Collaboration vs competition Improving public engagement with research through the ScotPEN Wellcome Engagement Award
Becky Hothersall – University of Glasgow. United Kingdom
Alison Caldecott – University of Glasgow United Kingdom
Barbara Gorgoni – University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
Erin Hardee – University of Dundee United Kingdom
Heather Rea – University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
Mhairi Stewart – University of St Andrews United Kingdom
Since the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative began over a decade ago, academic funders have encouraged researchers to participate in science communication. Researchers are generally supportive but continue to report barriers including lack of support, skills development and access to funding.
Scotland is unique in having a very collaborative and diverse network of science communication professionals working together through the informal ScotPEN network. We have organised conferences and CPD events, applied for joint funding and co-ordinated pan-Scotland public events. In 2019, this collaborative approach led to an award of £500k from the Wellcome Trust to pilot a devolved 1-year funding scheme for public engagement with Wellcome-funded research. Funding up to £100k per project, ScotPEN anticipated that by collaborating rather than competing we can increase the quality and quantity of eligible engagement projects. A second phase is now running in 2020-21.
The pilot scheme devolved decision-making while capitalising on expertise within the ScotPEN network – for example in brokering relationships with appropriate partners and audiences. This allows us to ensure proposals are relevant and sensitive to local contexts, and thus to the place-based, civic engagement agenda that increasingly drives science communication.
Our funding criteria emphasise capacity building and diversity in science communication. This includes support with proposal development and enhanced recognition for early career researchers through co-applicant status.
The network structure also creates opportunities to share training and learning, and facilitates inter-institutional collaborations.
We believe this approach will lead to impactful projects, in turn increasing visibility and recognition of science communication projects and professionals within academic institutions. This embedding process will ultimately strengthen our ability to form lasting and equitable relationships between academic and non-academic audiences.
We will present insights from the process of developing a collaboratively-run funding scheme, reporting initial effects on uptake from three funding calls, highlighting funded projects and sharing lessons learnt.
The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.