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Public Engagement at Manchester

Engagement Matters: Evaluating your public engagement

In this Engagement Matters post, Suzanne Spicer shares her top tips for evaluating the success of your public engagement activities.

Evaluation can be perceived as a daunting task but when used correctly, it is an effective tool to reflect on and improve your public engagement activities, and to determine the value and worth of evidenced impact.

How to start: Whenever possible you should plan your evaluation when you are planning your public engagement activity. Begin by considering why you are undertaking the evaluation. It is important to be clear of your purpose right from the start.

Write an evaluation plan: To keep focused have an evaluation plan, a step-by-step guide which summarises what you are going to do and how you will undertake the process.
Top tip: keep things simple.

Include the following in your evaluation plan:

1. Aims and objectives
Your aims are what you want to achieve overall and your objectives are how you will achieve your aims. It is important to keep them SMART so ask yourself:
Specific: do they state what will you do and with whom?
Measurable: can you measure their success?
Achievable: do you have enough time and resources to achieve them?
Relevant: do they meet your aims?
Time-bound: do they include timescales?
Top tip: only have one or two aims and up to five objectives.

2. Audience and stakeholders
It is important to identify who will be involved in your evaluation and what challenges may arise when engaging with them.
Top tip: if appropriate, involve the public in your planning.

3. Evaluation questions
These are the questions you want answers to. They should not only measure outputs (the results of your activity) but also outcomes (eg. an increase in awareness, the development of skills or a change in behaviour/practice).
Top tip: have between 2-6 questions and ensure they relate to the evidence you can collect.

4. Collecting evidence
Think creatively about how you will gather your data and how you might build it into your activity, so that it is easy for you to collect, and your public want to engage. There are a variety of methods you can use from the more traditional such as questionnaires to more creative methods such as graffiti walls or using a voting app. You do not have to evaluate everyone and everything – you can sample. Also remember to capture perspectives from everyone involved (including yourself). And if you are measuring impact then it is important to create a baseline from which you can evidence any change.
Top tip: if you are engaging with a new audience, look for advice from other sectors.

Whichever method you use, you will have to ask questions. Use a mixture of open (ask for open-ended responses) or closed questions (give a series of options for the participant to select) and ensure your questions are clear and easy to understand. Check that none are leading or biased and try to avoid asking people to predict their behaviour too far into the future. Also avoid asking multiple questions in one.
Top tip: test your questions out beforehand.

5. Analysing your evaluation data
Decide how much data you want to collect and how much time and capacity you will have available to analyse it. With quantitative data (numbers) you can use a spreadsheet to analyse your data. With qualitative data (words and images) you can group similar responses into categories that can then be counted and reported or expressed as a percentage.
Top tip: you can use audience quotes to illustrate points but check they are representative and give a balanced perspective.

6. Using your findings
Once you have analysed your data then you should interpret what you have found. List your key findings both positive and negative and link them to your evaluation questions and critically reflect on what you have learned.

7. Sharing your learning
Finally, think about how you will use and share your findings. Identify your key audience and who else might be interested and which formats you might use, such as a report or an infographic. Whatever platform you use, be clear about your key messages and share what you have learnt, both the positive and negative.

Some useful resources
You can find some useful evaluation links and resources here.

See also: Suzanne Spicer, The nuts and bolts of evaluating science communication activities, Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, Volume 70, October 2017, pp. 17-25 available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1084952117304494

Posted on behalf of Suzanne Spicer FRSA, Social Responsibility Manager, Office for Social Responsibility, The University of Manchester

Twitter: @UoMEngage | @csusies | #EngageMatters

Engagement Matters: Top Tips for short talk format research presentations

In this Engagement Matters post, Ceri Harrop shares her top tips for the ever-popular short talk format for presenting research in three minutes.

Researchers of all disciplines often work and study in a communication bubble, where the people around them know and understand the same world, and acronyms and technical jargon become everyday words and concepts. It is only when you are asked, perhaps by a family member, ‘what is it you do?’ and their expression glazes over as you share the details of your research project that it may make you think that perhaps your communications skills need a little refining.

With this in mind, it is little wonder that the popularity of short talk competitions have become significant. Famelab and 3MT, to name but two, are both examples of internationally renowned, short talk competitions with significant prizes and opportunities up for grabs. Prizes and glory aside, the skills gleaned from such an experience are hugely beneficial and applicable to your research career too. Being able to confidently and concisely explain why your research matters is crucial for conference talks, networking, funding bids and job interviews.

So what is it all about? You have just three minutes to present a research concept or idea in an accessible manner. Your audience is non-specialist, and live (meaning they will listen, laugh or yawn accordingly!) You have just you, your voice and the stage. Famelab allows a prop, 3MT allows a single, non-animated PowerPoint slide, but really it all about you and your story.

