Interested in public engagement and not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions and links to spark your interest.
Remember that public engagement comes in all shapes and sizes – if you are not comfortable with public speaking there are many other ways to get involved, such as blogging, coordinating activities and volunteering at local events.
Public Engagement is what you make it, and is cumulative. This page is by no means exhaustive – the more you get involved, the more people you will meet and more opportunities will present themselves.
Where to start and general information
The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement website has a lot of general information about public engagement, such as what it’s all about and why it is important, as well as advice about getting started with it yourself.
Many host universities or institutions have their own teams dedicated to outreach, so be sure to contact them when thinking about doing your own outreach:
- The University of Bristol Centre for Public Engagement (CPE). The CPE have a regular ‘Engagers’ Digest’ of local events and opportunities, here you can read previous editions and sign up to the mailing list.
- The University of Bath Public Engagement website
- Cardiff University Public Engagement website
- The University of Exeter have dedicated Public Engagement Champions to support staff and postgraduates with their own public engagement projects.
If you are comfortable with social media, Twitter in particular is a good way of finding out about what is going on in the world of science communication. Try following organisations and people you know are involved in public engagement. Twitter is also a great place to publicise your own activities in science communication!
Volunteering at science festivals
An easy way to get out there and find out more about science communication is to volunteer at the many local and national Science Festivals that take place in the UK (and abroad!). There are usually a variety of roles you can do, from general volunteer behind the scenes, to coordinating events, to running your own workshop. Most festivals have deadlines for applications, so be sure to keep a note of these. National and international science festivals include:
- The Cheltenham Science Festival is extremely popular with the public and is a great experience. General volunteering is usually for a week at the beginning of June.
- The British Science Festival have a number of volunteer roles available.
- The Pint of Science International Festival takes place each year in many cities including Bristol and Bath.
- The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair which has roles such as STEM Inspiration Volunteer, Careers Captain Volunteer and competition judges.
- IF Oxford is an annual science and ideas festival organised by the Oxfordshire Science Festival.
- The Abu Dhabi Science Festival
- The USA Science and Engineering Festival
Keep an eye out for local festivals too, such as:
Local volunteering opportunities
If you fancy doing some on-going volunteering, why not get involved with local projects and museums, such as:
Want to practise public speaking?
If you are keen on public speaking, but not sure how to get started or how to practise, there are a couple of local and national opportunities to do this.
- Local events include Science Showoff at The Grain Barge, which comes to Bristol every 2-3 months. This is an open-mic science communication night where anyone can sign up to do a 9-minute talk/set on any science you like.
- Why not join a public speaking group, such as the Toastmasters in Bath, among other cities.
- International and National science communication competitions such as Soapbox Science (aimed at promoting female scientists in the UK).
Working with schools
If you are predominantly interested in working with schools, a great way to get started is to sign up as a STEM Ambassador. As a registered STEM Ambassador you will be sent opportunities to engage with schools in your local area, for example you can be invited to give talks, workshops, or help out at school careers/science events.
Other ways to get engaged with schools:
- University of Bristol Outreach
- University of Bath Widening Participation Team
- I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here! This is a free online event where school students can chat with scientists in an X-factor-style competition.
- The Institute of Physics run many other outreach activities.
- Cardiff University School of Medicine do various outreach activities and events.
University-run public events
- The University of Bristol Art of Science Competition – an annual competition run for UoB students and staff. Entries are displayed as a public exhibition.
- The University of Bath Images of Research event – for University of Bath students and staff. Also a public exhibition.
- Cardiff University run Brain Games – a set of fun and interactive activities aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils at The National Museum Cardiff to celebrate Brain Awareness Week.
- Rothamsted run Public Meetings among other events to showcase research on soil science, climate change and food production.
- Cafe Scientifique organised by members of the University of Exeter – these are monthly talks. Also one in Cardiff.
Science writing competitions
For any budding writers, there are a few science writing competitions that take place annually. Also, why not start your own blog, or contribute to an existing one, such as The University of Exeter’s general blog where you can talk about research or other topics.
Science Writing Competitions:
There are a number of social and networking groups for people that work in science and/or are interested in public engagement:
- Bristol Science Communicators Facebook Group, a group for discussions between science communicators in Bristol. Keep an eye out for similar groups in your area.
- Girl Geek Dinners is an organisation that was set up in 2005 to support women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) disciplines. They aim to have regular meetings/dinners, often with an invited speaker. Girl Geek Dinners takes place in many cities internationally and nationally, including Bath and Bristol.
- Science Grrl is a national organisation that also supports women in STEM disciplines, with an emphasis on promoting the presence of female scientists in the media and in culture. There are many “chapters” around the country, including one in Bristol. The organisation is always keen to set up more chapters so you can set one up where you are if you wish!