Public engagement with research



Public engagement is diverse in the ways it can help us conduct meaningful two-way engagement with public audiences on the topics of research, innovation and environmental science. We aim to engage, listen and respond to the public’s thoughts, opinions, concerns and aspirations.

By engaging with public groups in this way, we can inspire audiences while also helping the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) fund the best environmental science relevant to society, and enable informed, evidence-based decisions to be made.

Engaged research should include public engagement throughout the life cycle of the grant:

  • issue formation: before research begins to help shape research questions
  • during research as part of the research process: for example citizen science and public dialogue
  • evaluation and knowledge sharing: at the end of the grant to feed back on the findings and potentially influence the future research portfolio.

We are committed to a strategic approach to public engagement, which is outlined in the NERC public engagement with research and innovation strategy. This supports the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) vision for public engagement and supports the NERC delivery plan.

You can find further information on public engagement within research grants in section 113 of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

We want to foster a research culture that values, recognises and supports public engagement. Therefore, we ask researchers to adopt good practices for public engagement with research. This is described in section RGC 2.9 of the UKRI standard full economic costs (FEC) grants terms and conditions.

Find out more about the standards in UKRI’s good research resource hub.

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement offers guidance, expert advice, training and tools for public engagement.

Search the funding finder for opportunities and grants for supporting public engagement.

The purpose and audience of your public engagement work

Considering the purpose for engaging members of the public in your research is important. What are you trying to achieve through engaging? There are three main purposes for doing public engagement work:

  • informing, inspiring and educating members of the public to make environmental science and the process of research more accessible
  • to actively listen to views, concerns and insights of members of the public, and using these in research
  • working in partnership with members of the public to solve research problems together, drawing on each other’s expertise.

One of the most important parts of any public engagement is considering and identifying your target audience. Who are the people you want to engage with and why? Clear, insightful thinking about your audience will help target your engagement and maximise quality.

We understand that some groups in society have more opportunities to participate in activities related to research and innovation than others. Thus, we are committed to encouraging and enhancing researchers’ ability to close this gap and engage under-represented communities and places through public engagement.

The UKRI best practice guides and publications will help you get the most out of your public engagement activities, including evaluating their success.

Your public engagement responsibilities

We expect researchers to consider where best to engage the public (those who sit outside academia) with their research. Engaging the public with your research can improve the quality and impact of your work, raise your profile and develop your skills. It also enables members of the public to act as informed citizens and can inspire the next generation of researchers.

As per RGC 2.9 of the UKRI standard FEC grants terms and conditions, we want to foster a research culture that values, recognises and supports public engagement. Therefore, we ask researchers to adopt good practices for public engagement with research.

Find out more about public engagement.


You can contact us with any questions or queries.


Last updated: 27 July 2023

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