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Open Access Engaging with the public in public engagement with research

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Though there is now growing commitment to publicly engaged research, the role and definition of the public in such processes is wide-ranging, contested and often rather vague. This article addresses this problem by showing that, although there is no single agreed upon theory or way of being public, it is still possible and very important to develop clear, public-centric, understandings of engaged research practice. The article introduces a multidimensional framework based on the theoretical literature on the 'public', and demonstrates – in the context of a recent engaged research project – how it is possible to conceptualize, design and evaluate context-specific formations of the public. Starting from an understanding of publics as mediated and dynamic entities, the article seeks to illuminate some of the choices that researchers face and how the framework can help them navigate these. This article is for all those interested in what it means to address, support and account for an engaged public in contemporary settings.

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Keywords: DESIGN; ENGAGEMENT; ENGAGEMENT EVALUATION; PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT WITH RESEARCH; REFLEXIVITY; THE PUBLIC

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • Research for All is now published by UCL Press. New issues and all the back content shown here are available through ScienceOpen and accessed from the journal's page at UCL Press

    Research for All is a peer-reviewed journal focusing on research that involves universities and communities, services or industries working together. Contributors and readers are from both inside and outside of higher education. They include researchers, policymakers, managers, practitioners, community-based organizations, schools, businesses and the intermediaries who bring these people together. The journal highlights the potential in active public engagement for robust academic study, for the development of involved communities, and for the impact of research. It explores engagement with different groups and their cultures, and features theoretical and empirical analysis alongside authoritative commentary to explore a range of themes that are key to engaged research including the development of reciprocal relationships, sector-specific communication and participatory action research. The journal is co-sponsored by the UCL Institute of Education and the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

    Research for All is supporting the 16th International conference for Public Communication of Science and Technology being held in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, 26–28 May 2020. Authors of contributions presented at the conference are invited subsequently to submit papers to Research for All for a special feature on Public Communication of Science and Technology.

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