Working together with our research communities and other partners, we want to encourage researchers to be actively involved in thinking about how they will achieve excellence with impact and to explore the pathways for realising the impact. The implementation of Academic Beneficiaries, Impact Summaries and Pathways to Impact (formerly known as Impact Plan) within the Research Council application and assessment process aims to aid this.
Can public engagement activities be regarded as pathways to potential economic and societal impacts?
Yes, provided that you clearly articulate and explain the specific contribution from these activities to the pathways to impact.
Engaging the public with your research can improve the quality of research and its impact, raise your profile, and develop your skills. It also enables members of the public to act as informed citizens and can inspire the next generation of researchers. Therefore, project-specific public engagement activities, which are relevant and appropriate to the proposed research, are valid to include as ways of creating potential impact.
In addition to communicating research findings to the public, researchers should also consider two-way engagement - interaction and dialogue with the public. This could include working with a particular user group where there might be a tangible relevant output. For areas with potentially new societal or ethical impact, researchers might want to ascertain current public attitudes and hopes/concerns for this area.
Public engagement can take place at any point: before your research begins to help shape your research question, during the research grant as part of the research process, or at the end of the grant to feedback on the findings and potentially influence the future research portfolio.
Types of public engagement activities may include debates, discussion, or consultation with public audiences appropriate to your research project such as patient groups, civil society organisations or the general public. Participatory processes and activities might also be held in places where people gather such as libraries, museums and open spaces, and in locations specific to the questions you are asking such as local community centres, hospitals, science centres or schools.
Can I request resources to fund the activities detailed in my Pathways to Impact?
Yes, all Research Councils provide resources to enable impact-generating activities in ways that are appropriate to each research project. Applicants should request and justify the project-specific resources needed to achieve their Pathways to Impact.
Societal impact is one of the key areas covered under the ‘Impact’ umbrella and so it is legitimate for researchers to request resources to undertake public engagement activities where it is appropriate to that project. Resources eligible under fEC can be requested, for example, to cover training in public engagement or communications, public engagement specialist staff expertise and support, materials/venue costs or travel expenses etc. General activities that are arranged at the level of the department, school or university would not be eligible. The quality of the justification and the relevance of the resources will be assessed by peer review.
The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement has toolkits to help you plan your engagement activity and specific guidance on including public engagement within your Pathways to Impact.
The Collective Memory is a database of evaluations of a diverse range of science communication initiatives. RCUK recommends researchers use it to learn from previous projects when looking at developing their own public engagement projects within Pathways to Impact and also to suggest you use the site to reflect on how the activity went at the end of the project. Take a look or contribute your experiences and evaluations by visiting: collectivememory.britishscienceassociation.org.