I recently heard a keynote talk by Sophie Duncan, the Deputy Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, and was really impressed by her enthusiasm for embedding outreach and engagement at every stage of research. Sophie pointed out that there are a number of problems with public engagement as it stands:
- There can be a lack of support and reward for good engagement within departments.
- Outreach tends to be centred on the academic, rather than on the public.
- Groups outside of academia tend not to pro-actively seek academic collaborators.
This is a shame because universities have a wide range of (potentially all) skills that 3rd parties could need, and students comprise a huge pool of labour that can be harnessed to achieve substantial goals. Simple examples include undergraduate student projects in media or web design courses that could be targeted towards charities’ campaigns, or (closer to my area of research and teaching) field and laboratory courses to monitor local environmental issues. I’d be delighted to be approached by groups who were interested in working with me (everyone can consider that an open invitation!) – I might not be able to help personally right now, but I probably know someone who can.
Anyway, sometimes these kinds of projects can be designed outside of the standard research workflow meaning that there might be limited resources to engage the public (and, let’s face it public engagement work is always more attractive to the “powers-that-be” if you can attract a little bit of funding to carry out the work). I have a few projects that I am trying to set up right now, and for that I am going to need a little bit of money. I did some research and found a few funding bodies that might be able to help me, and plenty more that almost certainly can’t. I’ve made a list here as a Google Spreadsheet in case it is useful for others (here is a link to the file online which makes it easier to view):
If anybody spots something that isn’t on there, do let me know in a comment here or on the sheet. I’ll try to keep it reasonably up to date. Also, there is a solid UK focus and the topics are mostly scientific. If people know of other organisations internationally and in other fields I would be more than happy to expand the table to cater for that.