Engaging the public is a core component of our civic mission, therefore the University of Birmingham has a dedicated PER Strategy and definition of PER, which were co-developed with researchers and Professional Services across the institution.
Our discussions and thinking were framed around guiding principles of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and major research funders, in particular Research Councils UK and Wellcome Trust. The University was also an early signatory of the Manifesto for Public Engagement. and recently took part in the Engage Watermark assessment process, successfully achieving the Silver Award.
Our strategy provides an overall vision for public engagement with research at UoB, but is not intended to be used as a top-down means of enforcing public engagement across the University. Instead, we hope the document will provide a useful guide for Schools, Insitutes and Colleges, taking into consideration their own local context and resources.
University of Birmingham Public Engagement Strategy
Public engagement with research involves intentional, meaningful interactions which facilitate mutual learning between academics and members of the public. The ‘public’ may be the ‘general public’ or a discrete stakeholder group outside the University. Mutual learning may include the acquisition of specific knowledge as well as the development of familiarity with different perspectives and world-views.
Public engagement can be beneficial at different levels:
- At the level of the individual citizen – by increasing understanding, knowledge and engagement with research, and supporting individual decision-making
- At a societal level – by increasing public understanding, knowledge and engagement with research, and supporting societal decision-making and policy-making, and enriching culture
- At an institutional level – by improving the quality, social relevance and impact of university research, whilst also demonstrating the societal value of that research; by attracting the interest of stakeholders, funders and philanthropists who may invest in future research; by raising aspirations amongst young people and promoting careers in research
- At the level of the individual researcher – by enabling researchers to understand different perspectives on their own research, to find sources of insight, inspiration and innovation, to develop research that benefits the public, and to develop essential communication skills
Successful public engagement with research is vital to communicating the value of research during challenging times where the public will increasingly hold funders and universities to account. The benefits of public engagement are well recognised by funders of research, who are increasingly asking for evidence of PER activity and sustainable institutional support as a critical part of applications and awards, as well as wider institutional responsibility. Most leading UK universities have resourced the coordination and support of PER for academic staff and students, creating centres or units with dedicated staff.
PER Strategy Aims
At an institutional level, we have three major objectives for PER, which align with the Strategic Framework:
To inspire researchers to explore and demonstrate the social relevance of their research
To provide researchers with resources to support high quality public engagement
To encourage researchers to develop interdisciplinary links with internal and external partners