Factors affecting public engagement by UK researchers

Last year a consortium of funders, led by the Wellcome Trust, published a report about public engagement by researchers. Soon, a workshop organised by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement will help us to reflect on the findings. We'll also check our progress in embedding public engagement within higher education and research.

Findings and reports

    The report was based on a national survey. Its results show a positive shift in researchers' attitudes since 2006. 

    Researchers now are more motivated to do public engagement, although they still experience challenges. The results suggest that we still need to do more to make public engagement an essential part of a research career.

    The shift in attitudes is part of a wider culture change in the research and higher education sectors. This culture change is still ongoing. We believe public engagement should be better valued and more formalised, recognised and supported.

    We created the key findings report to encourage people to discuss the results. It includes an infographic, the consortium's emerging views on the findings, and discussion questions.

    What's next

    In July the Wellcome Trust will host a workshop organised by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. The event will draw on the results of the Factors Affecting Public Engagement survey.

    It will also draw on other sources showing the current state of public engagement in UK universities and research institutes.

    The workshop will include senior staff from universities, researchers, funders and public engagement staff. Participants will consider how we can build on our progress so far and address the remaining challenges.

    The consortium continues to explore ways to better support public engagement by researchers. If you'd like to be part of the discussion, please get in touch.

    About the survey

    Our consortium includes the top 15 funders of publicly funded research in the UK. We reviewed UK researchers' public engagement in higher education, research institutes and clinical settings.

    The survey updated the findings from a 2006 survey of scientists and engineers. Read Factors Affecting Science Communication by Scientists and Engineers on the Royal Society website.

    The consortium commissioned TNS-BMRB to conduct the research. We wanted to understand:

    • what the term 'public engagement' means to UK researchers
    • how important communication and public engagement are to them
    • how much communication and public engagement they do
    • the factors that make public engagement easier or more difficult
    • how universities, other research institutions and funders can support effective public engagement.

    The research included:

    • a literature review
    • a web survey of research staff in universities, research institutes and clinical settings
    • a web survey of the staff who support researchers in their public engagement activities
    • qualitative research with 50 researchers.

    The surveys included research and support staff from all disciplines.

    Download the dataset from the survey [ZIP 224KB]. You need SPSS software to see this data.

    Consortium members

    • Academy of Medical Sciences
    • British Academy
    • Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, UK
    • Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland
    • Higher Education Funding Council for England
    • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
    • National Institute for Health Research, Department of Health
    • Research Councils UK
    • Royal Society of Chemistry
    • Scottish Funding Council
    • Scottish Government
    • The Royal Academy of Engineering
    • The Royal Society
    • Wellcome Trust
    • Health and Care Research Wales, Welsh Government

    The project was also supported by Professor Patrick Sturgis, director of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods; Universities UK; and Vitae.