Public Engagement Concordat signed in the UK

A new Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research was launched this week by the UK’s research funding bodies. The Concordat aims to increase the focus on public engagement and to embed it within UK universities and research institutes.

Launched by Research Councils UK (RCUK), the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven Research Councils, there are also eight other signatories from other major UK research funding bodies, and 29 supporters from a range of scientific and influential bodies including The Royal Institution, The Institute of Physics and the Home Office.

This new Concordat provides a single statement of expectations and responsibilities across these funding bodies, and encompasses four main principles:

  1. UK research organisations have a strategic commitment to public engagement
  2. Researchers are recognised and valued for their involvement with public engagement activities
  3. Researchers are enabled to participate in public engagement activities through appropriate training, support and opportunities
  4. The signatories and supporters of this Concordat will undertake regular reviews of their and the wider research sector’s progress in fostering public engagement across the UK

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:
“Engaging people with science and engineering has never been more important. In an increasingly technological world, everyone needs to understand the benefits and potential concerns around new developments which may affect us all. Science engagement can help the public become part of a national conversation on some of the big issues like climate change and renewable energy, ensuring that researchers and policy makers understand the impact of leading research.”

RCUK alone invests around £3 billion annually in research across all academic disciplines. It is hoped that the Concordat will make a significant impact on how Public Engagement is embedded into the research process and systems. RCUK also recognises the lack of private signatories to the Concordat, inviting private sector research funders to use these principles as a tool to foster public engagement within their own organisations.

A short film exploring the benefits of public engagement with research accompanies the release of the Concordat. Produced by Research Councils UK, the film features interviews with leading figures from the academic and research communities and can be viewed here.

Esther Crooks