RCUK is committed to supporting and rewarding researchers to engage with the public, and achieve a culture change so that public engagement is embedded alongside research and valued as an important activity.
Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research
Research Councils UK has signed a Concordat which aims to create a greater focus and help embed public engagement with research in universities and research institutes. It is a single statement of expectations and responsibilities of research funders in the UK regarding public engagement.
Public Engagement as a Pathway to Impact
Researchers are encouraged to actively think about the pathways for realising the potential impact of their research within Research Council grant applications as part of their Pathways to impact. This can include public engagement activities which are project specific and could contribute to generating impact from the research proposed. Applicants can also request resources for these activities.
The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement
The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement is an initiative supported by the Research Councils UK, the UK funding councils and the Wellcome Trust to support a step-change in recognition for public engagement across the higher education sector. The National Co-ordinating Centre is made up of the University of Bristol, University of the West of England and other partners. It works strategically with key national partners who are also interested in understanding and listening to audiences better and generating knowledge with them. These organisations, including the BBC, the Museums, Libraries and Archives, and the volunteering organisation v, AlphaGalileo and Involve will help to professionalise how Higher Education engages with the public.
Statement of Expectation
RCUK has a Statement of Expectation for Societal and Economic Impact and four of these aims that are specific to public engagement as listed below. A copy of the full statement is available here.
Those seeking Research Council funding should consider using Public Engagement as a Pathway to Impact, further information is available here.
Public Engagement Lens for the Researcher Development Framework
The Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) underpins a major new approach to developing world-class researchers. The framework has been developed by and for researchers working in higher education as an aid to planning, promoting and enhancing professional and career development. One of a series of lenses, the Public Engagement lens has been developed by RCUK, Vitae and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) in consultation with the Beacons for Public Engagement and other individuals and organisations with an interest in public engagement. Using the RDF, the public engagement lens highlights how public engagement is part of the professional development of researchers and provides an overview of the key knowledge, behaviours and attributes typically developed by researchers that can be acquired through, or used in, public engagement activities.
RCUK Catalyst Seed Fund
The RCUK Catalyst Seed Fund (CSF) will provide flexible funding directly to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to help create a culture where excellent public engagement with research is better embedded within the HEI and appropriately included within its policies, procedures and practices.
In the context of a one year spending review period, the programme will provide funds of £65,000 (for 12 months) to each of 10 designated HEIs following assessment of business plans.
The CSF is open to HEIs named on the attached list only. Research Council institutes, and HEIs that were either part of the Beacon for Public Engagement partnership or have received previous RCUK Public Engagement with Research Catalyst funding, are not eligible. The CSF is open only to the top funded HEIs as determined by total value of Research Council standard grants, once ineligible institutions have been removed, in alphabetical order these are:
RCUK is restricting the number of eligible organisations to effectively manage the budget and resource available. To receive funding, eligible HEIs will be required to submit a business plan on the template provided. Business plans will be assessed by the RCUK Public Engagement with Research Team.
Public Engagement with Research Catalysts
Following on from the success of the Beacons initiative, but recognising that further support was needed to embed public engagement within the sector, RCUK invested a further £2.4 million in Catalyst funding. The funding was awarded to eight HEIs between April 2012 and March 2015 and intended to act as a catalyst for culture change to help them embed public engagement with research within their policies, procedures and practices.
Beacons for Public Engagement
Beacons for Public Engagement were university-based collaborative centres to help support, recognise, reward and build capacity for public engagement work across the UK. Together with our partners, the UK funding councils and the Wellcome Trust, we are invested £9.2 million into this initiative in order to support a step-change in recognition for public engagement across the higher education sector. There were six Beacons around the UK, and one National Co-ordinating Centre.