Research and public engagement
The University is committed to embedding a culture of public engagement with research at Edinburgh, putting in place the mechanisms to enable the widest possible range of audiences to understand and make use of our research.
Supporting public engagement with research
In the last year the University published a new strategy on public engagement ‘Strategy for Supporting Public Engagement with Research’. The University aims to have a reputation for engagement and impact that matches its reputation for world-class research. The University recognises that, in order to achieve this, it must fully embed a culture of public engagement with research at the University of Edinburgh.
In its new strategy, the University describes public engagement as the enabling of “the widest possible range of audiences to understand and make use of our research, and to ensure that our research is placed in the service of communities locally and internationally”.
Implementation of the Strategy will be led by the University’s Assistant Vice Principal Community Relations, Lesley McAra. The Assistant Principal will be supported by the University’s Public Engagement Strategic Coordination Group, whose members are the directors of public engagement and/or knowledge exchange in each of the University’s Colleges, plus staff from Communications and Marketing and the Institute for Academic Development.
Public engagement in practice
The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CoDI) provides an informal but high-profile platform for researchers to discuss their work with members of the public. It is curated by the University as part of Beltane Public Engagement Network, produced by Fair Pley, and compered by comedian Susan Morrison.
It is a blend of controversial academic research, audience interaction, and a dash of comedy at the world’s largest arts festival. It is a unique programme of events which offer the public an opportunity to engage with world-class researchers in an entertaining environment. In 2017, a total of 48 shows were delivered to an audience of over two thousand people.
Evaluation carried out by the organisers’ shows that around 88 per cent of audience members learnt something new at the shows they attended and almost 50 per cent said they’d changed their minds on a subject as a result of the discussion.
In September 2017, the University hosted Explorathan, reaching over 3,000 members of the general public from across Edinburgh. The programme included a series of shows, talks, comedy and family activities that aim to raise awareness about research. Explorathan is part of the European Researchers’ Night, a European Commission initiative. This Europe wide public and open event aims to raise awareness about research, dispel stereotypes about researchers and entice young people to take up a research career in the future. The University will be co-hosting the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s Engage Conference in 2018.
Planetary Health Conference
In May 2018, the University of Edinburgh hosted the second Planetary Health Conference, building upon the successful inaugural Planetary Health Meeting in Boston in 2017. The University was a key partner in the organisation of the conference, along with the Planetary Health Alliance, the American Geophysical Union, the Wellcome Trust and many others. The conference brought together new communities from around the world to stimulate interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration towards ground-breaking solutions to major planetary health challenges.
The objective of the conference was to examine how the health impacts of various global environmental changes manifest in regional settings and to highlight emerging responses to planetary health issues. By engaging with researchers, policy makers, planners and local communities who experience these planetary health impacts, the conference aims to progress tailored policies built on action focused research and innovations across sectors. Through gathering a diverse group in-person and via small regional satellite sessions, we will expand the global reach and perspective of the planetary health community in pursuit of advancing planetary health solutions.