Public engagement

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:

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:

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-run public events

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:

Networking groups

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!