April 25, 2014, by Veronica Strain

Engaging the Public with Research at Access & Communities

Nottingham Catalyst is a three year project based in Access & Communities and  sponsored by the Research Councils UK (RCUK). We are concerned with ways of improving the level of public engagement with research at the University, particularly engagement with members of the public who seldom or never engage with Higher Education. We are also looking at ways to better support Academic and Research staff in their public engagement activity.Public engagement is a highly important aspect of research and describes the variety of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public.

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Community groups tell us how they would like to engage with research.

I meet a lot of people who have never heard of Nottingham Catalyst. So when I explain what we do it’s always a pleasant revelation to them. The project runs until March 2015 and we are merrily beavering away on our core project remit of improving the University’s channels and capacity for public engagement with research. We look after the development of public engagement training (with Professional Development and the Graduate School); manage a partnership fund that provides small grants for public engagement with research; work on the awarding/rewarding of staff public engagement and broker partnerships between the University’s research and the public (mainly through a network of community organisations).

We live at Kings Meadow Campus – a little bit of an outpost in geographic terms – but we are a happy bunch and greet all visitors to our outpost with a cheery welcome and a hot steaming Costa. We are a small project team (a part-time Administrator and myself), and have a network of support throughout the University, with PVC Sarah O’Hara as our project champion.

Although a three year project, we have great plans for sustaining our work, including the development of a dedicated public engagement office to support staff and students in their public engagement activity. We are part of a network of 8 UK Universities that have received similar funding. We are guided in our endeavours by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).

In addition to our core project activity, we are also launching a very exciting pilot initiative called “University of Nottingham on Tour”. “University of Nottingham on Tour” is an experimental project to provide new and exciting platforms for public engagement with research. We will be taking lectures and demonstrations out of the University and into public places and spaces, including community halls and festivals.

The pilot for Nottingham on Tour will launch in May 2014, and the project will run for five months. We have already issued calls for expressions of interest, but if you have an interest to get involved, please let us know. The themes we are covering are: The Mind; The Body; Nottingham Life; Climate and Sustainability; and World War 1 Commemoration.

If you would like to find out more about Nottingham Catalyst our website lives here: http://bit.ly/1gyrP8m or if you wish to contact us directly our email address is nottingham-catalyst@nottingham.ac.uk. More information on NCCPE and public engagement resources are available at https://www.publicengagement.ac.uk.

Posted in CommunitySkills Sharing