This post is by Hannah Roberts. Hannah is currently a PhD Student in the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
Public engagement. Whether you have participated or not, the term is a well-known one used to describe the interactions between specialists and non-specialists. It covers a broad range of areas including festivals, science centres, outreach, school programmes and much more, where the level of knowledge presented is adapted depending on the audience.
It may sound like you need certain qualifications to become involved in public engagement as a researcher, but from my experience there is nothing more important than your enthusiasm and passion for a subject. The dullest topic can become exciting if it is pitched correctly.
Your ability to communicate with an audience is something that is vitally important, but that can also be learnt. The University offers training courses that you can attend to develop your skills. These include both science communication and public engagement which can provide you with further opportunities.
For me, public engagement is something that I not only thoroughly enjoy, but also find rewarding. I have always been an active communicator but I first developed my skills whilst working at Techniquest Glyndwr, a STEM education centre. Here I learned how to take a complicated subject, and convert the content into a way that a range of school ages would understand. An excellent way of doing this was through using visual demonstrations and getting the audience involved.
Since starting at Manchester, I wanted to ensure that I did not lose any of these skills that I had developed. I saw that a call had been put out for science buskers, and so after applying to become involved, I attended the science communication training. Science busking features at many Manchester events hosted by the University, including the Science Spectacular event that is held every year at Manchester Science Festival. The event showcases exhibits from across Manchester, raising public awareness of what is happening across the STEM community. This year saw over 500 people attend the event with a wide range of engaging activities.
My advice for finding and getting involved in these activities is to not be afraid of contacting people to find out a bit more. Information on different public engagement activities is available all over the web and is regularly sent out in email on a weekly basis.
Take the chance. What will you get involved in?