By Claudine Anderson, Policy Manager, Public Engagement with Research, RCUK Strategy Unit.
Last week the winner of Engage 2014 was announced to celebrate achievements in public engagement with research across the UK.
The competition, organised by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement and funded by RCUK, the UK Higher Education Funding Councils and the Wellcome Trust, received over 230 entries by the time the deadline closed at the end of March, making it a challenging task for the panel of judges. After many hours of reading carefully through high-quality applications, followed by a period of heated debate and deliberation, the panel finally decided on the competition’s winners.
The winners were announced at a ceremony held at the prestigious Natural History Museum, London. The event, compered by Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director of the NCCPE, opened with a speech by Professor John Womersley, CEO STFC and RCUK Public Engagement with Research, who spoke on behalf of the NCCPE funders about why they support public engagement. Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham, then gave a passionate talk about the importance of public engagement and the benefits it brings to researchers, their research, the public and society.
Emulating the Oscars each category was introduced by dramatic music and footage was played to the audience to give an insight about the project. The projects were from diverse disciplines – from STEM and health and wellbeing, through to history and heritage, and the arts, design and culture. They were also broad in range from those undertaken by an individual researcher to large-scale or collaborative projects. All were exceptionally high in standard and each well deserved to be in the finals.
Alice Roberts built up the suspense with nail-biting pauses, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats before revealing the winners and presenting them with their trophy. The overall winner of Engage 2014 was announced by Paul Manners, Director of the NCCPE, who awarded the prize to the CAER Heritage Project at Cardiff University. The CAER Heritage Project involves archaeologists and historians from Cardiff University who teamed up with local community organisation ACE (Action in Caerau and Ely), residents and schools to explore Cardiff’s prehistoric past and put people at the heart of the cutting-edge research. The judges all agreed that CAER Heritage was an exceptional project and a great example of co-produced research. The judges were also impressed with how the project has emerged and evolved as opportunities were realised. In addition to winning the trophy, the team received £2500 for them to develop or share their engagement work with others.
It was really pleasing to discover some of the amazing public engagement activities taking place in universities and Engage 2014 highlighted the extent to which public engagement is thriving across the UK. Well done to everyone who took part!