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Developing your project

Find out how to increase your chances of success when applying for public engagement funding.

Most universities in the UK have dedicated support to help you engage the public with your work. Try to find out who this is for your institution or department, as they can provide you with tailored advice and support for your project. They might be in a public engagement team, but also could be in widening participation or outreach roles.

What is public engagement?

Public engagement can have a variety of interpretations, but the definition developed by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) is the most widely accepted.

In their definition, public engagement…

“… describes the many ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.”

If you to find out more about the fundamentals of public engagement please visit the NCCPE website.

Why do you want to do it?

Public engagement can serve many purposes and it’s important that you think about your aims from the outset. Thinking about why you want to undertake public engagement is the first step in creating something that is useful to you, of benefit to the public, and delivers on its aims.

Broadly, public engagement projects can be categorised by their purpose, as follows:


You want to increase awareness about your research in order to change attitudes, inform choices, empower a group, inspire people or challenge misconceptions. 


You’re actively seeking opinions about your research in order to gain new perspectives, listen to concerns or benefit from insights.  


You want to work with the public to solve a problem together, or generate new research, drawing on each other’s expertise.

You should also consider the context for your project and whether it might align with the goals of your institution. Many universities will have dedicated staff to help you develop projects, as well as ways to formally recognise your work in this area.

More information about these approaches can be found on the NCCPE website

Who do you want to reach?

Developing a clear purpose for your activity will make it much easier to identify who it is you would like to reach or involve, which is another important step towards high-quality public engagement. 

Knowing who you want to reach will ensure that any activity you plan will be relevant and appropriate for your audience. Once you have chosen an audience to work with you can design appropriate engagement activities. Be careful when making assumptions about your audience. If possible meet with them to find out about their interests before designing you activities. 

The NCCPE has more guidance about how to develop an understanding of your audience.

Planning and evaluation

Once you know the purpose of your project and who you would like to reach, you should consider what might change as a result of your project. This will help you plan your project effectively and make evaluation much easier. 

A useful tool for thinking about this is shown below. Think about what might change in each of the categories.

Knowledge and awareness Attitudes Skills Empowerment

A completed version might look like this:

Knowledge and awareness Attitudes Skills Empowerment
Researcher(s) Deeper understanding of public concern or need Improved communication skills Improved institutional profile
Public Deeper understanding of the science affecting them Improved trust in conclusions of research Access to evidence that can be used to broker change

You can download (activity-planning-table.docx) and edit this activity planning table.

Read more detailed information on evaluation and planning.

What have other people done?

You can see examples of projects funded by the Society's Public Engagement Fund and other similar grant schemes at the links below.

More examples of public engagement projects undertaken by Royal Society funded scientists can be found on our case studies blog.

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