What is Public Engagement?

In a nutshell, your engagement needs to: 

  • Involve publics 
  • Have a focus on your research 
  • Include two-way dialogue 

Deciding whether an activity is public engagement with research can be tricky as there are similar areas which have an overlap, and some activities may involve more than one of these areas.    

Diagram showing the overlapping areas of public engagement, outreach and community engagement, media and press communication, and impact.

Outreach and Community Engagementdescribes activity which involves schools or other external groups.  If it focuses on your research, then it might be public engagement. 

Media and Press Communication is a one-way form of communication, with the potential to reach lots of people.  If it includes dialogue, with two-way communication (for example through social media), it might be public engagement. 

REF Impact is a wide category which includes different types of engagement. Public engagement may be one of the methods used to achieve or demonstrate impact, but the two terms are not interchangeable. 

Inspiring, consulting and collaborating with publics to mutually benefit both our research and our society.  Public engagement is a two-way process, enhancing research by promoting trust, accountability and involvement for all those involved. We are committed to working in partnership with individuals, communities and organisations. 

Edinburgh Napier Public Engagement Strategy