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Public engagement - why bother?
What do practising research scientists get out of doing public engagement?
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Science in Norwich Day External Evaluation Report (Final)| Science Outreach in Norfolk

Science in Norwich Day External Evaluation Report (Final)| Science Outreach in Norfolk | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

"...Science communicator respondents gave numerous such responses: 'questions about science that you don't usually think of!'..."

 

and

 

"After the event, responses ... reflected high levels of perceived personal value (e.g., ‘a very worthwhile pass time; important to make science inclusive to non-scientists; lots of effort and energy from the science community’)."

 

Thanks to Eric Jensen for highlighting this

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Wynn Abbott on why public engagement benefits are hard to capture

A problem which crops up over and over in science-art collaboration interviews (and I think this is relevant to any PE projects) is the existence of the more prevalent(?) but less tangible benefits of doing public engagement projects i.e. if a scientist is collaborating with people outside their specialism they don’t necessary have the vocabulary to communicate the benefit of the collaboration. And frequently, especially with art collaboration, this lack of vocabulary results in the collaborators denying the benefits of the engagement to their research.

 

Others have stated in the past that a public engagement collaboration is like going to see a great film – you don’t always understand how a film has affected your outlook till some time afterwards.

 

This is why I think a poll like yours is interesting but may not – if the examples are few - represent an accurate picture of the benefits of public engagement to research.

 

@wynnabbott

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Interim Evaluation of the Synthetic Biology Dialgoue

Interim Evaluation of the Synthetic Biology Dialgoue | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

Expert participants were generally positive about their involvement in the process. They were impressed with the level of energy and engagement in the groups and the scientists were pleasantly surprised with the strength of support for their research among many participants. For some, participation in the workshops developed or reinforced a sense of the value of public engagement and dialogue. Interestingly the social scientists found it particularly valuable from a professional perspective to be participants in a process they would usually critique.

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Quotes from the ScoPE project

Quotes from the ScoPE project | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

Some great quotes in this report:

 

Interviewer: "I’m wondering, what does the public bring to policy?"


Jolanta Opacka-Juffry: "Well, the public brings a vision of a bigger picture. The public, as I understand it, sees the landscape maybe without the details on it. Details are below their resolution level but they see the bigger landscape. Whereas the research community very often sees the details very sharply, has a focus on the details and often forgets about the landscape. That’s how I see it and that’s why public input is needed to keep that large landscape in mind."

 

Interviewer: "Does it improve the science?"

 

David Porteous: "I think it improves the science in the sense that it adjusts the focus of the science. … So that has unquestionably been the case in our Generation of Scotland population study where we involved ourselves in a series of public engagements and MORI polls and questionnaires and set ourselves up to be questioned and queried about the whole idea and to tease out all of the possible ethical issues. And that certainly informed the study design … our sort of fundamental approaches and context. … We’re absolutely convinced that the project is stronger and better for having done that serious public engagement early on in the process.
And not as a sop to funders or to the publics but as a fundamental component part, and that was something I was very firmly of the opinion should be built in right at the beginning."

 

and...

 

Stephen Gentleman: "They do tend to bring some scientists down to earth, to a more basic level, where they may have got a little bit esoteric and blue sky, and they bring it right back down to earth like what’s this going to do for my husband, etc. … I think the lay voice is the voice of reason in some ways. I mean you can get carried away with your own research and not be able to apply it to the real world particularly. … Actually it really helps when you go back to the lab and realise there’s a real reason for doing this that may not always be apparent
when you’re just stuck in the lab."

 

 

Thanks to @Roland_Jackson for finding these

 

Full report here: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/20016/1/ScoPE_report_-_09_10_09_FINAL.pdf ;

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Public culture as professional science: final report of the ScoPE project

Public culture as professional science: final report of the ScoPE project | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

Public culture as professional science


The findings of the ScoPE project confirm the significance of a major shift or ‘sea change’ in professional scientific culture toward an endorsement of, and participation in, public engagement as a key component of scientific research and innovation. More firmly than in the past, public engagement emerges from the interview data as a matter of professional scientific commitment and as a valuable part of the everyday practice of professional science. Indeed, on the basis of the ScoPE interviews, public engagement skills are increasingly seen by scientists to be as important to a successful scientific career as scientific, clinical and teaching skills.

 

...

 

knowledgeable and capable public, in both specific and general contexts, and were depicted as active knowledge-seekers who could improve the professional practice of medical scientists through dialogue such as that undertaken at the clinical interface.

 

Full report here: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/20016/1/ScoPE_report_-_09_10_09_FINAL.pdf ;

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Aikaterinin Chatsiou, PhD student in computational linguistics, University of Essex

"The most important benefit was gaining a fresh perspective on my research, being asked questions about what my research is for. You need to reply in a non-jargon way. I had to reply with

content, otherwise the schoolchildren would have asked the same question again. The questions were things like, ‘Why would someone want to spend 4 – 5 years on this?’ And they were persistent questioners: while other audiences might not insist, the schoolchildren would ask again and again until they got an answer that satisfied them ... I had to answer questions that I was trying to avoid...The research was of better quality because I had to answer deep questions. I had to think around deep, hard questions because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. So the improvement wasn’t in terms of data but in terms of feedback."

