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  3. The Human Genre Project

Cesagen · Research

Programme for Impact and Engagement Research (PIER)

Dr Richard Watermeyer

Start date


Affiliated staff

Professor Ruth Chadwick, Professor Adam Hedgecoe, Professor Brian Wynne, Dr Jamie Lewis, Dr Michael Arribas-Ayllon


The programme for impact and engagement research (PIER) is focused on the study of public engagement with science and technology within a variety of knowledge contexts, but most especially as it occurs within the domain of Higher Education. Of primary concern is the mobilisation of a scholarship of engagement that applies a critically reflexive lens in understanding the diverse theoretical and methodological aspects of engagement practice and how academics’ expert knowledge translates in positive socio-economic terms. The programme has an integrated research portfolio which includes:

  • research into social network media and Web 2.0 as a platform of equitable participation in science/co-constructions of science between expert and non-expert coteries
  • research into the role of museums, art galleries and science centres as spaces for engagement and learning in science and technology
  • research into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiatives with a focus on gender
  • research into institutional and disciplinary attitudes towards public engagement and impact work in HE settings, with a particular focus on medical contexts
  • research into creative/aesthetic/experiential pathways of learning and meaning in the context of mental health
  • research into critical public engagement with a focus on upstream dialogue and uninvited spaces of dialogue
  • research into object-based learning or Museum and Gallery pedagogy for science learning
  • research into informal or incidental spaces of science learning through dialogue such as Café Scientifique
  • research into issues of science governance
  • evaluation of public engagement/dialogue activity


PIER is dedicated to a critical analysis of all things focussed on public engagement with science and technology: the impact of scientific knowledge on ‘public’ user groups and the germination of new lay knowledge workers.


PIER is explicitly multi-disciplinary in orientation and draws from across the academic traditions of sociology, education studies, philosophy, cultural studies, and art. Research is at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies and the Sociology of Education.

Research is largely qualitative in nature but has employed large-scale quantitative survey work. The programme benefits especially from the experience of its members as ethnographers in science and education settings.


Findings are various and continuously emergent. Of special note:

  • A new critique of upstream engagement
  • The significance of uninvited and informal spaces of dialogue in generating a participatory democracy and a bottom-up governance in science
  • The multiple benefits and dangers of Web 2.0 technology in globalising science communication/co-constructions

Project update

While studies into the impact of scientific and academic research are largely embryonic, a turn towards critical public engagement is delivering new momentum energising and expanding a scholarship of engagement. Understandings of how dialogue processes are recruited into impact work are of special significance and interest, particularly with the trialling of impact as a measure of academic assessment in the forthcoming REF 2014.


Watermeyer, R. (2011) Challenges for Engagement: Toward a Public Academe? Higher Education Quarterly (in press)

Watermeyer, R. (2011) Participatory Pedagogy – The Museum as Public Laboratory of Knowledge. museums and Society (in press)

Watermeyer, R. & Paddock, J. (2011) The Intricacies of Dialogue: Implications for Public Engagement with Science and Technology. Communication Theory (under review)

Watermeyer, R. (2011) Measuring the Impact Values of Public Engagement in Medical Contexts. Science Communication (under review)

Watermeyer, R. & Stevenson, V. (2011) New Scientific Identities: Addressing the Gender Imbalance in STEM. British Journal of Sociology of Education (under review)

Watermeyer, R. (2011) Qualities and Conditions for Engagement-Led Learning in Science: Setting the Foundations for Democratic Science Governance. International Journal of Science Education: Part B: Communication and Public Engagement. (under review)

Watermeyer, R. (2012) Social Network Media in R. Chadwick (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. New York: Elsevier (in press)

Watermeyer, R. (2010) Social Network Science: Pedagogy, Dialogue and Deliberation. Journal of Science Communication, 09, 01

Watermeyer, R. & Stevenson, V. (2010) Discover!ng Women in STEM: Girls into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 2, 1, pp. 26-46

Further information

For further information, please contact Richard Watermeyer, WatermeyerRP@cardiff.ac.uk