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Symposium: Public Engagement

Nash Lecture Theatre (K2.31)
26/06/2015 (09:00-17:30)
Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Studies in collaboration with King’s College London Department of Digital Humanities. 

The third Strand Symposium on Public Engagement brings together scholars, publishers and librarians from a range of disciplines to discuss their experiences and strategies in engaging - rather than simply informing - audiences.  

The symposium will be held at King’s College London's Strand campus on 26 June 2015, in conjunction with the graduate summer school for library and information studies MA students from the Pratt Institute in NYC and the University of Tennessee Knoxville. The theme of the summer school is digital scholarship and e-publishing. It is based at the Department of Digital Humanities at King's. 

The purpose of the symposium is to bring together scholars involved in projects/enterprises which specifically address the broadly-defined area of public engagement. The emphasis will not be on the theory of public engagement but rather on case studies which have actually made an impact across a wide spectrum of disciplines and the evolution of policies that move from outreach to engagement. 

The following are among the confirmed presenters:

Chris Lintott, Professor of Astrophysics and Citizen Science in the Department of Physics at Oxford University - Engaging the crowd: Science with a million people
Sierra Williams, LSE Public Policy Group, London School of Economics and Political Science - From academic blog to networked scholarly community: Lessons from the LSE Impact Blog
Tula Giannini, Professor and Dean of the Pratt Institute School of Library and Information Science -Through digital culture, museums share scholarship and augment experience to engage visitors and build community 
Giles S.H. Yeo, Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge - Communicating Science: Lessons from the Front Line
Mark Hedges, Senior Lecturer, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London -  Public humanities – from  crowdsourcing to community-sourcing
Gracia Edwards, Community Manager, STM Digest, Elsevier Amsterdam - STM Digest – the best bits of science
Stuart Dunn, Lecturer, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London - Contested Geographies, Captive Audiences: Frontiers and Their Public Meaning(s)
Ann Grand, Fellow, Science Communication Unit, University of the West of England, Bristol and Visiting Fellow, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University - Digital practices of engaged researchers
Charlie Rapple, Co-Founder and Sales & Marketing Director Kudos - Crossing the Chasm: broadening the reach of research

Academic research is commonly regarded as a crucial component of the progress of a country. However, an invisible wall of indifference often separates citizens from the work that is carried out in laboratories, universities and cultural institutions.  

It is not surprising that funds for research become smaller and smaller when this intellectual endeavour is seen as something that only affects the lives of few people. National governments have started requiring that larger audiences are involved in the outcome of research projects that are paid with public money, and "dissemination" has become a new buzzword in all academic environments. But, in spite of these efforts, ground breaking papers, precious archives, revolutionary digital tools lie in traditional and digital libraries, collecting material and metaphorical dust. How is that possible?--wonder the scholars--why people don't use these incredible resources? Why is society not revolutionised by an access to knowledge that is unprecedented in human history? 

The last few years have shown us that accessibility and availability are necessary, but they are not enough, regardless the quality of the research itself. Not even the best achievements can promote themselves. Scholars need to create an interest around their topic of research and the process that led to new discoveries or applications. It is expected, indeed demanded, to go beyond informing the public and start actively engaging with it. 

"Public engagement" is, obviously, not an easy task. Academics have to leave their ivory tower and learn communication strategies. They not only have to pay attention to what members of the public actually want and need, but they also have to fight against countless competitors in gaining people's attention and praise. 

The field of public engagement is still excitingly new, and academia is experimenting unpredictable contaminations and collaborations with storytelling, creative industries, gaming, social media and marketing techniques. 

Are they being successful? Or are they over-simplifying complex topics in order to win the public's affection? What are the new challenges in producing an academic output that is, at the same time, appealing and scientifically accurate? Are scholars supposed to become expert in public engagement, or do we need to create new professional roles? 

Presentations will be by invitation, but those who might wish to offer something relevant are asked to contact the convenor: and those with queries about registrations and matters relating to the organisation of the symposium should contact 

Registration will begin at the Nash Lecture Room and the symposium will start at 10.00 and finish at 17.30. There will be refreshments during the morning and the afternoon and a break for lunch between 13.10 and 4.20. Lunch will not be provided.

Attendance is free, but please register via eventbrite.

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