The AHRC -TORCH Public Engagement Summer School 2015 consisted of 5 days of skills workshops, lectures, and small group sessions designed to furnish participants with the skills to integrate public engagement into their research. Open to doctoral students and early career researchers, there were 20 participants from a variety of faculties. The Summer School offered humanities researchers the online skills (WordPress, blogging, writing for different audiences, basic information about website development/coding) and presentational skills (tv, radio, and more general presentation skills) to engage with the public, resulting in a cohort of researchers to participate in PE activities and training throughout the year.
Developed by Adele Bardazzi and Alexis Brown (TORCH Graduate Project Coordinators 2014-15), the programme fell under four main themes:
- PE conceptualization: What skills and knowledge do the humanities have to offer the public? Who is the public in this context? What does public engagement look like in a humanities context, and how can we learn from the sciences? What benefits does it offer your research? How can your research be translated into a public engagement project?
- Communication skills: How do you translate your research for a non-academic audience? How do you find the audience that your research might appeal to? How do you approach radio and television media outlets as a source of public access? How do you use each medium most effectively? What kinds of technical, interpersonal and presentational skills do you need to reach the public?
- Funding: What resources are available to fund PE projects? How does one apply to them, and what do funding bodies look for in their applications? How can we encourage entrepreneurial and financial skills in participants?
- Experiential learning: How can skills learned in the summer school be directly applied to participants’ own ideas for PE projects within the context of the Summer School?
On the final day of the summer school, participants had the opportunity to pitch an idea for a public engagement project, putting into practice many of the skills and approached developed throughout the week. Three fascinating student-led projects were awarded funding, and many more excellent ideas were pitched to the judges.
Ushashi Dasgupta (DPhil English) – awarded £500: Ushashi will work with the Dickens Museum and with the University’s outreach team in order to run a series of workshops entitled ‘Living Together’ in summer 2016. ‘Living Together’ will invite sixth-form and college leavers going on to university to consider what living together meant in the nineteenth century, and how this is articulated in Dickens’ texts, as preparation for living with others (often for the first time outside the family home) in a university environment. Ushashi’s research considers tenancy in Dickens.
Sarah Griffin (DPhil History of Art) and Kanta Dihal (DPhil English) – awarded £250: Sarah and Kanta will work with the Museum of the History of Science to produce a series of podcasts for 2016. These podcasts will take as their subject the vast collection of scientific instruments held in the Museum, approaching them from both an aesthetic and a literary perspective.
Lucy Busfield (DPhil Theology) – awarded £250: Between January and July of 2016, Lucy will lead a series of public engagement workshops on how to read early modern English handwriting, in collaboration with a small group of local county record offices. Lucy will be helped in this task by six other Humanities doctoral students and early career researchers, drawn from the faculties of History, Theology, English and Medieval and Modern Languages. Lucy’s project will engage local families in the business of transcribing early modern texts held in the archives of the aforementioned county record offices, as both a crowdsourcing initiative and a family day out.