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The Public Engagement Early-Career Forum

The STFC Public Engagement Early-Career Researcher Forum (the 'PEER Forum') supports talented scientists and engineers in the early stages of their career to develop their public engagement and outreach goals.

This ensures the next generation of STFC scientists and engineers continue to deliver the highest quality of purposeful, audience-driven public engagement.

Why join the PEER Forum?

  • To learn practical skills on how to lead public engagement activities, giving you a more rewarding career
  • For support and expertise from the wide ranging network of academics and public engagement professionals within the STFC community
  • To enhance your reputation within the scientific community and give you the opportunity to boost the profile of your work by talking to a wider audience


The 2019 call for applications to the PEER Forum has been extended until 6 September 2019.

Introduction and context

Jumping at the sun

(Credit: Unsplash)

The STFC community has a very strong track-record of delivering public engagement throughout the UK, highlighting the exciting benefits and impacts of STFC science - we know that our engagement has a profound effect on our many audiences.

A significant proportion of our engagement is designed and delivered by early career scientists and engineers, who balance the demands of establishing their careers alongside their passion for high quality public engagement and outreach.

We also know that this can be a real challenge: people can feel left without support, can struggle to keep abreast of current good practice, find themselves unable to make the time to plan new engagement and outreach to their satisfaction, or have no-one in their immediate peer group that shares their belief in the importance of engagement. It’s important to us that we help to change that situation. For further insight into the prevailing attitudes towards engagement in the STFC community, please see our 2016 report, Public Engagement: Attitudes, Culture and Ethos.

PEER Forum aims

  • To give early career researchers practical advice and support for delivering and leading public engagement  now and in the future, leading to a more rewarding career
  • To provide access to the vast knowledge and expertise of the network of academics and public engagement professionals within the STFC community, providing valuable insights and guidance on current best practice
  • To demonstrate and acknowledge the importance and profile of public engagement within STFC and UKRI, providing clear confirmation of its importance 
  • To foster peer learning and support between early career scientists and engineers with similar passion for public engagement and outreach, thus developing a peer support network
  • To provide access to guidance on the practical requirements associated with the planning of new public engagement and outreach 
  • To foster a better knowledge and understanding of the support mechanisms available from STFC and other organisations, including funding mechanisms, evaluation, and reporting. As well as how to successfully access and utilise this support
  • To stimulate discussions that will inform and influence STFC’s approaches to public engagement, giving an effective voice to early career researchers 

1.0 Overview


The PEER Forum is for practising early-career scientists and engineers who have passion and ambition for carrying out excellent public engagement alongside, and complementary to, their career in science or engineering. We are seeking Forum members from across the breadth of STFC’s pure and applied science and technology remit.

The specific personal requirements of PEER Forum membership are that members:

  • Have completed their highest level of academic qualification within the last ten years (not including any career breaks)
  • Are employed at a Higher Education Institute, or a research-intensive Public Sector Research Organisation or Research Laboratory (including STFC’s own national laboratories)
  • Work within a science and technology field in STFC’s remit, or with a strong inter-disciplinary connection to STFC’s remit, or use an STFC facility to enable their own research
  • Clearly describe their track record of experience in their field, corresponding to the length of their career to date
  • Clearly describe their track record of delivering and leading, or seeking the opportunity to lead, public engagement and/or outreach
  • Can provide insight into their experiences in public engagement and/or outreach and also evidence one or more of
    • Inspiring others
    • Delivering impact
    • Demonstrating creativity
    • Introducing transformative ideas and/or inventions
    • Building and sustaining collaborations/networks
  • Are keen communicators with a willingness to contribute to the success of a UK-wide network

The PEER Forum will meet twice a year to share learning and to participate in sessions that will strengthen the depth and breadth of their understanding of public engagement and outreach.

The programme of these sessions will largely be shaped and directed by the members of the forum. The meetings will be face to face and will consist of a mix of activities, such as interactive sessions with invited speakers from the world of public enagement. Recently speakers have included Olivia Keenan from SEPNet and Christian Diget, an STFC Leadership Fellow in Public Engagement

Forum members will have the opportunity to provide relevant insight and feedback to STFC from their local departments and/or engagement communities.

Forum members have the opportunity to identify and participate in projects with genuine relevance that will deleiver tangible outcomes and inform the STFC public engagement programme.


STFC is committed to a policy of equal opportunities, and appointments to the PEER Forum will be made on merit. We are keen to see diversity in the membership of the PEER Forum, reflected in the gender, race, and other protected characteristics of the Forum members. Gender diversity is particularly important at this point in time, and STFC has set a target for a minimum of 30% female representation on our boards, committees and networks: the PEER Forum has adopted this target. We will use diversity of membership as part of our selection criteria.


