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Open Access A common standard for the evaluation of public engagement with research

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Despite growing interest in public engagement with research, there are many challenges to evaluating engagement. Evaluation findings are rarely shared or lead to demonstrable improvements in engagement practice. This has led to calls for a common 'evaluation standard' to provide tools and guidance for evaluating public engagement and driving good practice. This paper proposes just such a standard. A conceptual framework summarizes the three main ways in which evaluation can provide judgements about, and enhance the effectiveness of, public engagement with research. A methodological framework is then proposed to operationalize the conceptual framework. The standard is developed via a literature review, semi-structured interviews at Queen Mary University of London and an online survey. It is tested and refined in situ in a large public engagement event and applied post hoc to a range of public engagement impact case studies from the Research Excellence Framework. The goal is to standardize good practice in the evaluation of public engagement, rather than to use standard evaluation methods and indicators, given concerns from interviewees and the literature about the validity of using standard methods or indicators to cover such a wide range of engagement methods, designs, purposes and contexts. Adoption of the proposed standard by funders of public engagement activities could promote more widespread, high-quality evaluation, and facilitate longitudinal studies to draw our lessons for the funding and practice of public engagement across the higher education sector.

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Keywords: CO-PRODUCTION; MONITORING AND EVALUATION; PUBLIC PARTICIPATION; PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE; RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH AND INNOVATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Engagement with research goes further than participation in it. Engaged individuals and communities initiate research, advise, challenge or collaborate with researchers. Their involvement is always active and they have a crucial influence on the conduct of the research.

    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.

    The journal welcomes relevant articles. See the publication homepage for details, or contact [email protected]

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