NERC launches new public engagement strategy

4 March 2020

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has today launched a new Public Engagement with Research and Innovation Strategy, which sets out a new and ambitious way of engaging the public with our research.

NERC is the UK’s largest funder of independent environmental science, which means that we have a key role to play in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. This includes mitigating the effects of climate change, cutting carbon emissions, ensuring access to clean air and water, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, and finding ways to feed the world’s growing population.

At this critical time, we have a responsibility to share the science we fund with society. Our 2017 Public Attitudes survey showed that 76% of the public want to understand more about the science we fund. At the same time, people are more ready than ever to get involved with research directly, through citizen science projects.

For that reason, our new Public Engagement with Research and Innovation Strategy goes beyond simple science communication, and aims to meaningfully engage and involve people with the environmental science that impacts all of our daily lives.

Created in consultation with our partners and stakeholders, the 2019-2024 strategy builds on the excellent public engagement work already taking place within our council, including current and previous investments such as the NERC Community for Engaging Environments, as well as individual grants to researchers. However, it takes a bolder and more strategic approach than we have previously. Our activities, and those we commission, will be guided by five objectives:

  1. To build the capacity of our researchers to engage.
    We will enable and support NERC-funded environmental scientists so that they have the capability and skills to engage with different audiences about their research and its impact.
     
  2. To promote engaged research.
    We will support NERC-funded researchers to actively involve stakeholders throughout the research cycle,  for instance through citizen science or participatory research projects.
     
  3. To convene public debate about contemporary issues in environmental science.
    We will ensure that NERC science is shared and debated with confidence, so that its impact on policymakers and other stakeholders can be maximised.
     
  4. To inspire public audiences with environmental science.
    We will inspire people from all walks of life to enjoy, contribute to, question and critically think about environmental science, and how it impacts their everyday lives and interests.
     
  5. To listen to the public through public dialogue to inform NERC.
    We will consult and listen to the public and other stakeholders, and ensure that our research programmes are informed by societal concerns and aspirations.

This strategy supports the UKRI Public Engagement Vision, and more broadly supports engagement for world-leading research and innovation to create a more productive, healthy and resilient environment as outlined in the NERC Delivery Plan.

Alison Robinson, NERC Director of Corporate Affairs, says:

“In this new strategy, we set out a bold approach to transforming how we engage the public with environmental research.”

“By placing communities and people at the heart of the science we fund, we want to include more people in engaging with our science as well as strengthen our already world-class research, and accelerate efforts to find solutions to issues like climate change.”

Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement at UKRI, says:

“UKRI is committed to promoting and encouraging public engagement with research and innovation. Our recently launched vision for public engagement is built on the excellent work across our councils. NERC’s new public engagement strategy, with its focus on listening, engaging and involving people, is an important part of us delivering on the UKRI vision.”