Conversations with the communications field

Author: Caroline Barker

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting our Reaching Out project at the Public Awareness of Research Infrastructures Conference. This conference described itself as a hands-on forum for communications, public relations and engagement professionals staff to share their ‚Äčexperiences and expertise. I wasn’t sure what to expect: Would my work be relevant to communications professionals?; Would I learn anything?

In terms of the conversations I shared and the lessons I learnt, I think this was possibly the most valuable conference I’ve attended. A great chance to network outside of the PPI world. Plus people liked the talk and told me they learnt something!

I can’t go into all the talks and conversations, but as a little snapshot I’ve highlighted those that stood out to me.

Under-resourcing for communicating/engaging the public spans all science fields

The quote ‘we need to recognise that this is a bread and butter activity not a tag on activity’ fits well with what I know we all experience.

Payment recognition for public is not limited to health and social care

A presenter discussing citizen science mentioned that a public member pointed out ‘you’re all paid to be here, I’m not’.

Are we all too scared to take risks?

Many people commented on the openness of my talk and how impressed they were to see a slide on ‘what didn’t work’. Why are we always so keen to show off and hide the challenges? We discussed how it is likely to be because we are typically publically-funded organisations and, as such, feel that we have to always be proving that we are spending the money well. But does that mean that we are too risk-averse and so won’t ever reach new audiences?

Is it always fair to ask people to be involved?

I had a very stimulating conversation about public involvement and co-production and whether it is always fair to expect people to get involved. How do we tackle the challenges of diversity and under-represented voices when, for some individuals, it might just not be fair to add another burden (ie contributing to research) on top when their circumstances might already be very challenging.


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