In spring 1931, the BBC transmitted six weekly radio programmes, under the title Science in the Making, as part of its adult education provision.
Each week a different scientist outlined his area of research, and in five cases invited listeners to report their observations of phenomena described in the programme.
Topics included the factors affecting the start of breeding season of birds, the advance of the grey squirrel in Britain, the perception of sound, and the pervasiveness of certain types of dream.
Science in the Making was thus an early venture into ‘citizen science’ and one broadcast led to an academic-journal article. This presentation gives the story of Science in the Making, and looks at a second series the following year that concentrated on social science.
Allan Jones is a Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Communications, part of the Faculty of Mathematics, Computing & Technology in the Open University.
Before I joined the OU, my background was in risk-based decision-making. I looked forward to finding innovative ways of gathering evidence of the impact of public engagement with research (PER). However, it seemed like whenever PER was mentioned evaluation would either become the pink elephant in the room or be quickly forgotten, and the conversation would focus on public engagement as opposed to public engagement with research.
In my experience, this doesn’t arise from ill intent but rather from a lack of understanding about the affordances of different PER activities and the methods and techniques used to evaluate the impact of PER.
This seminar was an opportunity to test a theoretical framework that I believe has the capacity to address this issue. ...continue reading →
If you are reading this blog, you’ll no doubt be aware that public engagement is high on the agenda within higher education and many other domains. You’ll also probably be aware that researchers face increasing pressures – from their institutions, funders and colleagues – to engage publics and produce evidence of the ‘impact’ and ‘relevance’ of their research. However, little systematic attention has so far been paid to what precisely is meant by the ‘public’ in public engagement.
What happens if we put the ‘public’ at the centre of our efforts to conceptualise, conduct and evaluate publicly engaged research? This question formed the starting point for a presentation that we gave at the Open University on 9th June as part of the Engaging Research seminar series.
Last week (12th May), Ann Grand and I gave a seminar at the OU on Digital Engagement. I started by giving a brief introduction to public engagement, referring to the NCCPE's EDGE tool for self-assessment, and a description of the purpose of the OU's Public Engagement with Research Catalyst project.
The Detection of Archaeological residues using Remote Sensing Techniques (DART) project has the overall aim of developing analytical methods for identifying heritage features and quantifying gradual changes and dynamics in sensor responses. To examine the complex problem of heritage detection DART has attracted a consortium consisting of 25 key heritage and industry organisations and academic consultants and researchers from the areas of computer vision, geophysics, remote sensing, knowledge engineering and soil science. ...continue reading →
Change takes time, persistence, commitment, care, collective action. How does this fit with academic pressures to produce journal publication after journal publication and busy teaching commitments?
If you're into social and environmental change, there's a tension, a challenge with coming at change from an academic perspective where your contributions to wider society and the environment might not be valued. For me, the reward, is a feeling - not money, not promotion - but a sense that day-by-day a different world is crafted when our work is shaped by outside influences and we are ourselves open to change.
I’m an astrophysicist and my research is mainly concerned with what may be called the “time domain universe”, or simply: stars whose brightness varies with time.
Stars can have a variable brightness for one of several reasons: they might be intrinsically variable due to pulsations of the star’s atmosphere; they might be in orbit with another object that periodically passes in front of it; or they might suffer some form of catastrophic change that causes flaring or outburst behaviour, for instance.
One way to carry out research in time domain astrophysics is simply to monitor the brightness of all the stars in the sky and see what you find. This is, in effect, what is done by the WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project, of which I and others at the Open University are part.
A day in the life of a field geologist
Earth Scientists like me study the Earth: how it formed, how it changed over geological time, and how all the different ‘bits’ such as the atmosphere, oceans, soil and rocks interact with each other.
In detail, I’m a geologist – I specifically try to understand the rocks beneath our feet. And in even more detail, I’m a field geologist. Nothing excites me more than the prospect of getting to spend weeks in a tent up a remote mountain somewhere (although preferably not in the rain), collecting rock samples for analysis back in the lab.
My particular interests lie in what the public engagement landscape has to say about, or how it contributes to, this ambitious transition. Fairly quickly, we can identify a disjunction between public policy priorities and the public engagement taking place from universities and the science communication infrastructure (by which I mean science centres, science festivals and informal science engagement practice). This gap is really interesting when you think about it, and in the discussion at the end of the talk we explored it a little further.