In this podcast Eric Jensen talks about public engagement and the public understanding of science. His research on the impacts of public engagement with science for visitors and audiences cuts across a wide range of settings, from zoos to museums to festivals.
Sam Lyle is a third year PhD student in the Department of Sociology. Her doctoral research explores class and gender in graduate employment from a Bourdieusian perspective. Sam is also a feminist activist and founder of the Warwick Anti-Sexism Society (WASS). Read more on her ePortfolio. In this podcast Mark Carrigan talks to her about her extensive work with the media over the course of her research, some of the difficulties involved and advice for other PhD students interested in getting involved in this kind of activity.
In this podcast Mark Carrigan discusses the impact agenda with Professor Steve Fuller. The discussion encompasses the history of impact, its relationship to wider issues in higher education, existing academic responses to the impact agenda and strategic alternatives.
New University of Warwick Seminar Series: Evaluating Impacts of Public Engagement and Non-Formal Learning
First Seminar in Series: 4 November, 11am – 5pm (arrival from 10:30am)
at the Dana Centre, next to the Natural History Museum in London
Evaluating Impacts and Assessing the Quality of Evidence: Core Issues and Debates
Aimed at bringing together engagement, learning and communication practitioners, evaluators and academic researchers, this first seminar in the series will debate and discuss core questions such as:
- How can we understand ‘impact’ within public engagement and non-formal contexts aimed at fostering learning?
- How much ‘impact’ can be achieved through relatively brief interventions in the lives of visiting publics?
- How should the scope of ‘impact’ be understood? (e.g. is it possible to capture evidence of secondary and tertiary impacts?)
- How much is it possible to know through robust evidence about the social, cultural and economic impacts of such engagement or learning?
- What are the quality standards that separate ‘good’ from ‘poor’ evaluation and visitor research?
- Which models of research can be employed? (e.g. action research, case study, etc.?)
The seminar will include the following speakers:
- Dr Helen Featherstone (Chair, Visitor Studies Group, Content & Visitor Researcher at At-Bristol science centre and a Research Fellow at the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol)
- Nicola Buckley (Acting Head of Community Affairs, University of Cambridge)
- Emma Pegram (Head of Learning Evaluation and Research, Natural History Museum)
- Emily Dawson (Doctoral Researcher, King’s College London)
- Dr Eric Jensen (Assistant Professor, University of Warwick, Associate Education Fellow, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, ZSL/University of Cambridge)
Register for the seminar series at the following secure web address:
£65 early registration fee (through the end of 5 September 2011), £75 registration fee thereafter. Lunch, tea and coffee are included in the registration fee.
-Places are limited and are awarded on a first come, first served basis. Discounts available if registering for multiple seminars within the series. (see website)
-Concessionary places are available (submit a short application to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining circumstances). If cost is a barrier to attendance, please don’t hesitate to apply.
About the Seminar Series on ‘Evaluating Impacts’
This seminar series brings together leading researchers and practitioners to discuss evaluation of impacts in public engagement and non-formal learning. These seminars will address how museums, festivals, zoos, universities, science centres, galleries, schools and other organisations with an interest in engagement, learning or communication can use good quality evaluation evidence to understand and enhance their impacts. Both practical and conceptual issues will be considered, as each of the main evaluation research data collection and analytic tools are discussed in turn.
Running from November 2011 to September 2012, this seminar series offers insights, skills development and networking opportunities for those who currently, or are planning in future to, conduct or commission evaluations of impacts. It will also be highly valuable to those who commission or use evaluation and research evidence to inform their practice. Moreover, these seminars will help anyone interested in public engagement, communication or learning to be a ‘critical consumer’ of research on impacts. For further information, please contact Dr Eric Jensen: email@example.com
The support of the University of Warwick, the British Science Association, the Dana Centre and the Wellcome Trust for this seminar series is gratefully acknowledged.
Overview of Topics for the Seminar Series
- Evaluating Impacts and Assessing the Quality of Evidence: Core Issues and Debates (4 November 2011, Dana Centre)
- Questionnaires as a Method of Evaluating Impacts (16 November 2011, 11am-4pm at the University of Warwick)
- Qualitative Methods of Evaluating Impacts: Focus Groups, Interviews, Ethnography (January 2012, Dana Centre)
- Questionnaires as a Method of Evaluating Impacts (February 2012, Dana Centre)
- Engaging Schools: Analysing Feedback from Teachers and Schoolchildren (Morning, March 2012, Dana Centre)
- Evaluation Research with Young People: Adolescents and Impact (Afternoon, March 2012, Dana Centre)
- Going Beyond the Usual Publics: Evaluating how to Reach New Audiences and Non-Visitors (April 2012, Dana Centre)
- Communication Technologies and Evaluation Research: Evaluation Online and Evaluating Online Engagement, plus Mobile Learning and Software Analysis Tools (May 2012, Dana Centre)
- Intensive 1-day Training Seminar in Advanced Qualitative Evaluation Research Methods (August 2012, University of Warwick)
- Intensive 2-day Training Seminar in Advanced Quantitative Evaluation Research Methods (September 2012, University of Warwick)
About the Seminar Organiser
Dr Eric Jensen is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London / University of Cambridge and Associate Education Fellow at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. He is an experienced evaluation researcher, with numerous peer-reviewed publications on public engagement published in top ranked journals such as Public Understanding of Science and books such as Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age (Oxford University Press). He recently had commentaries published in the journal Nature and the British Science Association publication People & Science and forthcoming in the journal Visitor Studies on the urgent need for substantial improvements in the quality and sophistication of evaluation of impacts in the field of public engagement, informal learning and science communication.
