Increasing organizational efforts to develop public engagement

The University of Siena participates in the GRACE project through its Department of Business and Law (DBL), which employs approximately 90 people between academic and technical-administrative staff.

Understanding the need for, and the benefits deriving from, an intensification of the link between academic community and society, the DBL has decided to undertake a path of change oriented towards Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) – and to spread RRI principles throughout the University.

Developing a public engagement mechanism

With the aim of making research carried out within DBL increasingly responsive to external needs, the Department decided to intensify its commitment to public engagement. Recognizing the difficulties felt by its researchers, who often consider public engagement as something they do not have the time and resources for, it was decided to increase the organizational efforts aimed at simplifying the contacts and collaborations with external actors.

This shift allowed the routinization of:

  • the organization of an event giving the floor to the main stakeholders, asking them to suggest to the researchers topics they consider relevant on the basis of their practical experience
  • the conduct of a survey aimed at investigating researchers’ propensity for public engagement and the obstacles they encounter, in order to implement suitable improvement interventions.

Creating a lasting change

To translate these efforts into regular occurrences, guidelines identifying their frequency, responsibilities, and methods of realization were produced and unquestioningly approved by the Department Board. This approval lays the foundation for the institutionalization of the two activities, which have been outlined with the fundamental support of the expert partners.

This is a first step towards the increase of the inclusiveness, responsibility and sustainability of the research conducted within the DBL. Others will follow and the reflection on them is in progress. Specifically, the intent is to identify a series of internal regulations (e.g. those related to the awarding of prizes) within which to insert rules aimed at encouraging commitment to public engagement.

Vania Palmieri
Department of Business and Law of the University of Siena

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