By Charlotte Thorley, executive Officer for Public Engagement and Manager of the CPE
In 2012 Queen Mary was selected as one of 8 RCUK funded Public Engagement with Research Catalysts. Our 3 year mission: To strategically support public engagement. To seek out new ways of engaging publics and researchers. To ensure that the culture of Queen Mary was one that could support engaged research and wider public engagement in a way that will be sustained. QMUL had already appointed Peter McOwan as Vice-Principal for Public Engagement when the grant was awarded, so he and Mike Curtis put together the Centre for Public Engagement, at first a virtual grouping of interested parties across the institution, and later on, using the RCUK money, this became a physical office with dedicated staff, myself included.
Now it is April 2015 and we have just passed the finishing date for the RCUK grant. I am pleased with what we have achieved. Over the three years we’ve tried out all sorts of approaches to supporting engagement practice, sometimes learning from the Beacons projects, sometimes just needing to try things for ourselves. Committees, working groups, seminars and other physical gatherings of people have helped to build our networks, providing much needed access into the academic departments and helping to steer our activity. Funding schemes, training and help with grant applications has put us into the processes of the university, enabling us to provide help where needed but also to learn about the wide variety of activity going on. Celebrations, prizes and the existence of the Vice-Principal post have helped us start to bring reward and recognition to our staff and students for their engagement work, and raise the profile of such work both with our colleagues and strategically.
There’s still a lot to do. The Centre for Public Engagement is continuing, and that the move from grant funding to core funds is an indicator of the institutional support for this agenda. Public Engagement is now a core element of our institutional strategy, and to deliver this we must build on the work so far. I’ll miss the camaraderie of the other 7 Catalyst projects, but am pleased to have already found reasons for us to continue our conversations. These are exciting times. So goodbye Catalyst, we’ll miss you. And hello brave new world…