Late to the party
I'm writing this at 5.45pm on a Tuesday evening and, according to www.worldometers.info, over 3.4 million blog posts have already been published today. Clearly, the world certainly isn't short of a blog or two, so why clutter up the internet with yet another, I hear you ask?
Well, the reason I've decided to start my own blog is because I feel I have something valuable to offer - a space where members of the research and education communities can discover how to harness the power of creative digital media, especially video content, to enhance their communication and public engagement efforts.
It's the same mission that drove me to set up Orinoco Communications in the first place - a desire to support specialists doing valuable work in the fields of science, the social sciences, heritage and the humanities by raising public awareness of their work and sparking fruitful conversations and collaborations between them and the public.
A bit of background
I haven't always worked in the world of research communication and public engagement. My background is in television, where I spent a decade making documentaries on stories about everything from bus conductors, to astrophysics, supercars, politics, religion and the weather. My time in TV honed my skills as a story teller and a communicator, and gave me the ability to leap into unfamiliar territory while quickly getting to grips with new topics.
These are all skills that I've found incredibly useful in my new role as a public engagement professional but I've also had to develop fresh skills and knowledge to suit my new environment. Broadcast television is, by its very nature, a one-way beast. TV producers are accustomed to projecting outwards; educating and informing but very rarely listening to their audience, let alone collaborating with them.
The Power of Public Engagement
The two-way, reciprocal nature of public engagement, which values dialogue and debate, requires a different approach. And the more I work on public engagement projects the more I'm excited by the potential of this approach to initiate positive change. Medical researchers are engaging with patients to help them find treatments for disease, psychologists are reaching out to the public to learn more about human behaviour, sociologists are collaborating with the public to tackle the issue of poverty, and there are thousands of other examples that all point to the growing power of public engagement.
What to Expect?
I'd like this blog to become somewhere that people can come to explore and discuss new developments in the fields of research communication and public engagement, with a specific focus on how they can be enhanced by rich, creative digital media.
There will be case-studies; event news; examples of inspirational people, films and projects; discussions about funding and impact; interviews with experts; reviews of technology that can aid communication and tips and tricks about social media engagement. Suggestions for other content are, of course, welcome.
So, I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you in the coming months and years, to making connections with people from all over the public engagement sector, and to becoming the world's 3,501,407th person to post a blog today!
Peter Barker runs Orinoco Communications, a digital communications company specialising in helping research groups from science, the social sciences and the humanities to bring their research alive and engage with the public.