 

From: https://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/why-does-it-matter/case-for-engagement/benefits

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The benefits of public engagement to universities and to the public | National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement

The vast majority of staff and students believe they have a duty to explain their work and its social and ethical implications to the public. Through engaging with the wider public, they develop a range of transferable skills, for instance in leadership, communication, listening, partnership working and project management.

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Evidence Counts – Understanding the Value of Public Dialogue

Evidence Counts – Understanding the Value of Public Dialogue | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

Benefits for scientists and experts included:

 

* New knowledge, skills and confidence in communicating

complex ideas to lay audiences, and opportunities to talk to

wider audiences (particularly the public) about their work.

Scientists have valued discovering that they are met with

public interest rather than hostility.

 

* Interaction with other scientists/experts in an informal,

safe environment in which ethical issues can be explored.

 

* Opportunities to hear public views, fears and questions

first hand , and to watch the public’s immediate reactions

to their subject, so scientists can test their own assumptions

as well as identify where (and how much) the public is

excited or worried about the implications of their work.

This can help scientists ensure improved transparency and

scrutiny of their work, ask better questions of and within

their own research, and it can stimulate ideas for new

research of public value.

 

* Higher personal profile, and higher profile for their

work, with other scientists/experts, with the sponsoring/

commissioning Government department or research

institution, as well as with the public.

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Isotope: Informing Science Outreach and Public Engagement | ISOTOPE

Isotope: Informing Science Outreach and Public Engagement | ISOTOPE | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

The first phase of this project involved research with scientists at various stages in their careers (and other science communicators) and identified the patterns of motivation and perceived benefits of involvement in public engagement activities.

 

The results of this research are published in an Oxford University Press book:

Holliman, R. and Jensen, E. (2009). (In)authentic science and (im)partial publics: (re)constructing the science outreach and public engagement agenda, in Holliman, R., Whitelegg, E., Scanlon, E., Smidt, S. and Thomas, J. (eds.) Investigating science communication in the information age: Implications for public engagement and popular media. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

 

The results are also summarised in the freely available published final report on the project: http://isotope.open.ac.uk/?q=node/565 

 

Thanks to Eric Jensen for highlighting this

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Focus on Experts - Questions and Answers

Focus on Experts - Questions and Answers | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

John Ward: "Having to describe both my research and that of others in words that the general public can understand is a challenge. It’s easy to slip into jargon that even other scientists don’t understand, so thinking carefully to describe Synthetic Biology in clear and straightforward terms was difficult at first. The participants latched on to the ideas in Synthetic Biology very quickly and it was good to hear what they thought was the most important challenges that we should be focussing on."

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Synthetic biology dialogue - Follow up evaluation report

Synthetic biology dialogue - Follow up evaluation report | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

A couple quotes from 'expert participants' who took part in the Synthetic Biology Dialgoue:

 

"…it was challenging me to think about presenting my work and presenting the science in a completely different way. Obviously we’re trained to present to colleagues and (committee) members but to then have to stop think about, oh now, this is a completely different set of people, how do I package it for them? That was a very eye opening process for me."

 

"...I think there should be an encouragement of people like me to do what I am doing, to go out and actually engage with the public to do science festivals, go to high schools, all that sort of stuff."

 

Full evaluation report here: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Reviews/synbio-dialogue-evaluation-final.pdf

 

 

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British Science Association : Festival publicity helped change fishing policy

British Science Association : Festival publicity helped change fishing policy | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

"This has been a major success story. The British Science Festival brought new scientific findings to wider public attention, and this has ultimately influenced positive changes in policy for the long-term benefit of all."

 

HT @SueHordijenko

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Ackroyd and Harvey: Genetics and Culture

Ackroyd and Harvey: Genetics and Culture | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

...Inspired by Ackroyd and Harvey’s [art] work, the Wales team developed a new imaging technique that monitors pigment levels without damaging plants.

 

HT @wynnabbott

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Professor Nancy Rothwell, President, Manchester University

"It is humbling, when you go and visit patient groups, for example. It gets you out of your ivory tower. It has made me think about funding, what public funds are used for and the responsibility involved. It has made me think about what difference the research makes and how it will affect change. It brings self-awareness, grounding and less isolation and it brings you down to earth."

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Viewpoint: Neil Ward | National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement

Viewpoint: Neil Ward | National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it

The rationale for public engagement is multi-faceted and can sometimes appear contradictory. First, universities are largely publicly-funded and so there is a moral responsibility to serve the public interest. Second, universities can attract additional funding by demonstrating the relevance and socio-economic impact of their activities, so a reputation for engagement can be useful. Third, more engaged universities are seen as inherently a good thing in improving social capital, empowering individuals and improving local institutions.

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What's in it for me? The benefits of public engagement for researchers - RCUK

What's in it for me? The benefits of public engagement for researchers - RCUK | Public engagement - why bother? | Scoop.it
What's in it for me?The benefits of public engagement for researchers includes a selection of some of the highlights and first hand experiences of a range of researchers across the UK...
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