STEMskiller: Skill Set Map for Mentors of Early Career Researchers
Impact and public engagement
While different institutions and cultures may define “impact” and “public engagement” in local or national terms, the definitions selected below are helpful in understanding what is meant by these terms at top-ranked world universities.
“Academic impact”, according to the UKRI Economic and Social Research Council, is:
…the demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes in shifting understanding and advancing scientific method, theory and application across and within disciplines
Economic and societal impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes to society and the economy, and its benefits to individuals, organisations and/or nations.
The impact of research, be it academic, economic and social can include:
- Instrumental: influencing the development of policy, practice or service provision, shaping legislation, altering behaviour
- Conceptual: contributing to the understanding of policy issues, reframing debates
- Capacity building: through technical and personal skill development.
“Public engagement,” according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):
Public engagement with science describes intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public. Mutual learning refers not just to the acquisition of knowledge, but also to increased familiarity with a breadth of perspectives, frames, and worldviews.
Goals for public engagement with science in addition to mutual learning include civic engagement skills and empowerment, increased awareness of the cultural relevance of science, and recognition of the importance of multiple perspectives and domains of knowledge to scientific endeavors.
These definitions imply that scientific endeavors have a potential impact on human life and activities in many ways.
 UKRI Economic and Social Research Council. (2020). What is Impact? https://esrc.ukri.org/research/impact-toolkit/what-is-impact/
 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (2020). Public Engagement. https://www.aaas.org/resources/communication-toolkit/what-public-engagement
Useful Impact and Public Engagement resources:
AAAS. (2020). Public Engagement. https://www.aaas.org/resources/communication-toolkit/what-public-engagement.
Definition, why it is needed, and links to additional resources, including “Many Approaches to Public Engagement.”
National Informal STEM Education Network. (2020). Public Engagement with Science: A guide to creating conversations among publics and scientists for mutual learning and societal decision-making. https://www.nisenet.org/catalog/public-engagement-science-guide-creating-conversations-among-publics-and-scientists-mutual
Includes: definition of public engagement with science, strategic public engagement, planning and designing a public engagement event or activity, evaluating and disseminating outcomes, and future directions.
UKRI Economic and Social Research Council. (2020). What is Impact? https://esrc.ukri.org/research/impact-toolkit/what-is-impact/
Provides the definition of impact used above together with an “impact toolkit” (see Impact for researchers).
Tags: All IPS; all PSR; all IAL; CompQ
Peer Review: None
Table of contents:
4.2. Impact and public engagement
- 4.2.1. Getting started with public engagement
4.2.2. Impact for researchers
4.2.3. Science for non-technical audiences and popular science presentations
4.2.4. Developing effective communication skills for public engagement
4.2.5. Lay abstracts with impact
4.2.6. Engaging with schools
4.2.7. Effective online engagement (including research blogging, social media posting, podcasting, & hosting virtual events)
4.2.8. Evaluating public engagement
Author: Stephanie Krueger
Peer Reviewer(s): None
Last Updated: October 28, 2021