Left to right: Lorna Harries, John Chilton, John Plunkett and Sharon Strawbridge

First public engagement champions selected

January saw the selection of the University’s first public engagement champions by the Catalyst project. The academics are John Chilton and Lorna Harries (UEMS), Caitlin DeSilvey (Environment and Sustainability Institute), John Plunkett (English) and Sharon Strawbridge (Physics).

The Catalyst project is a three-year Research Council UK (RCUK) funded initiative to support and develop a culture of public engagement with research within the University of Exeter. We are one of eight universities who were successful in securing this funding.

John Chilton and Lorna Harries explain their approach: “We face a perennial challenge to persuade colleagues, from students to lecturers, to value and participate in public engagement. There may be many reasons for this – perceived lack of time, awareness, relevance or skills – so we would like to run a workshop aimed at research scientists to address this. The goal will eventually be to make public engagement the norm for Exeter researchers rather than being seen as a hobby or chore for a minority.

“The more of our colleagues that get involved, the wider the range of skills and interests they will bring and thus a greater variety of opportunities for engagement will arise. This is a more efficient, productive and sustainable way to foster such a culture than us trying to target an increasing number of demographics ourselves.”

The Catalyst blog will provide updates of progress and activities, acting as an open record of thoughts and decisions as the project develops and also as a place for discussion on key issues about public engagement with research (PER). It welcomes guest bloggers from across the University.

The first round of Seed Funds for activities which help to embed public engagement practice and support a culture of public engagement across the University has also been made available. The call document and application form can be downloaded from the website and the deadline for applications is 1 March 2013.

The Project Manager at Exeter is Helen Featherstone and Robin Durie is the lead academic.

Date: 12 February 2013

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