Public engagement is the term used in universities to describe the partnerships between university research and different communities.

Our purpose

Inspiring, consulting and collaborating with publics to mutually benefit both our research and our society.  Public engagement is a two-way process, enhancing research by promoting trust, accountability and involvement for all those involved. We are committed to working in partnership with individuals, communities and organisations.

What we do

Public Engagement with Research is an important part of the research culture at the University. We have a dedicated Public Engagement Manager, supported by our five academic Public Engagement Leads. Communities from across Edinburgh and further afield are involved in our research from a broad range of academic disciplines. We offer training, advice and seed-funding to research staff and students.

Public Engagement takes place at all stages of research: in the planning stages, as the research takes place, and once it has ended.

We understand that effective public engagement relies on building strong relationships with our partners and our public engagement is always for the mutual benefit of all those involved. We recognise the often complex intersection of social class, ethnicity, gender and other factors which need to be considered in planning and carrying out engagement. 


  • To embed public engagement as part of the research culture: Public Engagement with Research will be seen as a core element of research, with support for researchers to develop and enhance engagement
  • To work in partnership with communities: ensuring that mutual benefit is at the heart of engagement, with university processes that are ready to support this work
  • To reward and recognise public engagement in research: time and workload allocation will support researchers to develop and carry out engagement activity; Public Engagement with Research will be included as part of promotional criteria for researchers; we will also make sure that our publics are rewarded and recognised for their input
  • To showcase public engagement: communication will be strengthened and impact will be recognised, thereby increasing the visibility of engagement, and encouraging new partnerships with different publics


Public Engagement with Research at Edinburgh Napier is:

  • inclusive
  • innovative
  • diverse
  • creative

Public Engagement Team

Click thumbnail to learn more about the team.

Dawn Smith
Clare Taylor
Louise Todd
Photo of Stephen's head and shoulders, he's wearing sunglasses and a blue shirt and standing in front of some rocks
Stephen Smith
Kirstie Jamieson
Luigi La Spada

Dawn Smith

Public Engagement Officer

Dawn has worked at Edinburgh Napier University since 2015, leading on all public engagement with research activity across the university. Dawn’s academic background is in languages which means she is an expert at translating from academic to plain English (and back again!) and helping researchers communicate their ideas in ways that are accessible. Dawn’s been involved in a huge range of public engagement activity over the years, and has a particular fondness for activities that allow families to find out about something new together. Dawn is a firm believer that no research is beyond public engagement, in a nutshell, the quirkier the better!

My role is to direct the university’s approach to public engagement. I work with the School Public Engagement Leads to support researchers, create and nurture our relationships with community partners, and facilitate training.


0131 455 3354/ 07803 576740

Dr Louise Todd

Public Engagement Lead for The Business School

Louise is Associate Professor of Festivals, Events and Tourism and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2018. Louise was the academic project lead for the UKRI funded Seven Kingdoms project, collaborating with community partners in Wester Hailes including WHALE Arts and Wester Hailes Community Trust. As a practicing artist and a researcher, Louise uses visual and participative methods to engage different groups, including drawing, mapping, and walking with creative methods. She has been involved in public engagement activities around the idea of festival cities at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Science Festival, alongside Soundwalk September with a geolocated sonic map ‘Festival Soundings of Edinburgh’.

‘Public Engagement is important to my academic discipline of tourism and event studies as both involve interactions and relationships amongst people, ideas, and places. I enjoy the opportunity of working with different people in a collaborative way to co-design creative activities.’

Dr Kirstie Jamieson

Public Engagement Lead for the School of Arts and Creative Industries

Kirstie is a Lecturer in Design and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2016. Kirstie’s public engagement addresses community heritage, representation, equality and diversity in the public realm.  She is currently working with curators and deaf researchers on the first co-produced draft of a national Deaf Heritage Archive at the National Library of Scotland. She is also developing a project that brings together feminist design with social justice, in the co-production of memorials that remember Scotland’s accused witches.

‘Working with communities [through public engagement] provides me with fantastic opportunities to learn from a diversity of lived experiences that are often missing from academic life. It also nourishes a grounded and reflexive approach to my teaching and research.’

‘Public Engagement is a means to understand, situate and share the relevance and value(s) of creative academic research. It is a sustainable and inclusive route to academic relevance and impact.’


Dr Clare Taylor

Public Engagement Lead for the School of Applied Sciences

Clare is a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2015. In 2016, following the success of Soapbox Science in other cities, Clare established Soapbox Science Edinburgh. Soapbox Science is now an international event which gives women researchers a platform to engage in dialogue about their research with members of the public. In Edinburgh we have hosted the event in historic locations such as The Mound and Royal Mile and women from all across Scotland (and beyond) have shared their research with thousands of people. Clare has also taken part in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Fringe.

‘Public Engagement matters to my academic discipline because microbiology affects everyone – just look at the pandemic. But aside from infection, microbiology and biotechnology are key to finding solutions to address climate change and food security. Therefore, it is vital that everyone can play a part in shaping what we do. We also hope to inspire the microbiologists of the future too by involving them right from childhood.

‘Public Engagement in all its forms can help the University do work that really matters to society and local communities; it can help institutions remove barriers to participation and help institutions such as Edinburgh Napier become beacons of aspiration for local communities.’


Dr Luigi La Spada

Public Engagement Lead for School of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

Luigi is a Lecturer in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2020. Luigi has been involved in the New Scots Connects project, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious programme, which brings together people who are new to Scotland and engineers. Through working in partnership with Multicultural Family Base in Edinburgh and Science Ceilidh the project has placed diverse migrant voices at the heart of the engagement in these resources, broadening our understanding of what engineering is to different people.

‘Public engagement is a mind-set that acknowledges that the public have a genuine interest in universities. Investing the time to genuinely engage with the public is a critical way of developing better teaching and research practice.’

Photo of Stephen's head and shoulders, he's wearing sunglasses and a blue shirt and standing in front of some rocks

Dr Stephen Smith

Public Engagement Lead for the School of Health and Social Care

Stephen is an Associate Professor in Nursing and has been a Public Engagement Lead since 2016. Stephen’s has focused on action research about palliative care for people with dementia, and he has worked with a range of services exploring and implementing evidence-based practice. An important part of the engagement was working alongside, and engaging with people with dementia, their families and staff. Stephen’s current research and teaching focuses on compassionate care, dementia care and quality improvement. He is interested in staff engagement and wellbeing at work and is currently engaged in research with Care Homes exploring these topics.

Public Engagement ‘supports university researchers to actively engage with their communities, ensuring research activity is relevant and makes a difference.’