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‘Europe is behind UK on public engagement’

Kerry Leslie recently stood down as head of public engagement at Research Councils UK. She tells Adam Smith about a decade of culture change.

How did RCUK’s role in public engagement begin?

In 2005, the Office of Science and Technology in the then Department of Trade and Industry did a project on how to move a lot of programmes and activities from its Science and Society team to the research councils. I worked on that project, which took about six months. It was the first look at everything done in the DTI and by each individual council. There was a keenness from some people in government to move a lot more of what the Science and Society team did over to the research councils, but the science minister David Sainsbury actually wanted to keep hold of some activities, such as the STEM Ambassadors scheme that went across all areas, not just research. So we set up a Science and Society unit in the research councils, hosted by the Economic and Social Research Council, and I got the job as head.

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