New STFC Fellowship scheme to enhance engagement between public and scientists

Christopher Frost

The team at CLF demonstrate the magical side of lasers.
(Credit: STFC)

21 February 2017

Pioneering programme seeks to boost engagement skills within wider science community

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has launched a new leadership scheme to help inspirational researchers champion public engagement across their academic communities. The call for applicants to the scheme – which seeks to empower scientists to train other scientists in public engagement – is now open and replaces STFC’s existing Public Engagement Fellowships.

Our Leadership Fellows in Public Engagement will support passionate academics and STFC facility users to undertake their own engagement and to actively increase the skill and confidence of their colleagues when it comes to engaging others with their research. This broader effort at spreading skills and confidence is designed to enhance engagement between the public and the wider science and technology community.

The STFC community has a long track record of delivering high quality engagement and outreach, and our existing Public Engagement Fellows have proved highly successful in strengthening relations with public audiences.

New and Improved Grants

STFC’s mechanisms that provide public engagement grant support to the community are long-standing, and have remained largely unchanged for many years. While there are benefits to this continuity, much else has changed in the UK research environment. In 2016, we published our new public engagement strategy, and it was natural for us to examine our public engagement grant mechanisms in light of our refreshed strategic direction.

By working with people from across STFC’s community in a series of workshops and discussions, including our advisory panel for public engagement, we have updated and revised our public engagement grant schemes. We have managed to maintain the strongest features of our previous grant schemes while making changes to the funding mechanisms that reinforce the aims of our public engagement strategy and promote options that applicants have been looking for.

Cultivating Leadership

The first of our refreshed schemes to be launched are our new Leadership Fellows in Public Engagement. Last year, we published our major Public Engagement: Attitudes, Culture and Ethos study. One of the recommendations was that STFC should encourage the most talented and inspirational researchers with a passion for engagement to not only undertake their own engagement – which has always been the focus of our Fellowships – but to actively play a part in helping to increase the skill and confidence of their colleagues when it comes to engaging others with their research.

We know that many of our previous Fellows have often sought to do this work, and we want to recognise the importance of that ‘champion’ role over the coming years. Our new Leadership Fellows will all have a passion at passing on their skills and experience to their colleagues, be that in their own research group, their university department or School, or across their wider research community. STFC will work with them to help that happen.

Throughout the coming months, the public engagement team will be launching a series of new schemes that will replace our Small Awards and Large Awards with new funding mechanisms to support great ideas for public engagement. We will be giving the community the opportunity to create community networks, propose deeply multi-disciplinary projects, advance ideas they think are highly novel, build on the success of proven programmes, and respond to new scientific and technological developments. We’re excited to see what our diverse community can propose for how we invest our grant funding over the coming years. In the meantime, if you have questions, then we’re always willing to talk about our engagement work – contact us at stfcpublicengagement@stfc.ac.uk.

Read more information on our new Leadership Fellowships.

Read more on some of our case studies from previous public engagement fellows:

Martin Hendry and Gravitational Waves Astronomy

Marek Kukula and the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000