About public engagement at Utrecht University

Academics need partners who stand to benefit from their research. Everyone could be such a partner – even those for whom the relevance of this research is not self-evident. That is why Utrecht University invests in engaging a wide and diverse audience in academic endeavours, which is often described by the term ‘public engagement’.

Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public.

Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.

Public engagement starts with the question: What is happening in society? By looking at the ways research can help answer or clarify these societal questions, a meaningful dialogue between research and audience starts, that benefits both.

Open Science and public engagement at Utrecht University

Public engagement is one of the themes of the Open Science Programme at Utrecht University. Open Science means: sharing academic results and data and making them useful, and giving people outside academia a say in what research is about. This is essential to keep the relationship between science and society open and democratic. It means that it is necessary for academics and other members of society to learn to find, know and understand each other. Public engagement contributes to this.

Centre for Science and Culture

With an extended network of researchers, the Centre for Science and Culture develops public engagement programs, projects, and internal training and development, among others through the Science Hub, Studium Generale, Parnassos Cultural Centre, and the University Museum. These activities contribute to the societal impact ambitions of Utrecht University.

Open in Connection. Utrecht University Public Engagement Plan 2021 - 2025

The Utrecht University Public Engagement Plan 2021 - 2025 describes the context of societal impact, learning point from earlier activities and future action plans.

View the plan

Professor Erik van Sebille talks about public engagement

Professor dr. Erik van Sebille about the importance of public engagement and why it is not only about the results but also about the process of science.

Why is it necessary and important to engage a general audience?

Utrecht University rector magnificus prof. dr. Henk Kummeling explains why universities should engage a general audience

Public engagement creates benefits to:

  • The public: increased understanding of the outcomes and process of science and of issues science can throw a light on; a chance to be part of science; it's fun
  • Researchers: Improve communication and other skills; helps to see the bigger picture, reminds you why you're doing it; new ideas, challenge thinking; it's rewarding
  • Universities: raises the university profile positively; improves grant funding; provides opportunities for staff to develop
  • Society as a whole: enables us all to make more informed choices; inspires the next generations of scientists; challenges rooted convictions; enables progress