Pay-it-Fwd: BIG newsletter article

The Pay-it-Fwd cohort has written a short piece for the January 2016 BIG newsletter describing their experience of the training they received at the ‘How to Train Researchers in Public Engagement’ workshop held in Newcastle in November 2015.

Read the full article here:


How to Train Researchers Workshop: Reflections from University of Birmingham’s Pay-it-Fwd cohort! 

Caroline Gillett, University of Birmingham 

The University was recently awarded the RCUK Catalyst Seed Fund to create momentum for culture change around PE at the institution. Our bid placed a clear emphasis on training and workshops for our researchers and as part of this I’ve decided to pilot a small-scale project that was a little different. Having already been impressed by the Little Event 2014, when I heard about the How to Train Researchers Workshop in Newcastle I knew I wanted to go, but I wanted to give others the opportunity to come too! This is how the ‘Pay-it-Forward with Public Engagement Programme’ was born.

A callout for five researchers enthusiastic about PE was sent out across the University and we received lots of interest, making it a hard task for the University’s Public Engagement with Research Committee (PERC) to select our cohort. However, I am really happy with the researchers we selected as together they span the breadth of our University’s research disciplines from arts and humanities through to social, medical, physical and life sciences.

Also joining us on this venture is colleague and sci-comm maverick Jon Wood whose involvement with the pilot has been real asset thanks to his vast PE experience and can-do attitude. The Pay-it-Forward programme has two stages.:

  • Stage 1: Training – All seven of us got trained at the BIG How to Train Researchers Workshop!
  • Stage 2: Paying-it-Fwd – Our researchers will bring back the activities and training learned to together develop a practical public engagement workshop for UoB staff and students in early 2016, putting the training they have received at the BIG workshop in to real world practice and paying-it-forward to fellow colleagues and students.

Personally, I found the training day incredibly useful and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet other practitioners. More importantly though here’s what our researchers had to say:

Ruth Wareham: “I approached the BIG event with a modicum of trepidation; as someone whose science education ended some time ago, and with a background firmly rooted in the arts and humanities, I wasn’t entirely sure how well I’d fit in with a room full of self-professed ‘STEM Communicators’!  I needn’t have worried – the event was informative, interesting and lots of fun. Perhaps more importantly, all of the activities suggested could be used in a range of disciplinary contexts. The presenters had clearly thought carefully about the sessions and adapted them to suit the experience level and needs of the delegates.”

Elizabeth Randall: “I came to the BIG workshop with no experience of training researchers in public engagement…I felt somewhat lacking in confidence at the start of the day but after talking to a number of people about what makes a good trainer I now feel well-equipped to design and deliver a workshop to researchers at my university.

Sophie Cox: “At the start of the training session I put myself at the bottom of the cohort when asked our levels of confidence to train others in public engagement. By lunch I’d taken some steps forward and at the end of the day I’d leapfrogged my way to the top and was bursting with enthusiasm to get started with bringing loads of inspiring ideas back to the University” 

Katherine Eales: “As a doctoral researcher I am still at an early stage in my career and so it was great to get the opportunity to network with such a diverse range of experienced PE communicators. I also am thankful for the Pay-it-Forward scheme as I got to meet and work with some great and diverse researchers from UoB whom I wouldn’t necessarily have got to engage with! I am really looking forward to using the skills I gained at the BIG workshop to develop and deliver our introductory workshop to a wide range of graduate and early career researchers!

So there you have it! To find out how we get on in Stage 2 check out our blog and follow us on Twitter @UOBengage. Big thanks to BIG, all those who shared tips and tricks at the event and the others we met there.

The On-Screen Factual Talent Market 2016 is now open for applications

Are you an expert in a field such as science, engineering, politics, or the arts?

Have you ever considered a career in television? Could you be the next Lucy Worsley or Brian Cox?

Would you like to be coached in how to pitch yourself to TV professionals and then given the opportunity to do so?

Do you want to make new connections and spark collaborations with TV broadcasters and producers?



The On-Screen Talent Market is a Sheffield Doc/Fest initiative to connect potential on-screen talent with producers, commissioners, and decision makers looking for fresh faces for their programmes.

Launching as a scheme for UK-based talent in 2016, it will include pitch training for academics and experts to hone their skills in presenting themselves to the media, ahead of meetings with television executives.

We are looking for new on-screen talent from a diverse range of fields, whether it be science and engineering or arts and humanities, or anything in between.

Meetings between selected talent and decision makers will take place between 5 and 10 June 2016 at Sheffield Doc/Fest.



