Imperial College London

Imperial hosts inaugural societal engagement day


two girls, one pointing and the other looking through binoculars and holding a trowel

School pupils take part in an outreach event in White City

Last week the College’s first-ever Engagement Day brought together 100 members of staff to network, exchange ideas and share inspirational stories.

Kicking off the day for staff involved or interested in societal engagement, Professor Maggie Dallman, Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships), said: “What we do at Imperial isn’t just for the lab and the library, for awards ceremonies or academic league tables. We do it for the benefit of society – it’s right there in our mission.

"Whether it’s giving patients the power to shape their treatment or letting local schoolkids remind us what wonder looks like, whatever we’re doing, we want people to try it, touch it, test it – and tell us what they think.” 

Natural neighbours

Clare Matterson, Director of Engagement at the neighbouring Natural History Museum, delivered the keynote speech, sharing her experience of public engagement. She described her leading role in establishing the Wellcome Collection and working on exhibitions and programmes to engage the public. She also discussed the different modes of public engagement and asked Imperial staff to think more deeply about how society can engage with science.

people standing in a line presenting at the front of a lecture theatre

A session of fast-paced presentations gave an energetic insight into a range of inspiring engagement projects from different departments, and breakout workshops explored a number of engagement areas including engaging policy makers, science communication, science capital and working with schools to spark new ideas.

Engagement as research impact

The day concluded with a panel discussion chaired by Paul Manners, Director of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). Panellists touched on how the changing environment for universities affects the way in which researchers engage society with their work, and the importance of exploring innovative ways to get research from the College out of the labs and into public discussion.

four people sitting on chairs in a row

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) at Imperial, reflected on his own positive experiences of public engagement around his AI research, seeing engagement as a key part of being a thriving and well-rounded research institution.

Dr Steven Hill, Director of Research Policy at Research England, added that he would like to see more meaningful engagement with communities, including collaborating on setting research agendas and priorities. He also pointed out that Imperial has a great opportunity to do this at the White City Campus – where community engagement work is already underway.

Joining the dots

Professor Maggie Dallman highlighted the important role that engagement has to play in addressing significant societal challenges, and shared the valuable ways in which the College currently carries out societal engagement.

Professor Dallman closed the day by thanking the delegates, saying: “There could be no engagement without your hard work, commitment, expertise and enthusiasm. We can all benefit from each other. By joining the dots we can bring everyone together and continue to engage society with our work.” 


Martha Nahar

Martha Nahar
Communications and Public Affairs

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Outreach, Strategy-staff-community, Public-engagement
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