Let Loose in Auld Reekie with the New Family Silver

combined watermark award

It’s November; the time for underwhelming Christmas markets and for Public Engagement professionals UK-wide to get together and party share best practice at the annual Engage Conference, which for 2018 has moved from Bristol to Edinburgh. And delegates from the UoB PER Team were in the mood for a large glass of ‘best practice’ last night as Professor Tim Softley (PVC, Research) and Dr Eliot Marston (Head of Strategic Projects and Partnerships in MDS, and long-time champion of UoB Public Engagement), accepted a Silver Engage Watermark Award on behalf of the Institution (if you’re interested in our acceptance video, see herethe UoB press release is here and NCCPE blog post is here). The Watermark Award, sometimes likened to an ‘Athena Swann for PER’ recognises the commitment to Public Engagement at UoB and also challenges us to further embed it throughout the fabric of our research environment.

The NCCPE (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement), which is the national body that assesses and grants Watermark Awards, praised our commitment to PER, recognising the incredible hard work of Research Engagement Officer, Caroline Gillett, and excellent support schemes, such as Leading to Engage (L2E) (which will be relaunching in the new year). But we know there’s more to do. We’ve created a Watermark Action Plan in which we have outlined a range of commitments to improve and expand our support for high quality engagement, such as a new Award (watch this space for details), more training opportunities, like our Creative Engagement which starts with Graphic Engagement on 6th December, plus much more that you’ll be hearing about in the coming weeks and months. So now we’re off to raise a glass or two to every single one of you who has been involved with doing or supporting engagement at UoB, the Watermark is for all your hard work in bringing amazing research to the public. Cheers!

But that’s not all we’ve got to celebrate – read on to hear about the 2018 winner of the Medical and Dental Sciences Early Career (PERCAT) Excellence in Public Engagement Award, plus of course our usual plethora of opportunities and events to take you into an engaging 2019.


IGI Public Engagement Workshop: Hearts and Minds

Join the PER Team on 5th December from 11:30am-1:30pm in WG5 Aston Webb – to consider the difficult questions in engagement and impact.

How do we change and then evidence a change in public perception? Whose minds should we be changing ? Does the future lie in immersive digital experiences or will mass media always win the day?

The session will include some practical tools you can use so it would be useful to come with a relevant research project in mind.

Register here – with the added bonus of lunch included.


Community Organizing – Listening Training for Researchers

As part of the NERC-funded ENCOMPASS public engagement project led by geologist Dr Carl Stevenson, project partner Citizens UK will be offering researchers interested in community engagement the opportunity to take part in a training day focused on learning about the concepts, principles and practice of community organising, with a focus on listening campaigns.

Date: Tuesday 18th Sept, 2018

Time: 09.30-16.30

Location: Education Room, Lapworth Museum on campus (tbc)

If you are interested in securing a space please contact encompass@contacts.bham.ac.uk

The Power of Local

On 3rd July the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) held a day-long event at ImpactHub in Digbeth to explore the potential for partnerships between local community groups and Midlands-based researchers. Public Engagement Officer, Leah Fitzsimmons, and several University of Birmingham academics went along to find out more.

The event, which was open to applications from any interested academics and community groups was part of a scheme called the Community and Universities Partnership Initiative, or CUPI. The idea for CUPI came from two previous NCCPE initiatives; the Schools and Museums and Universities Partnership Initiatives (or SUPI and MUPI, respectively). The format for all three schemes has been to convene a range of researchers and potential partners in a neutral venue in order to develop skills and ways of working, before exploring the potential for new partnerships to arise between attendees. Each initiative consists of several of these matchmaking events held around the country and CUPI meet-ups were also held in Bristol, Manchester and London. The icing on the cake of this format is small grants were available to support budding collaborations formed through the event.

It’s easy to understand why it might be impactful for communities and researchers to come together to collaboratively identify areas of local need and importance and then work together to find evidence-based methods to effect a direct improvement in the lives, wellbeing and/or economics of an area or community. However, these types of projects are not always straight-forward. Whilst we know that community collaboration can enormously enhance research and make valuable differences to society alike, these different groups often have very different methods of working, different timescales and different aims. Community groups often feel that there is a massive power imbalance between them and that they get lost in the academic infrastructure. Additionally, community groups rarely have a clear idea of the importance of or role they can play in academic publishing, which can further alienate groups from one another. However, we also heard a lot of positive experiences and once the participants had been encouraged to open up about their needs and expectations, their motivations and their timescales, the conversation flowed and some really exciting quickly ideas began to take shape.

The final session of the day saw the attendees challenged to create 3 minute Dragon’s Den-style funding pitches for ‘Thinking Fund’ grants of up to £1,000 in small groups consisting of at least one academic and one community partner. It turns out that there’s nothing like to potential promise of funding to focus the mind, and from the bustle and excited exchange of ideas emerged nine brilliant proposals, of which University of Birmingham academics contributed to two. From helping social enterprises and churches with evaluation methods, to exploring the cultural and economic heritage of rail; I was impressed and pleasantly surprised by the creative and innovative projects that for formed over just a few short hours. Of the nine proposals pitched, up to seven will be funded, with outcomes to be announced by the NCCPE in mid-July. Those successful applicants will then have four months to explore their idea before having the opportunity to apply for a further £5,000 of seed-corn funding to begin to get the project off the ground and we really hope to see some of our UoB research helping to make a difference locally through this scheme.

power of local tweet

And if you couldn’t make it on the day, there’s also good news – community partnerships can come from anywhere, at any time and the Public Engagement Team can provide support and help identify potential funding schemes to resource them. From the CUPI event itself, several community organisations expressed a wish to ‘call out’ to our academics so please look out for opportunities which we will be sending out through Twitter, our Team newsletter as well as school and College communications. We would also love to develop methods for communities to let us know of their needs on an ongoing basis so please do let us know your thoughts or ideas on this.