– You should want to share your expertise as part of a team providing factual programming for television, in both on-screen and advisory roles.

– You might be an academic with expertise in a particular area, or a professional working in a specific field, for example science or politics or engineering.

– You may have some experience in broadcast media; this is however by no means a pre-requisite for consideration.

– You should be a confident and engaging communicator.

– We are looking for talented individuals and encourage applications from all genders and ethnicities.

– You should be working and living in the UK and be over 18 years old.



Applications for The On-Screen Factual Talent Market are now open!

You will need to complete an application form, please click here to download. Please send your completed form and any queries to Becky Webb

Applications close on Monday 25 January 2016 at 5pm UK time.

If you are selected for the market, you will be required to pay a fee of £70+VAT for the full programme, this includes the coaching as well as one-to-one meetings with television executives.

Selected talent will also be given the opportunity to purchase a full festival pass at a discounted rate of £199+VAT (reduced from £299+VAT) to grant access to Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016. A full festival pass gives access to all film screenings, marketplace sessions, the industry conference programme, networking receptions and parties. *Note. If you have already purchased a pass to the festival we will be unable to refund this. The pass is a complimentary bonus and the price outlined is the course fee, which is itself highly subsidised. The opportunity to pay in instalments is available. If you need to discuss your financial needs please email Becky Webb



On-Screen Factual Talent Market // Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016 // 10 – 15 June 2016

Participants will attend Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Marketplace for the On-Screen Factual Talent Market. The day will take place during Sheffield Doc/Fest 10-15 June 2016. Date and exact timings will be confirmed on selection.

– Monday 25 January 2016: applications close

– End of February: selected participants informed

– March-April 2016: Preparatory mentoring from the Sheffield Doc/Fest Marketplace team. Mentoring will take place in person where possible

– June 2016: Market Day (date tbc) – the day will comprise two parts:

1. Pitch training – talent will receive pre-meeting pitch training from the marketplace team at Sheffield Doc/Fest and experts
2. One-to-one meetings with television experts – these will include TV execs, producers and TV broadcast professionals



If you have any queries about the On-Screen Talent Market please email Becky Webb

Win a B.I.G bursary & 1 year membership (Deadline Dec 18th)

BIG is delighted to able to offer 10 bursaries to attend this year’s Little Event on Wednesday 13th January in Birmingham.

Each bursary worth £100 covers an annual BIG membership, registration fees for the Little Event and £25 towards travel expenses. 

The Little Event is for people who are relatively new to STEM communication, whether they work in a science centre or museum, volunteer for a festival, are involved in university outreach, or do anything else to engage people with sciences. It’s a lot like the BIG Event, but a bit smaller, and all crammed into one busy day. There will be several sessions, each focusing on developing a different skill, delivered by experienced science communicators following our usual hands-on approach.

But of course it isn’t just about the sessions, it’s the people you meet there too. The Little Event presents a great opportunity to meet people from across the UK working in similar roles and sharing similar experiences. The programme for the day will include sessions on Learning & evaluation, Interacting with the public, Managing your engagement project, Presenting and careers. 

If you wish to apply for one of the 10 free places, applying is simple.  Just email by noon on Friday 18th December with the subject line “Bursary application Little Event” to tell us in no more than 200 words why you would like the opportunity to come to the Little Event and how you think it will benefit your personal and professional development. If you have already registered for the Event you can still apply for the bursary and we will refund your registration if you are successful.

Successful applicants will be notified by 23rd December by email.

For more information or to book click here 

Sarah Vining, Administrator

How to collaborate with radio and TV producers to create ideas for chemistry-based content

The Academic Ideas Lab is running a workshop supported by The Royal Society of Chemistry to encourage chemists to take part in training for radio & TV, as well as competitions such as the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.

Many academics are keen to reach large numbers of the public with their research and with their expertise in and passion for their subject. Mainstream media can deliver this, but for most researchers the process of working with radio and TV producers is completely unknown. This training is designed to help chemists who are interested in engaging the public with chemistry through interesting and innovative programming.

This workshop offers training to 10 chemists based in research institutions in the Midlands. The aim is to give chemists in academia the skills and contacts to collaborate with TV and radio producers to develop ideas for new programming featuring chemistry on mainstream channels with large audiences. This is not ‘media training’ in the sense of providing on-camera skills for being interviewed.

