From participation to engagement and back again

Seminar: Rm 12.39 27th March 3-4pm All Welcome

Sarah Chan, University of Edinburgh and Sonja Erikainen, University of Leeds

Researchers, including social scientists, are increasingly being asked or required by funding bodies to undertake public engagement and, moreover, to embed public engagement within research programmes as an integrated component. Considerable amount of ink has been spilled on debating what the best activities, methods, models, and ways of measuring the impact of public engagement might be. At the same time, concepts and methodologies such as ‘participatory engagement,’ ‘engaged participation,’ and ‘co-production,’ are gaining currency, especially within the social sciences, while in the biomedical sciences, “patient and public involvement” (PPI) is increasingly emphasised. Across all of these practices, however, the meanings of the underlying notions of ‘engagement,’ ‘participation,’ and ‘public’ are not well defined, leaving the ethical dimensions of these relationships under-explored. The relationship between emerging and existing models of ‘research participation’ and ‘research engagement’ also demands further attention.


This seminar aims to ‘engage’ ‘participants’ to think about the meaning and implications of ‘engagement’ and ‘participation,’ both as concepts and practices. It is not a ‘how-to’ session for best engagement practice but aims, rather, to provide a space to consider what ‘engagement’ means in the first place, and why we (should) do it.

Image credit: EyeofJ Flickr