University of Aberdeen wins major new award to engage the public with its research

The University of Aberdeen has secured funding from Research Councils UK (RCUK) to engage the public with cutting-edge research.

The University is the only institution in Scotland to secure Catalysts funding and is one of eight successful bids from across the UK.

The grant from RCUK will be matched by the University and will enable the creation of a dedicated Public Engagement with Research Unit to share the exciting research journeys and break-throughs made at Aberdeen with the general population.

The University will use the grant to build on successful initiatives such as its highly popular series of community cafes which bring academics conducting leading research in their fields face-to-face with a public audience.

Over the last three years the cafe programme has grown to include specialist themes in areas such as science and medicine and has seen the series taking place outwith Aberdeen city, with café events running in Banchory, Fraserburgh and Inverurie.

The aim of the public engagement programme is to make the University, its people and its research as accessible as possible and to give the public more opportunities to get involved.

It will also support academics from across the University to embed public engagement within their research environment while developing their own skills and experience in the process.

The Catalyst funding will expand activities in this area to include a greater range of subjects and disciplines ranging from philosophy and archaeology to history and law.

Aberdeen’s successful bid was spearheaded by Professor Albert Rodger, Vice-Principal for External Affairs, Dr Ken Skeldon, Head of Public Engagement with Research and Dr Lucy Leiper, Researcher Development.

University of Aberdeen Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Diamond, said: “I am delighted that the University has secured a Catalysts Award for Scotland. This will further the University’s important commitment to engaging with society and will ensure our research community is at the heart of that process”

Professor Rodger said: “The public has a stake in the kind of research that a university undertakes and therefore should wherever possible be part of the process of that research. The University of Aberdeen has championed public engagement through a wide range of events such as our highly popular café series and will also host the British Science Festival in 2012. We are thrilled therefore that our progress in this area has been recognised. This prestigious new grant award will allow us to extend our public engagement with research programmes to encompass all academic disciplines in the University and to reach out to new audiences.”

The Catalysts funding will also enable the University of Aberdeen to take a leading role in sharing best practice in public engagement with other institutions across Scotland and beyond.

Paul Manners, Director of the RCUK funded National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement said: “I am delighted that Aberdeen succeeded in what proved to be a very competitive bidding process.  Their success was greatly helped by the commitment the university has already shown to public engagement, and their willingness to share their work and the lessons they are learning with the wider sector.  We are greatly looking forward to working closely with them on the project”.

Notes to Editors

1.     Total of award winners

·         Award winner: Professor Albert Alexander Rodger, University of Aberdeen

Title: A progressive model for institutional culture change

Value: £299,856


·         Award winner: Professor Jane Millar, University of Bath

Title: Embedding public engagement across the research lifecycle at the University of Bath

Value: £298,415


·         Award winner: Professor Nicholas Talbot, University of Exeter

Title: The Exeter Catalyst

Value: £299,370


·         Professor Michael Reiss, Institute of Education

Title: Public engagement with the research process and research findings at the Institute of Education

Value: £252,494


·         Professor Sarah O’Hara, The University of Nottingham

Title: Integrating the human value of research through public engagement - impacts for civil society

Value: £299,954


·         Professor Tim Blackman, Open University

Title: An open research university: embedding public engagement within the culture of research at the Open University

Value: £299,456


·         Professor Evelyn Welch, Queen Mary University London

Title: Centre for Public Engagement

Value: £299,888


·         Professor Richard Jones, University of Sheffield

Title: Remaking the civil university: creating new cultural standards for public engagement

Value: £299,951


2.     Research Councils UK (RCUK)is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK’s global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research. To maximise the impact of research on economic growth and societal wellbeing we work in partnership with other research funders including the Technology Strategy Board, the UK Higher Education funding bodies, business, government, and charitable organisations.


The seven UK Research Councils are:

·         Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

·         Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

·         Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

·         Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

·         Medical Research Council (MRC)

·         Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

·         Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)