The Award celebrates those engaging and interacting with others through their research. The three humanities finalists are no strangers to public engagement and relished the opportunity to showcase this fundamental part of their approach to research.
Engagement is the cornerstone of Dr Janet Goodall’s research around increasing parental engagement in children’s learning. She is a recognised expert on the subject; her research embraces schools, local authorities, charities, governments, academic and consumer media. Dr Goodall is excited about others being interested in her work and where it might lead. She said: “We have 28% children living in poverty in the UK. I’m excited about how my research might be able to change the position of these kids.”
Dr Justin Rogers sees the key to successful engagement as working in partnership and giving something in return. He said: “We were keen to avoid being ‘fly in, fly out’ researchers solely interested in gathering data. Instead, we have offered something more collaborative and sustainable; for example, we provided training for social workers and foster carers.” In his research with young refugees, Dr Rogers has been inspired by the young people’s resilience. He found them hopeful and thankful, thriving on seizing the opportunities available to them.
Dr Rogers is proud of what the team achieved with the Public Engagement Unit’s seed funding, and encouraged by the President and Vice-Chancellor's support for public engagement through the existence of this award. He commented: “For me as an ‘early career’ researcher, this public engagement work forms the basis of further research, helping me build my own capacity. It also has mutual benefit for those who commit to being involved in the projects.”
Dr Afroditi Stathi also values the support of the Vice-Chancellor by raising the profile of public engagement through the award. She said: “It’s important academics are acknowledged for the time they commit to public engagement, but also the significant work done by the Public Engagement Unit to endorse this approach.”
For Dr Stathi, believing in the reasons for public engagement is critical. She said: “It’s not a box ticking exercise; you should be very clear why you’re doing it.” In her research about active ageing, she’s found those she engages want to know they’re heard. It’s this applied nature of public engagement research which motivates Dr Stathi the most.
Professor David Galbreath, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, is thrilled to see the Faculty represented so well in this year’s award. He said: “The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences prides itself in being able to engage with its key audiences and co-produce research with stakeholders. The finalists in this year’s Award illustrate the Faculty’s particular strength in this area, and I congratulate them all on their achievement.”
The Vice-Chancellor's Award for Public Engagement with Research will be presented at Engage: Public Engagement in Practice on Wednesday 3 May 2017, 1 to 4pm.