Public engagement is the term used in universities to describe the partnerships between university research and different communities.

Our purpose

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.

What we do

Public Engagement with Research is an important part of the research culture at the University. We have a dedicated Public Engagement Manager, supported by our five academic Public Engagement Leads. Communities from across Edinburgh and further afield are involved in our research from a broad range of academic disciplines. We offer training, advice and seed-funding to research staff and students.

Public Engagement takes place at all stages of research: in the planning stages, as the research takes place, and once it has ended.

We understand that effective public engagement relies on building strong relationships with our partners and our public engagement is always for the mutual benefit of all those involved. We recognise the often complex intersection of social class, ethnicity, gender and other factors which need to be considered in planning and carrying out engagement. 


  • To embed public engagement as part of the research culture: Public Engagement with Research will be seen as a core element of research, with support for researchers to develop and enhance engagement
  • To work in partnership with communities: ensuring that mutual benefit is at the heart of engagement, with university processes that are ready to support this work
  • To reward and recognise public engagement in research: time and workload allocation will support researchers to develop and carry out engagement activity; Public Engagement with Research will be included as part of promotional criteria for researchers; we will also make sure that our publics are rewarded and recognised for their input
  • To showcase public engagement: communication will be strengthened and impact will be recognised, thereby increasing the visibility of engagement, and encouraging new partnerships with different publics


Public Engagement with Research at Edinburgh Napier is:

  • inclusive
  • innovative
  • diverse
  • creative

Public Engagement Team

Click thumbnail to learn more about the team.

Dawn Smith

Sam Donnellan
Kirstie Jamieson
Luigi La Spada

Dawn Smith

Public Engagement Officer

Dawn has led Edinburgh Napier University since 2015. She works across the university supporting public engagement in different academic disciplines, promoting different methodological approaches, embedding engagement with different publics into our research. Dawn is the first point of contact for many of our community partners and stakeholders across Edinburgh and further afield.

Dawn’s academic background is in languages meaning she is an expert at translating from academic to plain English and helping researchers communicate their ideas in ways that are accessible.

Dawn is a founding member of the Scottish Public Engagement Network and has delivered at national and international conferences on public engagement, including as a plenary speaker for the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

Dawn, with the five School Public Engagement Leads, is a member of the Public Engagement Forum which directs strategic engagement activity across the university, as well as managing our internal funding programme.

My role is to direct the university’s approach to public engagement. I


0131 455 3354/ 07803 576740

Dr Sam Donnellan

Public Engagement Lead for the School of Applied Sciences

Sam is a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at Napier. Sam predominantly works with a disease that affects the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world, Tuberculosis (TB), and has used public engagement to keep people informed on what is happening within the field of infectious disease. Recent history, having come through a global pandemic, has shown that everyone all over the world is affected.

In 2019 Sam was a TEDx event speaker at Liverpool Museum, where she talked about TB, a terrifying but amazing event.

‘People often think of the ‘mad scientist’ working secretly behind closed doors, but being open about the research we do, and explaining why it matters allows the public and our local communities to learn and engage with us here at Napier, which is so important to help drive research forward.’

‘It is such a nice change from my day to day role, and I find it exciting as well as rewarding. Really enjoy meeting new people, as well as engaging in a new form of research.’

TEDx talk

Dr Kirstie Jamieson

Public Engagement Lead for the School of Arts and Creative Industries

Kirstie is a Lecturer in Design and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2016. Kirstie’s public engagement addresses community heritage, representation, equality and diversity in the public realm.  She is currently working with curators and deaf researchers on the first co-produced draft of a national Deaf Heritage Archive at the National Library of Scotland. She is also developing a project that brings together feminist design with social justice, in the co-production of memorials that remember Scotland’s accused witches.

‘Working with communities [through public engagement] provides me with fantastic opportunities to learn from a diversity of lived experiences that are often missing from academic life. It also nourishes a grounded and reflexive approach to my teaching and research.’

‘Public Engagement is a means to understand, situate and share the relevance and value(s) of creative academic research. It is a sustainable and inclusive route to academic relevance and impact.’


Dr Luigi La Spada

Public Engagement Lead for School of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

Luigi is a Lecturer in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2020. Luigi has been involved in the New Scots Connects project, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious programme, which brings together people who are new to Scotland and engineers. Through working in partnership with Multicultural Family Base in Edinburgh and Science Ceilidh the project has placed diverse migrant voices at the heart of the engagement in these resources, broadening our understanding of what engineering is to different people.

‘Public engagement is a mind-set that acknowledges that the public have a genuine interest in universities. Investing the time to genuinely engage with the public is a critical way of developing better teaching and research practice.’

Photo of Stephen's head and shoulders, he's wearing sunglasses and a blue shirt and standing in front of some rocks

Dr Stephen Smith

Public Engagement Lead for the School of Health and Social Care

Stephen is an Associate Professor in Nursing and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2016. Stephen’s has focused on action research about palliative care for people with dementia, and he has worked with a range of services exploring and implementing evidence-based practice. An important part of the engagement was working alongside, and engaging with people with dementia, their families and staff. Stephen’s current research and teaching focuses on compassionate care, dementia care and quality improvement. He is interested in staff engagement and wellbeing at work and is currently engaged in research with Care Homes exploring these topics.

Public Engagement ‘supports university researchers to actively engage with their communities, ensuring research activity is relevant and makes a difference.’

Dr Louise Todd

Public Engagement Lead for The Business School

Louise is Associate Professor of Festivals, Events and Tourism and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2018. Louise was the academic project lead for the UKRI funded Seven Kingdoms project, collaborating with community partners in Wester Hailes including WHALE Arts and Wester Hailes Community Trust. As a practicing artist and a researcher, Louise uses visual and participative methods to engage different groups, including drawing, mapping, and walking with creative methods. She has been involved in public engagement activities around the idea of festival cities at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Science Festival, alongside Soundwalk September with a geolocated sonic map ‘Festival Soundings of Edinburgh’.

‘Public Engagement is important to my academic discipline of tourism and event studies as both involve interactions and relationships amongst people, ideas, and places. I enjoy the opportunity of working with different people in a collaborative way to co-design creative activities.’