Evaluating and recording public engagement

Guidance on evaluating and recording public engagement.

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Evaluation is a valuable tool that enables you to learn from your experiences and to assess the impact of your work. Effective evaluation also supports the University in reporting on our engagement within both the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the Knowledge Exchange Excellence Framework (KEF), which enhance your credentials and the funding allocated to the University.

Public engagement evaluation Guide

  • Evaluation should be part of the plan for your public engagement activity. Therefore the best way to approach evaluating your project is to have clear aims and well defined outcomes from the outset.
  • Public engagement by definition is a two-way process that can bring benefits to both your audience and to staff, students and colleagues. The internal impact/s may be focussed within your own department or felt more widely across the University
  • For longer term projects you should consider how evaluation can be included at different stages. For example, during the development stage you may wish to include pilot-projects or a run through to provide formative evaluation.
  • By far the most frequently conducted evaluation is at the end of the activity (summative). You should define indicators of success and failure (these are just as important) to act as front-end evaluation for your next project.

Examples of methods of evaluation

  • Observation - works well when subjects are involved in an activity and unable to provide detailed/objective opinions (for example young children). Bear in mind that subjects may change their behaviour if being observed.
  • Most activities use questionnaires & surveys, which are less time consuming and provide high quantities of data. Due to the short contact time with each respondent less in depth information is collected. More frequently surveys are undertaken online. Online polling tools are becoming increasingly popular.
  • One-to-one interviews and focus groups provide higher amounts of qualitative data. This can be extremely useful and offer unique insights. They are likely to require additional resource and expertise to collate and summarise effectively.

Outcomes to evaluate

  • Experiences - have the target audience enjoyed the activity? What do they feel they have gained from taking part?
  • Awareness and perception - has the event raised awareness of research and its impact on society?
  • Skills - have researchers involved developed relevant public engagement skills?
  • Change in behaviour - has your work change the way people act?

Can you demonstrate how many people have benefited from your engagement? Have the beneficiaries you identified benefitted? Can you evidence how long the benefits you're observed have endured?

Share on the discovery portal

Discovery is the University of Dundee's online collection of published research material. Search online for articles, books, conference papers, research theses and other material. It is easy to find new research material, and easy to deposit your own work to make it more widely available. Discovery is a valuable source of research material for students, researchers and the public.

We encourage you to record your public engagement activity through Discovery. All activity you record will populate your Discovery Profile.

National guides to evaluating engagement

Some excellent guides to public engagement activity have been collected on the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement website.