The workshop aims to

  • Improve their understanding of factual radio and television development
  • Increase their skills at developing ideas based in chemistry for mainstream audiences
  • Give them time with TV and radio producers from respected production companies to refine their ideas and to build personal contacts to collaborate further on chemistry-based ideas

Travel expenses and some funding towards childcare expenses are available for successful applicants. Successful applicants will be required to complete a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of taking part. There will also be some filming taking place during the workshop, which will require consent on a separate consent form. Successful candidates will be required to complete a form to evaluate the day, to provide some short feedback on camera, and to reply to follow-up emails at 2 and 4 months post-workshop to enable the training provider and the Royal Society of Chemistry to discover more about the longer-term impact of the training. We particularly encourage applications from women and from BAME groups as these are under-represented in broadcasting.

Applications are open now until 5pm on Friday 4th December. Download the application form and information for applicants below in the link. 



Lucy Vernall
The Academic Ideas Lab
0121 6033980

To register and for further info:

University of Birmingham joins RCUK Catalysts for Public Engagement with Research to deliver culture change

The University of Birmingham is thrilled to have been successfully awarded the Research Councils UK Public Engagement with Research Catalyst Seed Fund (CSF).

Building on the successes and momentum generated by the Catalyst funding and the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative, this new funding will help to catalyse change by ensuring that engaging the public becomes an integral part of the research process. Specifically, the CSF will provide flexible funding directly to higher education institutions to help create a culture where excellent public engagement with research is better embedded within the institution and appropriately included within its policies, procedures and practices.

University of Birmingham is among ten universities (listed below with their Principal Investigators) that will each receive £65,000 funding for public engagement activities over the next 12 months:

  • University of Birmingham: Professor Michael Whitby
  • University of Cambridge: Professor Lynn Gladden
  • University of Glasgow: Professor Jonathan Cooper
  • Imperial College London: Professor Maggie Dallman
  • King’s College London: Mr Chris Mottershead
  • University of Leeds: Professor David Hogg
  • University of Liverpool: Professor Dinah Birch
  • University of Oxford: Professor Ian Walmsley
  • University of Southampton: Professor Judith Petts
  • University of Warwick: Professor Pam Thomas

Professor John Womersley, RCUK’s Champion for Public Engagement with Research and Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), said: “Public engagement is an integral part of research and improves both its quality and impact. We know that researchers are more likely to participate in public engagement if they have the support of their institution. This Catalyst Seed Funding will support infrastructure and cultural change within the funded universities and help researchers to engage with schools and the wider community.”

Info courtesy of RCUK:

PERC would like to thank RCUK for it’s generous investment and encouragement. More details of the proposal outlined in the RCUK bid will be divulged shortly.

Digital Storytelling: Filmmaking for the Web (Free MOOC course)

This course may be useful for those who would like to utilize film-making in their public engagement? Find out more HERE

The University of Birmingham, the BBC Academy and Creative Skillset have joined forces to create this four-week, free online course.

Public engagement masterclass

Monday, July 27, 2015 – 9:00am to Wednesday, July 29, 2015 – 5:00pm
Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Cambridge

Application deadline: 1 June 2015

This new Wellcome Trust workshop is specifically aimed at newly independent and other mid-career researchers and will provide the opportunity to explore the role of engagement within your research and how you and your group can engage with people outside academia in an effective and rewarding way.

NCCPE Public Engagement Academy and Training Opportunities

The NCCPE are excited to be launching their first Public Engagement Academy. The Academy is aimed at anyone who is working to enhance the quality, visibility and impact of public engagement with research within their organisation, and will help people to develop a working plan on engagement, relevant to your area of research. Visit their website for further details on this exciting new course.

NCCPE Training – Alongside their Academy, the NCCPE have also got a range of excellent training opportunities on offer for 2015. The dates for these are as follows:

1st April: Beginners’ guide to public engagement
16th April: Beginners’ guide to evaluation
11th June: Beginners’ guide to evaluation
30th June: Research in context
14th July: Beginners’ guide to public engagement
7th October: Evaluation masterclass
28th October: Evaluation masterclass

For full details including venues and costs, please visit the NCCPE website

UoB Outreach and Public Engagement Training Opportunity

Staff from the University’s Student Recruitment and Outreach Team are running a training event for anyone currently involved in, or wishing to get more involved in outreach and public engagement activities for school students aged 13-17.

Standing up for Science workshop – Manchester 27th March

Sense About Science will be holding a Standing up for Science media workshop at the University of Manchester on Friday 27th March 2015. This full day event is free and for early career researchers in all sciences, engineering and medicine (PhD students, post-docs or equivalent in first job).