For any public engagement activity to be successful, it is important to plan all elements. This guide takes you through the different steps you should consider to make your activity successful.

Public engagement activities can take place at any stage of a research programme, for example:

  • Project start-up: involving stakeholders at this stage of the process can help shape the research agenda. This ensures that the research tackles pertinent issues.
  • Preliminary findings: sharing preliminary findings with key groups not only increases awareness but can tease out issues, helping shape later stages of research or analysis.
  • Project end: sharing and testing research findings both with stakeholders and with other groups who might be interested in the research, including the general public. This raises awareness of the research and of social science; it can potentially enable the outputs to be used more widely and have greater impact
  • Other times: public engagement activities don’t have to be linked to specific projects. For many groups, meeting and working with a researcher is a valued experience and provides a unique opportunity to understand research findings and processes. It may also provide new, unexpected research opportunities.

Public engagement projects can also provide insight and direction for future research. For example, the Citizen Science for Sustainability (SuScrit) project developed its research priorities following engagement with local communities. This provided "local communities with a voice in the future of urban sustainability research". 

Involve has also produced a publication demonstrating the direct impact public engagement can have on research. To find out more, read Exploring impact: public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research (Involve website).

In this section: