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Public engagement with research

A grant from Research Councils UK will enable Birkbeck to build upon existing public engagement initiatives and enrich our culture of engagement.

Birkbeck has been awarded £60,000 from Research Councils UK (RCUK) through their Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research (SEE-PER) funding initiative. RCUK’s key aim for this funding call is to enrich and embed an institutional culture supportive of public engagement with research.

Universities are being urged by all major research funders in the UK to engage with the public by interacting with communities to share and develop ideas for research. The funding has been awarded at a crucial moment for Birkbeck, where we have been developing a more targeted strategy to promote public engagement.

But public engagement with research is not new at Birkbeck, even if we haven’t always called it that. As Professor Miriam Zukas, Birkbeck’s Public Engagement Champion and Principal Investigator for the project, noted: “For many researchers, interacting with communities to share and develop ideas for research is critical for meaningful research.

“We want to celebrate our work and build on our traditions of learning with our communities to enrich what we already do well and to be even better. This work requires dedicated resources so this award is a great opportunity for us as a College to build sustainable support for public engagement.”

Mary-Clare Hallsworth, Public Engagement Manager, who will lead the project team, said: “This is fantastic news for the College. Birkbeck researchers are some of the most actively engaged researchers I have come across in the sector – this funding really gives the College a chance to support their activities, reward excellence and inspire others to do the same. We’ll be using the funding to further develop our infrastructure and initiatives to really encourage a culture of outstanding engaged research”

The funds from RCUK will support two new positions - public engagement coordinator and evaluation officer - which will bring additional expertise to the public engagement team. The new roles will enable the College to offer a programme of new initiatives to support public engagement including additional training and the public engagement awards. 

Birkbeck already has a seed funding programme for public engagement with science and biomedical related humanities through a Wellcome ISSF award. This new SEE-PER funding enables the College to build upon and extend the existing provision to include Arts, Humanities and Social Science. 

Pro-vice Master for Research, Professor Julian Swann said: “It has always been part of Birkbeck’s ambition to promote a research culture that makes a positive difference to society.  This project will assist us in enhancing the infrastructure for supporting the engagement of our researchers with social issues; facilitating the development of applications of research; and for making constructive partnerships that might allow research findings to be developed and exploited creatively."

Support is available to researchers wanting to integrate public engagement at any stage of their work from preparing funding applications to disseminating the results of their research. 

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