What is public engagement and what role does it play for successful research proposals today? We worked on these topics together with early career researchers from DESY and Hamburg University in an interactive online workshop on October 28 and 29. DESY stands for German Electron Synchrotron and is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres. The training took place in the context of the PIER partnership that exists between the two institutions. The partnership focuses on research in areas such as particle physics, photon science, nanosciences and structural biology.

Public Engagement and structural changes in academia

The first day of the training was focused on science communication and public engagement. Besides an overview of the concepts and their development, a lot of practical tips and best practice examples were shared to show how to enter and design a dialogue with non-scientists. Participants were invited to reflect on their experiences with public engagement so far and to develop first ideas for engaging with different publics about their research. This also sparked a discussion on current incentive structures in science and the necessity for structural changes in academia to allow for more openness and participation.

Impact-oriented proposal design and stakeholder analysis

On the second day, the focus was on the role of research impact and public engagement for successful project proposals. Inputs addressed current developments in national and international funding scenarios as well as tips for impact-oriented proposal design. Also, strategic stakeholder involvement was addressed. In an interactive part, participants engaged with potential impacts of their own research and developed approaches for stakeholder identification and involvement. In addition, there were many opportunities to discuss individual questions and issues of the participants related to their projects and careers.