1010   Roundtable discussion

Mentors, Mentees, and Public Engagement

The Science Communication profession has expanded worldwide with different theories and approaches being developed across continents. Various institutional and country-wide efforts are being encouraged, through initiatives such as the EU’s embedding of institutionalised RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation) and the UK’s REF (Research Excellence Framework) programme, to increase research impact, societal involvement, and best practices in the field of public engagement with science. 

Public engagement is a field with many entry points and career paths for individuals. Science communication scholars and practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds. As the importance and value of public engagement becomes more widely recognised and professionalised, it is important that the institutions who already have established programmes support those who are less experienced in the field of Science Communication. One mechanism for this support is institutional mentorship, either for public engagement as a whole or in one particular aspect of a public engagement programme. A mentoring relationship with someone more experienced in the field can advance an individual’s self-confidence, knowledge and career. This relationship can provide impartial encouragement for the mentee institution, and offers the mentor institution the opportunity to reflect on their own practice. Such mentorship needs to embrace and learn from cultural differences across fields, institutions and locations, in order to achieve the intended impact. 

This session will discuss the importance of mentorship to increase the research impact, societal participation of public engagement with science.. The mentee-mentorship relationship will be discussed across cultural boundaries in Europe and India on a personal and institutional level, emphasising the challenges and benefits to all involved. The variety of informal and formal mentoring relationships will also be emphasised through the speaker’s case studies that reflect a variety of cultural norms and practices which session speakers will develop through personal experiences in EU projects and other collaborations.

Author: Edward Duca
University of Malta, Malta

Speaker: Susan Wallace
Wellcome Genome Campus, United Kingdom

Susan is the Researcher Engagement Coordinator at the Wellcome Genome Campus, where she leads the shaping and delivering of a growing programme of public engagement training and support activity across the Campus. Prior to this, she was the Public Engagement Executive at the Royal Society of Chemistry and did a postdoc in public engagement at the University of British Columbia. Susan acted as a mentor to four institutions as part of the Horizon 2020 project, NUCLEUS, building strong relationships that have lasted beyond the original timeline of the project. Susan is a strong advocate for the benefits of institutions acting as mentors, particularly across different cultures. Mentoring multiple organisation within different cultural contexts, for example type of institution, academic field or location, can help institutions to develop a broad catalogue of examples to draw from when developing their own public engagement programme.

Speaker: Heather Rea
The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Heather Rea will share her mentorship experiences as Public Engagement Coordinator (University of Edinburgh) and her previous work as the Deputy Director of the Edinburgh Beltane, one of the six UK Beacons for Public Engagement, and project lead of the Beltane Public Engagement Network composed by the four universities in Edinburgh. She mentored four institutions as part of the EU-funded NUCLEUS project and a cohort of Public Engagement Fellows who range from social entrepreneurs to researchers. The fellowship notably used a facilitative approach to support quality public engagement.This was provided through a mentoring scheme which enabled the central team to share the appropriate skills and knowledge. She believes in facilitating change by supporting individuals in their personal and professional development, and creating leaders of the future. Mentoring provides the opportunity to share knowledge, skills and learning in the most relevant and efficient means for the individuals involved.

Speaker: Siddharth Kankaria
National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India

Siddharth Kankaria will share his experiences with mentor-mentee relationships, as a science communicator based in India who has been influenced by multiple mentors - both conventional and unconventional. He will touch upon the role mentors had in influencing his career transition from academia to science communication practice, and subsequently for sparking his interest in science communication research. Using personal experiences, he will focus on the importance of having a diverse array of mentors since it can have unexpected benefits - from networking and collaborations, to the development of one's professional profile and cultivating a sense of belonging in the field. He will emphasise the need for other academics and professionals to offer mentorship to less experienced colleagues. Mentorship is equally enriching to both the mentor and mentee helping to develop a strong network of collaborators, learn new skills, and acquire a more nuanced understanding of the field leading to improved quality for the field.

Speaker: Clayton Cutajar
Esplora Interactive Science Centre, Malta

Just like a science centre operates as a non-formal learning institution and environment, so do Mentor/Mentee relationships in public engagement. Job shadowing experiences and cross-border cooperation among science centres is quite a common practice. These short-term mobility experiences are aimed towards the sharing of best practices, knowledge, skills, competences and experiences. Another aspect is the interaction between researchers and science communicators, through Esplora's events practitioners work with researchers to enable them to engage varies parts of society with their work. These consist of a series of inter-disciplinary meetings that engage audiences with the concepts, applicability, relevance and research being carried out by researchers for the employability of others, personal growth and to encourage active citizenship.

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