Dr Jensen’s previous research projects include evaluation studies of impacts conducted at ZSL London Zoo, Durrell Wildlife Park, the Cambridge Science Festival and Festival of Ideas and the Fitzwilliam Museum. Recent work with the Natural History Museum centred on developing an integrated evaluation and research framework that can ensure that rigorous long-term evaluation is integrated with the continual development of non-formal learning and public engagement practice.
At the University of Warwick, Dr Jensen lectures on the practice of social research and quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research methods, as well as co-convening the MSc programme in Science, Media and Public Policy. Dr Jensen’s publications can be accessed at: http://warwick.academia.edu/EricJensen
This course is designed to equip students with the theoretical and practical skills needed for understanding and managing the complexity of science, media and policy relations. It is based around two core modules (detailed below) alongside the wide range of other MA modules on offer at Warwick. There is also a bursary available for students on the module.
Contact Eric for more information about this or anything else relating to the MSc.
Term One: Understanding Science, Media and Public Policy (delivered by Steve Fuller)
Drawing on resources from history, philosophy and social studies of science, as well as recent social theory, this module will survey and critique various frameworks for conceptualising the relationship between science, media and public policy. Among the topics covered include: science’s public accountability, the role of peer review in authorising scientific knowledge, the comparative demands of scientific and journalistic inquiry, the role of public relations in science, the idea of science as a cultural product, media’s duty to educate, inform and entertain the public about science, scientists as political advisors, actors and advocates, the idea of the citizen-scientist, the role of new media as both information resource and research site for science. Emphasis will be placed on the two-way influence of theory and practice, as well as the challenges posed by the representation of specific types of scientific knowledge in specific media.
Term Two: Researching Science, Media and Public Policy in the 21st Century (delivered by Eric Jensen)
Across many domains of social and professional life, the sciences seek to influence publics through entertainment and news media, education, dialogue and debate. This module will identify the ways in which such attempts to influence or engage public perceptions of the sciences can be investigated through specific case studies. There have been particular flashpoints at the nexus of science, media and public policy in recent years. Controversies over human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, genetically modified crops, alternative medicine, the bioethics of zoos and the climate change agenda each hold important lessons for understanding the role of mass media, stakeholders and citizens in shaping public policy. These cases show how knowledge, power and legitimacy are marshalled in struggles for dominance and consensus over science in the public realm. A sociological account of these cases will be developed to critically assess the processes of public understanding and engagement with science, media coverage and science policy consultation.
In this podcast Mark Carrigan talks to Kate Arnold, a 1st year student in Sociology, about Left Overs, a project setup by undergraduates across a range of departments which is trying to break down the boundaries between speaker and audience, between organisers and attendees, so as to create a new space for intellectual dailogue and discussion outside of the pressures and pitfalls of formal institutional structures. As well as being fascinating and worthwhile in its own right, projects like this represent an opportunity for academics to practice public engagement within the university.
Research commissioned by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) was conducted by Dr Eric Jensen at the University of Warwick working with Nicola Buckley of the University of Cambridge and explores the role of university students in festival-based public engagement. The report was launched 12 July 2011 at a well-attended event at the University of Cambridge.
Results show that the remarkable growth and increasing popularity of science and arts festivals around Britain is only possible with the help of an army of willing, but unpaid university student volunteers. The research reveals that despite the lack of remuneration, 92% of students surveyed say that they would volunteer again and 75% believe that the skills and experience they got from volunteering will benefit them in their future careers.
The findings show that UK universities are active supporters of science and arts festivals for the public. Festival organisers reported that the enthusiasm and expertise of volunteering students and staff comprised the most valuable aspect of engaging with universities in delivering their festivals.
Two-thirds of festival organisers work with universities and more than half (56%) are given access to university premises free of charge. For 60% of festival-organisers the benefit of working with a university includes access to a wide range of expert speakers and artists, and for the majority (69%), the primary benefit is access to human resource in the form of unpaid student volunteers.
The majority (55%) of festivals surveyed operated with just five paid members of staff. Seventy-five percent of the jobs performed by student volunteers provided some interaction with the public such as meeting and greeting, manning stands or discussing science, art and other topics with publics.
Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director, NCCPE said: “Festivals are an excellent introduction to public engagement for university students and offer experiences and skills that will benefit them throughout their careers. The majority of volunteers in our sample are post-graduate students, some of whom will go on to be researchers. With impact now part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the value of publicly-funded universities in the spotlight, it is increasingly important for academics as well as universities to embrace public engagement. Hopefully what we are witnessing is a new generation of researchers, lecturers and future vice-chancellors that are introduced to public engagement early in their careers and remain open and enthusiastic about the mutual benefits it can bring.”
The most challenging aspect of using student volunteers in festivals is the high level of training required. A number of festival organisers have had to adjust their expectations of student volunteers’ prior practical knowledge, and now provide training at a fundamental level.
Lead researcher Dr Eric Jensen at the University of Warwick commented: “It is important for both universities and funding bodies to understand that the provision of volunteering opportunities within festivals is resource-intensive. Despite how it might seem, student volunteers are not free labour. If they are to be used most effectively staff time, training and resources are required and these activities require funding and careful planning and attention.”
The research report can be accessed here.
In this podcast Mark Carrigan talks to Gurminder K. Bhambra about her experiences as an initiator of the Campaign for the Public University. They discuss the crisis in the university system and the aims of the campaign, as well as wider issues relating to impact and engagement.