Name: Maggie Leggett
Research institution: Centre for Public Engagement, Communications and Marketing Division, University of Bristol
Research career length: 13 years
Research Council: Previously employed by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Location: Bristol, England
Brief summary of research: Run support services department in public engagement and dialogue
9 ‘O’ levels, 3 A-levels
BSc in Genetics, University of Nottingham
PhD in Evolutionary Genetics, University of Nottingham
Diploma in business administration and management
Postdoc in genetics research, University of Nottingham
Biology teacher in private secondary schools in England and Spain
Open University lecturer and tutor
External relations Manager and subsequently Deputy Executive Secretary at the Physiological Society
Head of Public Engagement, BBSRC
Head of the Centre for Public Engagement, University of Bristol
Academic research is often funded by government, which means it is paid for by ordinary people through taxes. Research can lead to major changes in the way we live our lives. For these reasons, communications experts like Maggie Leggett, bring researchers and the public together, to help understand each other’s interests and concerns.
I am passionate about science and have been, since a young age. I am not sure what led to this passion, as none of my teachers were particularly inspiring and my parents were more focused on the arts than the sciences. Neither of my parents was able to go to university, although my father eventually got a degree at night school, but I’m fairly certain that it was his belief in the value of education that contributed to my career path. The careers guidance I received at all stages was poor and I am very keen that young people should be able to find out more about the vast range of options open to them.
Working with different people and groups, including members of the public and community groups, helps ensure that Bristol University's research and teaching is relevant to society and addresses society's needs and concerns. My work supports academics working with members of the public and community groups at all stages of their research, from designing collaborative projects through to ensuring the outcomes of research reach their target audiences. My team supports and promotes public engagement across the University, which means I develop strategy and promote the value of our work, both inside and outside the University.
There are many things that I find fulfilling about my role, but I especially enjoy working with academics who can be doubtful or fearful about public engagement, and seeing them grow to absolutely love it and incorporate it into their work.
Following a PhD in genetics I did a short postdoc, but knew I didn't really want to stay in research. However, since I enjoyed talking and writing about my work, and teaching Undergraduates , I tried (unsuccessfully) to find a university job that would mainly involve teaching. I then worked in private schools, teaching biology in England and Spain for five years. Whilst also working for the Open University as a summer school Lecturer , I secured a job in a learned society - the Physiological Society. Learned societies are set up to promote an academic discipline, and typically run conferences and publish members’ work. I started out as a grants administrator but soon moved to an external relations position and then was promoted to a position as second-in-command. I absolutely loved working there - alongside academics, becoming involved with policy work and carrying out a lot of outreach and engagement work. I became very interested in the relationship between science and society - especially controversial issues, such as the use of animals in research. It was this work that brought me into contact with the Head of Communications at one of the research councils. I moved to her team as Head of Public Engagement and spent four years there before moving to my current post.