Heriot-Watt Engage

Heriot-Watt Engage is the University's initiative to promote, stimulate and support public engagement activities by the research community. 

Heriot-Watt Engage was established in 2013 to build upon Heriot-Watt's partnership with the Beltane Network, one of six UK Beacons for Public Engagement funded by Research Councils UK, the Funding Councils and the Wellcome Trust. In 2015, the work of Heriot-Watt Engage was recognised by their award for Public Engagement and Advocacy from ARMA, the Association of Researcher Managers and Administrators. In 2017, the University was awarded an RCUK/UKRI SEEPER grant to create, enrich and embed a culture where excellent public engagement with research (PER) is more effectively and strategically supported. 

There are a variety of skills that help make public engagement events successful, skills that are also important for research communication in general. Training currently available to Heriot-Watt academics, researchers and students can be found on the personal development portal.

If you are a member of staff or student at Heriot-Watt University, you can find out more infomation about this on our Sharepoint site, where you can also sign up to our newsletter. 

Who is involved? 

Dr Laura Wicks is the public engagement lead at Heriot-Watt. She developed and leads the multi-award-winning public engagement initiative for the University. Within this role, she supports, stimulates and promotes public engagement activities across the University, with the vision of embedding public engagement activities into academic life, building on the University's strong history of public engagement with local, national and international communities. 

Laura has a particular focus on multi-disciplinary projects, working with people from different disciplines to create projects reaching diverse audiences, addressing the University’s social responsibilities and links to wider society. 

Heriot-Watt Engage is part of the Research Engagement directorate, within the Policy, Strategy and Impact Team. The multi-faceted nature of public engagement means Laura works closely with colleagues in Researcher Development, Marketing and Communications, Alumni Relations and Student Recruitment.

Academic leads for public engagement 

In 2021, we appointed Academic Leads for Public Engagement, who work closely with the Engaged University steering group to deliver the strategy’s mission to 'inspire and understand the mutual needs of our global – local communities and provide measurable pathways to global impact through our pioneering research'. For more details, see the Academic leads webpage. 

Engaged University Steering Group

The Engaged University Steering Group is chaired by Prof. Garry Pender, Deputy Principal for Research and Innovation, and involves key senior stakeholders from across professional services and academia. The group provides a strategic lead for the University's public engagement activity, with activities aligned to Strategy 2025. 

Embedding engagement

From 2017-2019, Heriot-Watt University was funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to create, enrich and embed cultures within higher education institutions where excellent public engagement with research (PER) is more effectively and strategically supported.  

The Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research (SEE-PER) project, led by Prof. Garry Pender and Dr Laura Wicks, enabled us to explore the barriers and challenges to engaging the public in our research, and embed mechanisms to address these challenges. 

We used an evidence-based approach to embed public engagement within the University strategy and management priorities. We consulted widely with stakeholders about how we can truly create a culture where public engagement is valued and supported – both internally within the University, and within our local communities.

Our awareness-raising activities included piloting high-profile events, public engagement champions and networks, and training opportunities. Learning from these activities has enabled us to see what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. The success of the interventions is demonstrated by the high profile of PER within the new University strategy, the imminent launch of the PER Implementation plan, and the revised structures and support mechanisms within the institution.

Further information on the project can be found in the final SEE-PER report and by contacting Heriot-Watt Engage.

Key information

Laura Wicks