A new paper discusses how co-creating the definition of public engagement with academics enables opportunities for broadening and deepening future engagement whilst addressing the confusion about the different ways that the ‘impact agenda’ of innovation, enterprise, knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange connects with public engagement with research. The authors argue that the concept of engaged research is useful because it provides a basis for exploring the mechanisms by which a wide variety of economic and academic benefits, as well as social benefits, can be produced throughout the research process. It shifts the focus from assessing the benefits that flow from completed academic research to considering how the boundaries of academic research practice can become more permeable to participation and partnership working by people and agencies that have not traditionally been considered part of the research community. This participation can be linked to achieving various kinds of impact over time but can also usefully be considered as providing value in its own right, since the methodologies that are used to generate impact can be assessed whether or not impacts are ultimately achieved.
Grand, et al. (2015) Mapping Public Engagement with Research in a UK University. PLOS ONE.
Notwithstanding that ‘public engagement’ is conceptualised differently internationally and in different academic disciplines, higher education institutions largely accept the importance of public engagement with research. However, there is limited evidence on how researchers conceptualise engagement, their views on what constitutes engagement and the communities they would (or would not) like to engage with. This paper presents the results of a survey of researchers in the Open University that sought to gather data to fill these gaps. This research was part of an action research project designed to embed engagement in the routine practices of researchers at all levels. The findings indicate that researchers have a relatively narrow view of public engagement with research and the communities with which they interact. It also identified that very few strategically evaluate their public engagement activities. We conclude by discussing some of the interventions we have introduced with the aim of broadening and deepening future researcher engagement.
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