Life Sciences gold award for public engagement

The University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences has been awarded a prestigious Gold Watermark for its work in bringing world-class science to the wider community.

The School is the first to receive the faculty-level Gold Engage Watermark award from the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

To achieve a Gold award the School of Life Sciences needed to demonstrate that they are a beacon of excellence when it comes to sharing the work they do with the wider community and show how public engagement has built substantial momentum over several years.

Professor Nicola Stanley Wall, Academic Lead for Public Engagement for the School of Life Sciences, said, “We are delighted to accept this award which proves our strong commitment to public engagement, which is evident throughout Life Sciences at Dundee.

“Our support for public engagement is embedded in many areas of our work, with staff and students displaying a clear grasp and understanding of its significance and value.”

Principal Professor Sir Pete Downes said “This award demonstrates the fantastic work and commitment to public engagement by the School of Life Sciences that has been built up over several years.

“Their achievement and approach to public engagement including partnership working with others across the University, the City of Dundee and beyond reflects our core University values of working together as a community, making a difference and pursuing excellence.”

Paul Manners, Director of NCCPE said, “We were delighted to pilot the Faculty Watermark with the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences. This rigorous process looks at all aspects of support faculties provide to stimulate high quality mutually beneficial public engagement with research.

“The School provides a gold standard which we hope will inspire others to make a long term, concerted commitment to public engagement. We were delighted to see exemplary professional support, and a culture in which creativity and innovation were flourishing, enriching the research and bringing real value to the many communities they engage with.”

Public engagement undertaken by the School of Life Sciences includes engaging local schools and groups on scientific topics and providing career-long professional learning opportunities for local teachers. Many of the successful flagship projects led by the School are built on strong creative collaborations with key partners within the University and in the local community.

LifeSpace Science Art Research Gallery is a joint project with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design that engages artists and scientists in exciting new collaborations, while Outer Space | Inner Space, an interactive, science outreach programme held at the Mills Observatory, is in collaboration with researchers from the School of Science and Engineering and Leisure and Culture Dundee. 

Engagement with local schools in science through storytelling and stop-motion animation has been enabled through partnership with Dundee Contemporary Arts and outreach activities focused on plant sciences are in close collaboration with the University of Dundee Botanic Gardens and the James Hutton Institute.

Financial support for the work has come from Wellcome through the Institutional Strategic Support Fund, the University, MRC, BBSRC, Company of Biologists and individual projects funded from researchers’ grant applications.

The Engage Watermark is an award granted to institutions to recognise their strategic support for public engagement and their commitment to improve the support offered. Just as a watermark runs through the fabric of a document, an Engage Watermark indicates that engagement runs through the fabric of an institution.

Institutions applying for the Engage Watermark will receive a synthesis of key data relating to their institution, enabling them to recognise core strengths as well as highlight areas for development. This intelligence gathering provides a rich source of data to strengthen the institution’s support for impactful public engagement.


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Cara Longmuir
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University of Dundee
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Email: c.z.longmuir@dundee.ac.uk