National Forum for Public Engagement with STEM

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Engaging the public with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is vital to a thriving science system: for scientific literacy, developing future scientists and engineers, and for improving social justice and social inclusion.

From exhibitions on how your food cravings control you, to interactive exhibits where you can dance with your atomic field, we are fortunate living in the UK and to have a depth of inspirational and exciting activity geared towards informal science learning (learning that takes place outside of the formal curriculum). Behind the scenes of this activity is a whole infrastructure of educators, scientists, organisations and funders.

In 2012, the Wellcome Trust published a review of Informal Science Learning, which identified the need for a National Forum that brings together all the major funders in this sector to better understand where to place investment and to improve collaboration, co-operation and learning across the sector. The National Forum for Public Engagement for STEM was established in 2014, and is is a collective of key funders and organisations involved in setting the national agenda for public engagement in STEM. Its members include government departments, learned societies, businesses and other key sector organisations. The collective priorities of the Forum are:

  • Improving models and approaches to funding;
  • Engaging underserved audiences;
  • Ensuring more effective evaluation;
  • Development and sharing of evidence, knowledge, resources and activity.

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) was awarded the contract to act as secretariat for the Forum until October 2015. As an associate with the NCCPE I have supported the work of the secretariat and the Forum. Our work has included:

  • Preparing and planning of Forum meetings and working groups;
  • Providing thought leadership and facilitating expert input to stimulate strategic thinking and planning;
  • Facilitating engagement with the wider STEM public engagement sector to share outcomes from the Forum and ensure the Forum is appropriately responsive to the needs of the sector;
  • Project development and oversight ensuring the space between meetings is utilised to follow up challenges or opportunities which have been identified.

Further information about the Forum’s work is included in the the Forum webspace.  My contribution to this programme has been varied from managing day to day relationships with Forum members and wider stakeholders through to the production of insight papers for Forum meetings, through to the design and delivery of stakeholder events.

 

Image:  Credit Fernan Federici & Jim Haseloff, Wellcome Images. Cell division and gene expression in plant cells

 

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