Engaging with research users
Research users are any persons, group, organisation or company who may be affected by, interested in, profit from, deliver or experience the change that happens as a result of your research findings. As you start mapping these groups, draw out what they might gain or why they may be interested in your research.
You may engage with different research users in different ways -- such as informing them of your research findings; consulting with and/or involving them in your research process to make sure you are asking the right questions; or collaborating with them to co-develop your research.
Building relationships with research users from the start of your research, and maintaining a bidirectional interaction with them at all stages of the research process can lead to generating effective impact as well as informing future research or other impact-related activities. This may also provide evidence of impact (which can be useful for REF purposes and future funding), expand the reach of your impact-related activity, help raise your external (and internal) profile, and lead to unforeseen opportunities for future collaboration.
Engaging with Public
The University of Glasgow holds partnerships with various organisations through which you can easily engage with the public and various communities in Glasgow.
The University has a Public and Community Engagement Adviser, Dr Zara Gladman, who can advise on best practice related to your PE activity and evaluation, and organises the Explorathon participation for the University. Contact her at: email@example.com.
The Public Engagement web pages provide information to help you plan out effective public engagement activity related to your research and can point you to specific PE advisers located in Schools or Colleges.
- Before you start: Articulate your objectives for carrying out a public engagement activity. This will enable you to effectively measure and capture the outcomes/impacts. Ben Gammon's briefing is a useful guide on how to define learning outcomes for a public engagement project.
- Plan your evaluation method to capture the outcomes of your event.
- When putting up an event on a public platform, always make sure to carry a poster or display or pamphlet that very briefly describes your research, as that will help the public identify you, the research group and the University you represent. Top tips on designing posters or displays can be found here.
- Ten Common Pitfalls by Wellcome Trust lists some useful suggestions for improving your public engagement funding application.
- Wellcome Trust -Planning your public engagement activities and Sense about Science - Public engagement: a practical guide provide useful tips on how to engage with the public and communicate your research.
- NCCPE (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement) website is a good source to find guidance for developing partnerships with festivals, local communities, museum and libraries, and various other public organisations.
'Creating an Engaging Video' webisode series by Dr Zara Gladman will help you to create engaging videos for presenting your research and its impact to a non-specialist audience.
Working with Businesses via Knowledge Exchange schemes
Knowledge exchange (KE) is a two-way flow of knowledge, expertise and skilled people between the research environment and its user communities in the private, public and third sectors and can be an effective route to reach your research user and to help drive impacts from your findings.
Top tips for working with external partners:
The most productive academic-business partnerships are those that last. Take a long-term approach to building and working with partners from outside of academia.
- Make it easy for yourself to meet businesses by working with the people and organisations set up to connect academics to business; your college Business Development Manager and KE Associates, Interface, Innovation Centers (e.g. IBioIC, CENSIS, SMS-IC).
- Build lots of relationships; the operations of many organisations go in cycles, meaning that ‘today’ might not be the right time to work together. Keep in touch and when the organisation is ready you will be there.
- The goals, timelines and success criteria for academics are usually quite different to those of other sectors. Take time to understand each other; it will help further down the line.
- As academics you are experts in your fields. Figuring out how your research might help with a specific challenge being faced in a certain sector can be difficult but it is worth trying to do so, especially when you are out networking because you can easily communicate the potential value of your research findings to the people you meet.
- Good communication is key. It builds a relationship, leads to collaborations and helps avoid or solve problems that may arise while working together.
- Get yourself on a training course! Ask your College Business Development Manager or Research and Innovation Services for information on the next course dates or check on your Core HR site for training and professional development opportunities.
There are many routes to engaging with businesses and other external organisations, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, consultancy, commission work and contract research.
The University’s KE team will provide support and facilitate knowledge exchange between the University academics and external partners.
Engaging with Policymakers
Policymakers require evidence to amend policy or its implementation, or to develop new policies. Policy impacts are achieved when your research findings provide evidence and/or influence policy debate, awareness and sometimes a change of policy. More information on how to engage with policymakers at local and national level can be found below:
- Research Impact at the UK Parliament is an extensive resource to help plan your engagement with the Parliament (also includes information on All-Party Parliamentary Groups).
- ‘Top 10 tips for engaging and communicating with policy makers ’ produced by the British Ecological Society and the LSE blog on '10 Ways scientists can better engage with decision makers' provide guidance on how you can effectively engage with the policymakers.
- Scottish University Life Science Alliance report on 'Engaging with Parliament' details the differences and roles of both Parliaments, Holyrood and Westminster, and lists channels through which you can engage with the policy- makers to present your research findings at the parliament.
- ‘How to engage with policy makers’ document by the AHRC and the Institute for Government provides a useful guide for academics in the arts and humanities.
- Tips for writing an effective policy brief for the UK and the EU can be found on UK Parliament web page and BiodivERsA (an European Research Area Network) produced ‘How to write a policy brief ’ report.
- 'An introduction to achieving policy impact for early career researchers' is a useful guide to plan your pathway to achieve policy impact.
- In Autmn 2020, the Knowledge Exchange team of the UK Parliament ran a series of free online training events for academic reseachers and knowledge mobilisers to give an insight on how to engage with the Parliament. More details on the website 'Online training for researchers'.
- The POST Academic fellowships and PhD fellowships are a good channel to engage with the Parliament.
Scottish Policy & Research Exchange have useful resources to help connect with the policymakers.
We suggest subscribing to London School of Economics ‘Impact Blog’ which is a good resource to understand the impact of social sciences research on policy, and more.
Working with Schools
Widening Participation team at the University can help you connect with schools in and around Glasgow. You can also organise school events through Glasgow Science Festival.
National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) provides useful guidance on working with schools.
Inspiring Young People In STEM: Planning Activities is a freely available online course to help you plan and design STEM activities for young people.
Engaging with teachers with your research for their professional development (CPD) can be an effective route to impact which can be recorded over time and can generate secondary impacts. UKRI published Engaging Young People with Cutting Edge Research provides guidance on how researchers and teachers can work together.
For further resources see the UKRI web pages on Resources and funding for schools activities and smaller initiatives and Guides, policies, research and publications.
An Economic & Social Research Council funded project provides additional top tips when engaging with teachers.
Engaging via Social Media
Social media can be a useful channel through which you can communicate your research findings and engage with the public. Guidance on how to build your online identity and engage professionally with social media can be found on the University web page 'Your digital footprint'.
Economic and Social Research Council's Social Media Toolkit provides guidance and useful tips on best practice for using social media to disseminate your research.
Other channels to increase the online visibility of your research work can be found on the Unviersity web page for 'Sharing your Research'. Tips on communicating your research via website can be found here.
We recommend that you screen grab or archive all your online and social media engagement for evidence collection.
We suggest subscribing to London School of Economics and Political Science ‘Impact Blog’ which is a good resource for how to engage with research users using social media and other channels, and more. They also have a useful guide for academic use of Twitter in research, teaching and impact.