businesses, first and foremost. Numbers, reputation, impact factors, league tables, funding investment, REF, are top priorities (continuously topics of coffee meetings). Therefore it’s not surprising that science can no longer be banished to a bunch of anti-social academics with the secrets of the universe locked in their offices! There has been a big push to get knowledge out there and gain public support.

Now the challenge is.. how to do this? how can we engage public with science? how will our research stand out from the crowd?… This conference could not come at a better time!


Set at the Riseholme Conference Centre (at University of Lincoln) we sat down to a fantastic keynote by deputy Director Sophie Duncan from the National Centre for Coordinating Public Engagement (NCCPE).

Purpose of Public Engagement = Informing + Collaborating + Consulting with public to improve research and move mountains!

Purpose of Public Engagement = Informing + Collaborating + Consulting with public to improve research and move mountains!

From her expertise my take-home points were:

  • Public engagement is about using the public as a “resource” to improve and push ideas forward into action
  • Target audience! – Keep it visual, simple, easy to follow
  • Planning is key – plan not just the best method to reach the public, but what actions and impacts will result!

Social media was the heart of the day (I’ve never seen my twitter feed so buzzing!) – lots of mentions about tips for twitter and getting point across using social media

@UoLGradSchool: Public engagement… A contribution to changing the world!


Great talk from about how to use Twitter for science!


Social Media can engage communities – not really about promoting but asking what the public want!



So many exciting presentations on public engagement, was so interesting to see how public engagement spans a wide range of research, from social psychology, theatre promotion, animal welfare, art, education, robots (and of course evolutionary science!)

Zamira Noh
Julie Pattison

CBBPMbyU0AIAaEkNext up was my turn! Let’s Talk About Sex (already half way there with a catchy title!) See more about my talk here

I really enjoyed the whole experience of presenting and received such a positive reaction to my research and ideas, as well as handy takeaway thoughts about how to improve my research further.

I think the key point to all this is that science should be accessible, and the most successful way to achieve this is to involve public and learn from it – keep it simple, visual and widely accessible. Jump on the social media bandwagon and open eyes with your research! (Let’s give it a go….)


Final words of advice on keeping it simple…

You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmotherAlbert Einstein


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©[2015] Lilly P. Harvey

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