Having just come into post as the Events Co-Ordinator for BU’s Festival of Learning I am just being introduced to the concept of public engagement, and Eric Jensen’s recent podcast on “Public Engagement and the Public Understanding of Science” was an enlightening listen on what public engagement is, and why it is so important.
Jensen starts by telling us about how the idea of public engagement came about from public understanding of science, and how it spread across several other academic disciplines such as the social sciences and humanities. He also tells us about the implications of this change, how events such as public lectures are only focused outwards whereas engagement events need to have inward input as well. This message is at the heart of the upcoming Festival of Learning as well as smaller events such as Café Scientifique Bournemouth being launched this October by colleagues from BU and AECC.
Another key point mentioned is the importance of evaluation and assessment. Evaluation and reflection are how we learn so should be applied to every situation in order to improve for the future. Asking yourself questions about the events being hosted, for example “Is this event cost effective and sustainable?” or perhaps “Could I engage more people more effectively through a different style of event?” are simple ways to assess what you’re doing and make sure the events are a worthwhile use of time and resources!
As public engagement becomes more and more important, with it now featuring as an aspect to be considered in research funding applications, it becomes vital to use engagement funding creatively and efficiently to provide interesting events as a forum for debate, discussion and interaction with those from all walks of society.
If you’d like to learn more about the development of public engagement activities around your research please contact Becca Edwards.