Public Engagement – keeping track, recording and evaluation

Published on 28 December 2022

The University of Dundee uses the Discovery platform (PURE) to publicly record all research outputs, including media recognition and track links between research projects and outputs.

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Since establishing our engagement strategy at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS) at the University of Dundee we wanted to ensure that all engagement activity was recorded, evaluated and celebrated. The University of Dundee uses the Discovery platform (PURE) to publicly record all research outputs, including media recognition and track links between research projects and outputs. It makes sense to ensure that public engagement work related to research is tracked and recorded in that same way.

To establish this project I worked closely with the Library and Learning Centre Discovery team at the University of Dundee – namely Moya Fox and with the rest of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (staff and students) to put into place a method of recording. The Discovery platform has been modified to enable recording of public engagement activity and tracking of metrics such as audience numbers, audience types, datasets and reach. We discussed the ways in which the public engagement activities could be recorded and how to tag and link these to research grants, projects, news and research papers. I was given editing rights so I can edit and input details on behalf of others.

I worked with the wider LRCFS team to stress the importance of recording individual activity as part of the engagement work we do. I lead by example and for Centre wide activity I upload the details to the platform (this also avoids duplicate entries).

I felt it was important to adopt this approach in recording public engagement for a number of reasons:

  • Our public engagement activity is integral to our research process and therefore should be recorded in the same way.
  • It is important to track links over time and see where public engagement activity has supported research projects or led to media coverage, impact or new grants and the discovery platform allows these links to be made.
  • It is important that our public engagement activity is visible publicly and putting it on the Discovery platform allows this to happen (including links to resources, video content etc).
  • Our engagement contributions should be recognised by the wider institution, this includes our contributions to the sustainable development goals and ensuring they are listed on the Discovery platform enables others that are using the software for reporting can easily see what has taken place.
  • It is important for staff, students and researchers to keep records of their activities for their own career development. The Discovery platform enables all of this information to be kept together in one place.
  • We can track geographical reach of outputs and downloads through IRUS: https://irus.jisc.ac.uk/secure/irus/item/country/?id=1555673

The real test of a recording process is if it continues in your absence. In 2020, I was on maternity leave and I was pleased to find that the team continued to update their profiles with their engagement activities! When I returned from maternity leave, I could see what activities had been taking place while I was away.

Here is how we did it:

  1. Invited the Discovery team to deliver a session with the LRCFS team about the platform, including the importance of it l and we emphasised public engagement recording too
  2. At LRCFS inductions with staff and students I tell them about the platform and why it is important for research and engagement.
  3. I upload any centre-wide activity on behalf of the group (this helps remind people to update their profiles and also makes sure that multiple people don’t upload the same activity in different ways). An example of this is the Crime Café series that we carried out in 2019. Having populated profiles encourages people to keep theirs up to date. 
  4. I remind people to put things on PURE whenever we discuss a public engagement activity. If it’s their first time I offer to walk them through the listing for the public engagement activity.
  5. I make sure that they know that it is used for reporting so is important and that they can also download activity from their PURE profile for CVs etc
  6. Making sure your senior team echoes these messages and supports recording in the Discovery platform.

Written by:

Heather Doran
Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS)
University of Dundee


Dr Heather Doran

Public Engagement Manager

+44 (0)1382 381583