The Swedish government has clearly stated that it is the duty of a university to collaborate with the surrounding society, to inform people about its research results and to work to ensure that its research is also of use to society.
However, engagement with society on scientific issues is given a low priority and is not sufficiently integrated into education and research. One reason for this is that public engagement is often seen as optional, voluntary, and as something good to do if researchers have time. Researchers need incentives and recognition to be motivated to take part. One important and effective method could be to include indicators on public engagement for the resource allocation to universities.
Based on country studies, expert interviews and a literature review we developed several public engagement indicators that could be used for resource allocation to universities or within universities. Although rewarding activities by budget enlargement or constraints is one way to promote public engagement, it is a rather top-down approach.
Applying the indicators does not necessarily mean that the researchers and university administrations are intrinsically convinced of the importance of public engagement.
The incentive for researchers to engage in public engagement may remain low because a fundamental cultural change is lacking. Therefore bottom-up approaches for promoting public engagement of universities and triggering a cultural change are also recommended.