Many people do not realise but UK Universities have been taking the lead when it comes to public engagement. The most common justification of this engagement work is aligned to a sense of civic responsibility, to respond to societal needs and challenges. For example, in terms of responsible research & innovation (RRI).

It all started with a new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), first floated in 2017 by the UK government who wanted more information about how Higher Education Providers (HEPs) were serving the economy and society for the benefit of publics, businesses and communities. The KEF was piloted by Research England with a sample of providers during Spring 2019 and published in March 2021.

Public and Community Engagement is included as one of seven ‘perspectives’ in the KEF, alongside (for instance) Research Partnerships and Working with Business. The incentive is that Universities who perform well in the KEF (alongside other frameworks such as the REF) benefit from enhanced funding. A full analysis of KEF submissions relating to public engagement can be found here (Feb 2022).

However, one of the most exciting developments in public engagement in 2022 was the increasing spirit of collaboration across different agencies working to support high quality engagement with the public, patients and communities. To this extent, the NCCPE worked with a consortium of organisations and patient representatives to develop a short, simple and shared statement of commitment to improve and embed public involvement in health and social care research. It goes something like this:-

People have the right to be involved in all health and social care research. Excellent public involvement is an essential part of health and social care research and has been shown to improve (PDF, 413KB) its quality and impact. People’s lived experiences should be a key driver for health and social care research.

When we talk about public involvement, we mean all the ways in which the research community works together with people including:

  • patients
  • carers
  • advocates
  • service users
  • members of the community

Excellent public involvement is inclusive, values all contributions, ensures people have a meaningful say in what happens and influences outcomes, as set out in the UK Standards for Public Involvement in Research.