Eight in 10 (82 per cent) researchers carried out at least one form of public engagement in the past year, according to a new study launched today at the Engage conference in Bristol. The study Factors affecting public engagement by researchers was commissioned by a consortium of 15 UK research funders and Universities UK, led by the Wellcome Trust.

Since the last study into this area in 2006, the number of STEM researchers who value public engagement as a core component of their role has risen from 28 to 37 per cent. The proportion of STEM researchers who would like to engage more with the public has also increased from 45 per cent to 53 per cent and they also feel better equipped to engage with the public than they did in 2006 (up from 51 per cent to 63 per cent).

Competing pressures on time emerged as the biggest barrier to researchers undertaking public engagement (61 per cent). Other barriers included difficulty accessing relevant opportunities (26 per cent) and insufficient funding (26 per cent).

Dr Jeremy Farrar OBE FRS FMedSci, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “I believe that it is vital for researchers to engage with audiences outside their research.  The Wellcome Trust knows that public engagement is an integral part of the business of doing research and we welcome the contribution that this work provides in clarifying what we need to do next to take public engagement to the next level.”

The research was commissioned by a UK consortium of research funders. They are Wellcome Trust; Royal Society; British Academy; Royal Academy of Engineering; Academy of Medical Sciences; Royal Society of Chemistry; Research Councils UK; UK Funding Bodies (HEFCE, HEFCW, Scottish Funding Council and Department for Employment and Learning - Northern Ireland); Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; Department for Health (National Institute for Health Research); Health and Care Research Wales, Welsh Government; and the Scottish Government. The project is also supported by Universities UK.

More information and a full press release is available from the Wellcome Trust website.

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