Research Innovation Enterprise

Public Engagement and COVID-19: New Challenges and Opportunities

Engaging the public with our research has changed enormously in the past few weeks. Lockdown and the new COVID-19 restrictions present both challenges and opportunities for public engagement. The School Public Engagement Leads are still working on engagement activity and I am here to help support you.

Traditionally much of the University’s engagement has been interactive, face-to-face, and based at events, many of which have been cancelled or postponed. But it’s not all bad news: the post-expert era seems to have come to a conclusion, with an increased hunger for data across society. This is a great time to be thinking about how you present your research and work with different audiences to help them to understand it, and to include them in it. The frustration of being stuck at home means that some people find themselves with a lot more time on their hands and are looking for new projects to be involved in. Children and young people are now faced with an education system which is unrecognisable from what they (and we) have been used to. Public engagement will need to be different for the time being, and now is the time to listen to communities around us and to work with them to deliver meaningful two-way engagement.

The NCCPE’s guide to online engagement has tips on taking engagement online, and their social media guide from 2018 is a great starting point to share content, live stream and initiate two-way dialogue. Perhaps it’s time to set up a new social media channel, or create some fun interactive quizzes?
There are some existing online events which you can join now: I’m a Scientist Get Me Out Of Here and Skype a Scientist are a great way to consider science communication. The Culture and Wellbeing Community Network Scotland is a Facebook group is a peer network of organisations across Scotland responding to COVID19 and the challenges it presents, particularly social isolation, and there are opportunities for researchers to get involved.

Researchers who applied for internal public engagement funding should by now have been contacted by their School Public Engagement Lead to find out how your project is affected by the Coronavirus and to establish what support you’ll need to reshape your project.

Being visible, relevant and supportive of society is more important now than ever and public engagement is an excellent way for you to make a difference. We are actively looking for new ways to support communities through public engagement. If you have an idea you’d like to discuss or would like to be involved, please get in touch!

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