The Public Engagement Team during Lockdown

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Friday 28 August 2020

If any of you have met the public engagement team, you’ll know they don’t love anything more than being out in the community engaging people with the outstanding research taking place across the University. From working in shopping centres, to prisons, to working with the homeless, to working with school children, the public engagement team is always out and about with Calum McAndrew being particularly hard to contain.

Since March, when working from home had to quickly become the new norm, and face-to-face deliveries was stopped, what have we done to keep our communities engaged, and to ensure that all of your hard work and research is still getting talked about?

Due to modern technology, we were still able to hold one of our annual events – BioBlitz. This year, it was adapted to only be from around your house, back garden (for those fortunate to have one) or what you saw on your once per day hour of exercise. Using the app iNaturalist, communities were able to snap pictures of any plants or wildlife they saw, upload it, and then our team of 17 specialists were working hard in the background to identify every snap. We had over 393 people take part with over 731 species identified. Defying all the odds, we were able to have a bioblitz bigger than ever!

I’m sure many will have noticed, we have a new online delivery called ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA). We have been so enthused by the multitude of researchers signing up to take part. We very quickly got booked out for months in advance! For the few of you who are not familiar, this takes place over facebook, and at the beginning of the week, we put out a video introducing a researcher and their topic. We then sit back and let the questions roll in (average around 10-15 per week), the researcher picks their top 3, and we post a video of their answers. Be sure to check out some of the previous ones – you’ll be sure to learn something new! This has been so popular, that this will be a continuous feature in our delivery suit. So, if you want to sign up, feel free to fill in the form.

A key part in helping us make that decision, was the CEED STEP interns. We were lucky enough to have three STEP intern teams from CEED, which allowed us to spend time diving deep into our public engagement. There was a whole team dedicated to exploring the viability and best practice of the AMA project, and therefore making it as successful as possible. Other teams also explored online platforms for future delivery events, and another team, investigated public engagement strategy of other institutions allowing us to continue to have best practice, and set future goals. We are very thankful to all the work done by the STEP Teams.

Due to the AMA project, there has also been three individuals who have been able to complete their PEP (public engagement portfolio) training, with many others having made great leaps in their training during lockdown. We listened to the needs of our trainees and have been able to put on many new training courses, to demonstrate that public engagement can continue online. A few short snapshots of the some of the work people produced in just one short training session, can be seen in the video. These were produced from a session entitled ‘visualize your research’, by the ever-popular Alina Loth. This session was booked out twice over within the first few minutes of it being announced, and those who were able to attend thoroughly enjoyed it! Some images were also produced during the ‘Find your public engagement voice’ core training course. Other courses which have all been very popular during lock down have included bespoke training about writing for a public audience, from The Conversation’, and training on GDPR and risk assessments when conducting public engagement. Don’t worry about feeling left out – we still have plenty more training coming next year – this includes training on how to have your research involved in policy. To not miss out in the latest training, make sure to sign up to the PEP and follow in the new PEP Hub on Teams.

Overall, the public engagement team have worked hard to ensure this academic year, public engagement will be bigger and better than before, with securing grants for our usual projects such as Explorathon, and Cell Block Science, as well as new projects, totaling bringing in nearly £60,000 during semester 2.

 

 

If there’s a public engagement project you’d like to fulfill, or training you would like to receive feel free to email the public engagement team on standengaged@st-andrews.ac.uk

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