Research engagement is often played down in the academic world, despite its obvious benefits. Much effort, and rightly so, is placed into generating academic papers as the primary research output. While this generates engagement within the academic sphere, it does, however, omit a very large proportion of the population. Research isn’t just for academics; there a vast number of other stakeholders invested in research too, noneless so than the general public.
I have been working as a Science and Technology Impact Officer at Cranfield University for just over a year and I am passionate about ensuring that research is communicated effectively, engaging as many stakeholders and audiences as possible with the fantastic work carried out in the School of Water, Energy and Environment at Cranfield University. I have worked on a number of fantastic projects, my contributions focused on increasing business, political and public engagement with the research and generating outputs to best inform and engage these groups.
For me, engaging people with research is the most important part of the whole research process and here are my five top reasons why.
1. It builds public support for your research area
Communicating research with individuals outside of the academic sphere is vital for promoting understanding and informed decision-making. Engaging the public with these topics increases their presence in everyday conversations and put your research area at the top of the political and social agenda, leading to more research funding and a greater impact on society. An incredibly successful example of this is the so-called “Blue Planet Effect” on tackling the problems posed by plastics.
2. It encourages bigger-picture thinking
When a researcher is focused on their topic area, it is incredibly easy to get consumed in the details and complexities. By communicating your research with different audiences, you are encouraged to think about how your work impacts and interests different groups, which ultimately leads to better-informed and greater-impact research.
3. It encourages an interdisciplinary approach
By communicating science to non-scientists, researchers are able to build collaborations between disciplines fostering collaboration and innovative thinking. This is vital in the face of multifaceted issues, such as how we feed the growing global population, or how we stop killing our planet.
4. It improves the quality of your research
Engaging the different stakeholder groups with your research, including the general public, regulators, decision-makers and industry, actually improves research quality. Research is better directed, more relevant to the real-world and ultimately more able to make a difference. Research should not be separate from society but should rather involve society in a more co-productive approach.
5. It’s the key to success
Communicating your research well will undeniably lead to more people reading about it, more people taking an interest in your work, more media coverage for your topic area, more political interest and more citations from the academic community. It will boost your career and ensure that your research impacts world around you. Think big, speak loudly and watch the world listen.
For more information, contact: Zoe.A.Griffiths@cranfield.ac.uk