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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R019681/1
Title: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology EmbER (EMBedding public Enagement with Research)
Principal Investigator: Wells, Dr N
Other Investigators:
Garbutt, Mr RA Young, Dr J Pocock, Dr M
Roy, Professor HE Malcolm, Mr HM Thackeray, Dr S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Directors and Science Coordinators
Organisation: NERC CEH (Up to 30.11.2019)
Scheme: RCUK PER Catalysts
Starts: 01 October 2017 Ends: 30 September 2019 Value (£): 107,333
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 Sep 2017 SEE-PER Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is a Research Council Institute (RCI) and the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. It has nearly 600 staff and students situation in 4 sites across the UK. CEH is one of the c.30 RCIs that are important in the Research Council (RC) funding landscape. RCIs receive 20% of the total RC research budget and employ over 1/4 of the RC-funded staff in the UK. RCIs face many similar challenges to universities in supporting public engagement with research (PER), but they tend to be more specialised and less geographically-embedded than Universities, providing different challenges. Up until now they have been excluded from RCUK support to embed PER in their culture.

Now is the time to invest in cultural change for PER in CEH. CEH is currently undergoing major institutional changes in governance, core funding and enhanced opportunities to undertake research overseas. Therefore supporting a PER culture within CEH at this time will elicit long-term changes in institutional support. Staff at CEH already undertake a wide range of PER from public events, festivals and lectures, working with young people and schools and online engagement, through to public stakeholder engagement and citizen science (of which CEH has internationally-valued expertise). CEH's science is of interest and of relevance to the public: demonstrated by CEH's wide reach through the media, and recent surveys of science communication showing the relevance of environmental research to people. However, our self-assessment of support for PER in CEH revealed challenges. In particular the purpose of PER has not been clearly elucidated: we need to know what PER means to CEH, and its value to researchers, to the institution and to our science, so that long-term resourcing of support for PER can be justified and prioritised. In addition, CEH will also act as an exemplar for other RCIs in embedding PER, and so share its experience with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

Our primary aim is to support greater understanding of the purpose of PER for CEH, through collaboratively (with researchers and senior managers) developing a strategy showing the importance of PER to CEH's mission and its staff, including a detailed proposal for the instigation of a PER sub-committee. This will also be informed by a 'state of play' review. However culture change for PER needs to be bottom-up as well as top-down and so we will have a range of 'quick win' activities allowing us to inspire and support staff in their PER. We will launch the project with an internal symposium so that engaged researchers can highlight the diversity of the excellent PER currently ongoing. We will fund 8 projects for researchers to engage with people through our seed fund, with funding given to researchers who demonstrate excellence, innovation and fit to CEH's science strategy, and we will develop a reporting tool so that the richness of PER can be documented internally and to external partners (e.g. NERC). Our implementation of both the seed fund and the reporting tool will demand excellence in identifying the purpose of researchers' engagement and in evaluation. We will also publically recognise (and hence value) engaged researchers through regular internal communications. All our activity will be underpinned by formative evaluation, supported by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, and we will share our experience with other RCIs at the end of the project.

We seek to achieve much in this one year project (funded by RCUK and supported by internal matched funding), but importantly we will also have identified gaps, which will enable CEH to prioritise effective and cost-efficient actions for long-term culture change in the organisation. This project will be one crucial step forward in the sustainable and strategic support for PER in our institution.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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