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Public engagement 

Universities, their staff and students connect and share their work with the public in many ways. 

Universities are already involved in a huge amount of public engagement. A survey of 22,000 academics in 2009 found that over 35% were involved in some kind of outreach activity. 

We support university staff in carrying out this work. 

Concordat for engaging the public with research

We have signed the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research, which outlines our responsibilities as research funders in supporting public engagement in universities and research institutes.

The Concordat's key principles are:

  • UK research organisations have a strategic commitment to public engagement.
  • Researchers are recognised and valued for their involvement with public engagement activities.
  • Researchers are enabled to participate in public engagement activities through appropriate training, support and opportunities.

National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE)

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement provides a ‘one stop shop’ for anyone in the  university sector to access expertise and resources to support public engagement.

We support public engagement with research through the NCCPE.

Survey of factors affecting public engagement with researchers

We commissioned a survey in 2015, as part of a Consortium of 16 funders of UK public research, to find out the experiences of researchers with public engagement.

The full report is available on the Wellcome Trust’s website.

The survey was designed to build on the 2006 Royal Society Survey of factors affecting science communication

Beacons for Public Engagement

In 2008, six Beacons  for Public Engagement were established around the UK to pilot new methods for public engagement.

We partnered with the other UK Funding Councils, RCUK and Wellcome Trust on the Beacons initiative. 

The Edinburgh Beltane Beacon for Public Engagement developed into the Beltane Public Engagement Network, supported by four Edinburgh universities: the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

An independent review of the Beacons is available on the RCUK website  along with the attached appendices.

Catalysts for public engagement with research

Following the success of the Beacons for Public Engagement, Research Councils UK launched the Public Engagement with Research Catalysts project in 2012. Eight universities were funded to establish support for public engagement with research, drawing on the lessons learnt from the beacons. 

One catalyst project was based in Scotland, at the University of Aberdeen.