Public engagement in research takes many forms. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) describes public engagement as “intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public.” As visually depicted in Figure 1, engagement can be the participation of citizens in the research itself, the facilitation of interactions between scientists and the public through public forums or community organization programs/events, or the dissemination of information regarding your research and/or creative activity through communication channels.
Figure 1. A visual model of public engagement (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Public Engagement Model)
Federal agencies express interest in research and creative activity that promotes meaningful public engagement. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) explicitly requires projects to incorporate broader impacts (Narrative Issue: Communicating Broader Impacts), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regularly engages in a range of outreach efforts as well as requests public input on projects.
Who are “public audiences”?
Stakeholders for your research will often include members of the general public. Some examples of these groups include:
- Citizens (taxpayers)
- Collaborators and researchers in your field
- Researchers outside your field
- Institutional partners
- Funding agencies and foundations
- Government officials, including policy makers
Direct engagement with the public.
“Citizen-science" opportunities (also known as "community-based science," or "public science") offer a range of participatory activities to the general public. This kind of engagement may involve collecting data, conducting analysis, or participating in the research itself. For example, the National Geographic Society promotes ongoing citizen science opportunities.
Should your research plan include a participatory component, be sure to develop a framework for evaluation. Dr. Tina Phillips, et al. explore learning outcomes and methods for evaluation in their article on measuring outcomes in citizen science. Here at IU, OVPR’s Center for Evaluation, Policy and Research (CEPR) can help with measuring the impact of your efforts.