My role in the SHaME project is to create a public engagement strategy that ensures the project’s research has a wide and meaningful impact beyond academia. Definitions of public engagement vary across institutions and funding bodies, but the definition we work with at Birkbeck has two important strands: making academic research accessible to the public and working with publics to produce that research. We are striving to do both of these things on the SHaME project.
Sexual violence is a topical and highly visible issue at the moment, meaning it is vital that our research is responsive and socially sensitive, and that it creates accessible and empowering outcomes for those affected by the research. We’re also committed to moving beyond one-way dissemination of academic research and cultivating collaborative research practices that allow us to work with and learn from others. Our project focuses in particular on the roles of medicine and psychiatry in defining and adjudicating sexual violence, so our researchers are working with practitioners across a range of health care settings from the outset to ensure our research draws on their experience and expertise.
Because our project explores the interplay between sexual violence, medicine and psychiatry, it is likely to attract both broad public interest as well as professional interest from practitioners working with sexual violence across a range of fields. This means the potential for increased scrutiny of our research and consequent challenges around negotiating and accommodating divergent viewpoints that might be quite entrenched and staunchly protected. But we see this as a valuable opportunity to ensure that our research is not only academically rigorous, but that it is also responsive to pressing societal needs and creates benefits for everyone involved.
Over the course of the five-year project, we will welcome new researchers, work with different external partners, and organise a range of public engagement events and collaborations. Throughout the process, our aim is to ensure our research is collaborative, inspiring and influential.