London Blog

Scientists, meet the public. Public, here are some scientists

So-called public engagement with science initiatives are pretty common these days; certainly in London. But here’s a new one that might just produce results.

Beacons for Public Engagement brings universities together with cultural partners in an attempt to tell the world about the work of higher education institutions (in science and other disciplines). Six Beacons will be created across the UK: Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, London, Cardiff (sadly, not Brecon) and Edinburgh.

The London Beacon is formed from UCL, British Museum, the Southbank Centre, Birkbeck College, Cheltenham Science Festival, Arts Catalyst and City and Islington College.

Training staff and students to ‘engage’ with the public will be a major strand. Conversely, UCL will open spaces around campus for ‘public activities, tours and installations’. London and the other Beacons will each receive £1.2 million over four years from the higher education funding councils, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust.

Science and Innovation minister Ian Pearson sums up the motivations in a press release: “Public and societal engagement needs to become an integral part of researchers’ university experience. Bringing scientists and the public together is doubly beneficial. It helps ensure scientific work is relevant to society and that the public have trust in science. I want to see a culture shift to recognise the importance of this activity within a research context.”

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