So where do you start? First of all, forget what you know about giving a scientific presentation. Don’t introduce yourself, don’t acknowledge funders or work colleagues or collaborators. This is about your research and where it fits in the bigger picture. So start with thinking about the answer to ‘why’: Why does your research matter (to you and the world); why should anyone else care? You absolutely have to make it relevant to the audience.

But what else do you need to consider?

The Hook: In just three minutes, you need to hook your audience into the topic immediately. How will you start? What will you use to grab the attention of the audience: a controversial statement, a shocking statistic, a big question. Think of a hook to get you started.

Stories connect us: Telling stories helps to reach peoples hearts and minds. Stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will follow you. Think about stories you remember. There are usually one or more key characters. These give audiences something to relate to or care about (or, if used in the opposite way, to dislike). In any case, your audience will want to know what happens to the character so try and include this concept when planning your talk. Make sure you have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Teach something new: The human brain loves novelty. Your research is after all, new. So include an unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected fact in your talk to offer the audience a new way of looking at your topic.

Bring it to life: Analogies can be a great tool, but make sure everyone can identify with it, or you might just end up complicating the situation. Keep it simple. Use imagery, not measurements. If you want to describe the size of bacteria, don’t use micrometres. Instead, say that a million of them could fit on a pinhead.

Voice is key: You need to sound interested in the topic, or else why would the audience be? Confidence is the one sticking point for almost everyone attempting to do any type of public speaking. In fact, people are more scared of public speaking than dying! Really it about practice, practice, practice. This will make you more confident in yourself, the content of your talk and the sound of your own voice out loud.

Dare I say it, but have fun! It is a great opportunity to share your research with a new audience and develop new skills. Go for it!

Posted on behalf of Ceri Harrop, Public Programmes Manager, Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester

Twitter: @UoMEngage | @sheencr  | #EngageMatters

Engagement@Manchester – Partnerships for research collaborations – 29 March 2017, 1:00 -2:30pm, Simon Building, 4.38

In our next Engagement@Manchster session we explore the diversity of research collaborations and engagement across different commercial, service, and third sector organisations. Our academics will highlight the challenges of the developing and managing such partnerships and the opportunities for pathways to impact.

When & Where: Partnerships for research collaborations – 29 March 2017, 1:00 -2:30pm, Simon Building, 4.38

Speakers:

  • Dr Cath O’Neil, School of Biological Science
  • Dr Rebecca Tipton, School of Arts Languages & Cultures
  • Dr Carl Diver, School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering

All welcome. Tea, coffee and biscuits on offer.

Missed out on our last session?

We explored how “public engagement can lead to impact” with guest presenter Paul Manners, Director NCCPE. Catch up on the video, slides, reports, and more here.

Dee-Ann Johnson, FSE Researcher Development and Rachel Kenyon, Hums, Business Engagement 

Public engagement can lead to impact – E@M session with Paul Manners from NCCPE – 25 Jan 1-2.30pm

Public engagement can lead to impact with Paul Manners, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement

25 January 2017 1.00-2.30pm, Kanaris Lecture Theatre, Manchester Museum

Join us for this month’s Engagement@Manchester lunchtime learn and share meeting when we are pleased to welcome Paul Manners, Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

Over the last year, the NCCPE has completed a major review of how public engagement fared in REF 2014. During this excellent opportunity, Paul will share the headlines and explore the implications for REF 2021.

All welcome.

Suzanne Spicer, Social Responsibility Manager, Office for Social Responsibility, The University of Manchester
Tel: +44 (0)161 306 3047
Email: suzanne.spicer@manchester.ac.uk

Evidencing public engagement – learning from REF 2014 experiences

Wednesday 21 October 2015, 1 – 2:30pm, Simon Building, Lecture Room 4A (4.63)

This month’s engagement@manchester lunchtime session will have a focus on how we should be evaluating the impact of public engagement with research, for possible future REF case studies.

Hear from colleagues who share their experiences from REF2014 and join the discussions on the challenges and how to collect evidence. In particular we’ll be looking at what information to collect, how to collect it and who might be interested in it or able to use it.

Format

The format will be short (+/- 5-10 min) talks from 4 academics who submitted REF2014 impact case studies with a significant public engagement element, looking at:

  • How impact was achieved?
  • How it was evidenced?
  • How did they put the case study together?
  • This will be followed by Q&A discussion and some interactive group discussions, including looking at Public Engagement cases submitted to REF from some other Universities.

Suzanne Spicer, Social Responsibility Manager | Office for Social Responsibility | The University of Manchester | 186 Waterloo Place | Oxford Road | Manchester M13 9PL | Tel: +44 (0)161 306 3047 suzanne.spicer@manchester.ac.uk