Public Engagement students end-of-module presentations – open to observers on the 25th July!

Our PGCARMs course is coming to an end for our students and following the great response last year we’re opening up their end-of-year presentations to interested observer’s again!

Are you a researcher looking for inspiration, curious to see how others go about public engagement or simply curious to see what we’ve been up to – come along!

This is your chance to support our students, gather ideas and we’ll even include lunch – what more incentive do you need? Register to ensure your place HERE.

Any questions, get in touch with the UoB PER Team at engage@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

The Royal Society of Biology Outreach and Engagement Awards

The Royal Society of Biology Outreach and Engagement Awards will be closing for applications at the end of the month!

The Awards aim is to reward outreach work carried out by researchers who inform, enthuse and engage with different audiences. The Awards are open to scientists working in any sector of UK biosciences, from universities, institutes or industry.

There are two award categories each with a cash prize: New Researcher (£750) and Established Researcher (£1500).

Applications close on 29th June. For more information and to apply, please visit the Society’s website HERE.

Malvern Science in the Park on 30th June – Get Involved!

Malvern Science in the Park is an alfresco, family-friendly event held annually in Priory Park Great Malvern to allow the public to explore the wonders of science and technology. This year it is being held on 30th June from 10:30am – 4:30pm and the organisers are looking for scientists and researchers to get involved. There are lots of opportunities for engagement, from giving a talk to creating a discovery trail around the park so be as creative as you dare – though it’s worth bearing in mind that there is no access to mains electricity!
The event is free to attend and will be a really enjoyable way to bring your research to hundreds of interested people. For more information visit the website or to put yourself forward send an email to organiser Adrian Burden.
Need some inspiration? Try looking through last year’s programme or get in touch with the PER Team and we will help you to develop your idea.
Save the date: can’t make the 30th June? Why not get involved in the week-long Malvern Festival of Innovation being held from 8th – 13th October? Held in venues around Malvern and attracting everyone from businesses to school children (with a schools day on the 9th October and a family day on the 13th).

National Clean Air Day 2018 – Get Involved!

It’s National Clean Air Day on 21st June and there will be an event held on campus to highlight and celebrate all the great work going on at the University around the subject of air pollution – whilst also engaging staff, students and the local community.

If you would like your research to be featured, or for more information on the day please contact Peter Edwards on P.Edwards.1@bham.ac.uk.

For further information on the national initiative please click here.


Worlds Collide III: This Time It’s Personal!

An evening on the 23rd May 2018 exploring, facilitating and initiating collaborations between scientists, artists, creatives, academics and curious organisms of all varieties. We will be investigating public engagement opportunities across sectors, debating their value and hopefully fostering some new collaborative projects.

Leading the evening is Charlotte Jarvis, an artist who collaborates with scientists and lectures at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College. Charlotte has seen her own heart beat outside of her body, grown her own cancer in a dish and recorded music onto DNA.

The event is being held at the Digital Humanities Hub at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2SD from 17:45 to 21:00.

To avoid disappointment we kindly request that you register (for free) as places are limited, click here to register.

Evening Schedule:

5.45pm – 6.00pm: Arrivals
6.00pm – 6.45pm: Art, Science, Death and Bubbles: Charlotte will introduce the field of art / science collaborations and present some terrific and terrible case studies.
6.45pm – 8.00pm: Workshop: Participants will work in thematic groups to come up with rough public engagement proposals. Each group will be a mixture of scientists and artists linked by their interests. Charlotte will facilitate the ideation and development of ideas through design methodology. Participants will be asked to discuss what is wondrous and world changing about their topics – what is fascinating to them and what will fascinate others – and build porto-projects around these discussions.
8.00pm – 8.40pm: Feedback and development: As a whole group we will discuss some of the project proposals and lay out what the next steps would be to getting them off the ground, finding funding and maintaining healthy collaborations.
8.40pm – 9.00pm: Free Networking with drinks etc. A chance to meet more people across disciplines and plot future projects.

WORLDS COLLIDE is open to:

  • University of Birmingham researchers from the arts, humanities and sciences. All Colleges are welcome.
  • Artists, creative practitioners, and cultural organisations working outside of the University.

Please note: This event is not open to professional services staff at the University unless they work in a brokering role, please contact engage@contacts.bham.ac.uk if you have queries

Images of Public Engagement 2018

Are you involved with public engagement in higher education? Do you have an inspiring image you want to share?

The NCCPE is delighted to launch a new national competition, Images of Public Engagement 2018.

We want to invite you to join in with the NCCPE’s 10th anniversary celebrations and help us capture the breadth of fantastic public engagement work taking place throughout UK universities. From collaborative research to culture change, our image competition offers the opportunity to celebrate and share what public engagement means to you.

Whether you’re an engaged academic, student, public engagement professional or someone who partners with universities, we’d love to see your images and stories of public engagement. This is a chance to share inspiring engagement activities, culture change initiatives, and the people involved in public engagement.

Submit your image by 16th July and be in with a chance of winning a ticket for the NCCPE’s Engage Conference, or new photography and art materials!

Winning entries will also be showcased as part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, featuring on our website and in a new-look Manifesto for Public Engagement.

Find out more & apply on the NCCPE website

For any enquiries, please email laura2.steele@uwe.ac.uk.