Yesterday, the previously small world of public engagement with science made some important new friends. RCUK
launched six "Beacons for public engagement,"
based at British universities, aiming to connect them to their local communities and other public groups in new ways. Ian Pearson, the science minister, seemed excited. And he seems to understand better than his predecessors that public engagement is not, as he put it, "just speaking slower and louder." The conversations that science needs to have with society are fundamental. And through the beacons, these conversations can hopefully take us closer to a model of engaged academia.
The beacons launch follows an announcement last week from John Denham, the Secretary of State for universities among other things, that the Research Assessment Exercise, which has for years stood in the way of engagement, needed to change. We made the same argument a couple of years ago.
The new look Times Higher magazine has been following this, with a story last week
, and a comment piece from me this week.