Appointments to the PEER Forum will be for an initial period of two years, beginning in September 2019. STFC may consider extension of membership for one additional year by mutual agreement, on a case by-case basis.

Forum members must be willing to actively participate, and contribute to, the Forum’s activities on a regular basis. It is expected that this participation will amount to 4-6 days of activity per year.

STFC will reimburse travel and subsistence expenses associated with attendance at Forum meetings in line with our normal policies and procedures.


2.0 How to apply


Application to the PEER Forum is a single-stage process. An applicant must submit a total of three short documents as follows:

  1. A short, tailored CV that outlines the applicant’s relevant qualifications, experience, and track record to date. Please refer to section 1.1 to guide you in this. This must be no longer than two sides of A4.
  2. A letter of support from an applicant’s line manager, Head of Department or equivalent. This letter must outline the line manager’s support for application, confirm that the applicant will be supported to participate in the PEER Forum, and empower the applicant to disseminate their learning from the Forum within their institution.. This letter must be no longer than two sides of A4.
  3. A document, no longer than two sides of A4, that provides responses to the following five assessment questions:
    • What is your motivation for applying to the join the PEER Forum?
    • What is your thinking process when developing effective public engagement or outreach based on your field of work?
    • How do you evaluate your public engagement and how have you implemented learning from that evaluation to influence subsequent activities?
    • How have you enabled your peers and colleagues to participate in public engagement, and/or improve the culture of public engagement in your institution/department?
    • How would you describe one specific challenging concept from your work to an eleven year old child?

Applications that do not conform to the specified page limits, or do not contain all three required documents, will not be considered for Forum membership.

All applications must be sent by email to STFCPublicEngagement@stfc.ac.uk by no later than 16:00 on Friday 6 September 2019. Applications should be clearly marked in the email title as, ‘Application for STFC PEER Forum: [Applicant Name]’.


All applications will be assessed by an independent peer review panel that will make recommendations on membership to STFC. The panel will use the following assessment criteria to arrive at their recommendations:

  • Does the applicant meet the specific personal requirements for PEER Forum members?
  • Taking into account the length of their career to date, has the applicant described their track record of experience in:
    1. Undertaking research in a contemporary topic within their field?
    2. Leading and/or delivering public engagement or outreach?
  • Has the applicant effectively communicated their enthusiasm for doing public engagement/outreach and their motivation for joining the network?
  • Has the applicant shown how they plan and/or generate new ideas for effective public engagement/outreach based on their work?
  • Has the applicant described how they have used evaluation of past public engagement activities to influence subsequent work?
  • Has the applicant described how they have helped to build the capacity for public engagement and/or outreach within their institution or department? (For example, have they helped embed public engagement within their institution, make the culture more supportive towards engagement, or demonstrably acted as a role model for good engagement?)
  • Has the applicant described and contextualised a concept from their specific work and demonstrated its importance in such a way that an eleven year old child could understand?
  • Is the application accompanied by a strong letter of support from the applicant’s line manager?

From applicants demonstrated to meet the criteria listed above, STFC aim to ensure Forum membership diversity across protected characteristics, institutions, and research disciplines. Particular attention will be paid to the gender diversity of Forum membership.

The decision of STFC in making invitations to join the PEER Forum is final.

w/c 22 July 2019 Call for PEER Forum membership opens
6 September 2019 Deadline for applications
mid September 2019 Assessment panel meeting
w/c 22 September 2019 Applicants informed of STFC decisions
15th & 16th October 2019 First meeting of the PEER Forum attended by new and current members

3.0 Contacts

All enquiries about the STFC Public Engagement Early-Career Researcher Forum should be directed initially to STFCPublicEngagement@stfc.ukri.org

4.0 Members

Dawn Geatches

Hello, I'm Dawn Geatches, a Project Scientist in the Computational Chemistry Group of the Scientific Computing Department of STFC, Daresbury Laboratory (Cheshire). My research is quantum mechanics applied to materials, and I work with university and industry partners exploring the fundamental properties and behaviour of materials in different environments. My PE work includes volunteering at STFC Open Days, giving a talk to the general public, mentoring and supervising work experience students. I enjoy it because I can be enthusiastic about science, encourage the same spark of scientific curiosity in others and of course, it's really good fun!

Dawn Geatches

(Credit: STFC)


Greg Corbett

Greg is a Software Engineer in STFC Scientific Computing Department and holds a Masters Degree in Computer Science. He is a STEM Ambassador and published author in academic science journals. When not writing code or engaging the public, he enjoys playing board games, watching bad movies and drinking real ale.

Greg Corbett

(Credit: G Corbett)


Josie Rawes

Josie currently works as a Teaching Associate in the School of Physics at the University of Bristol. Prior to this, she helped to coordinate a mobile outreach project called ‘Lab in a Lorry’. This project toured schools in Wales aiming to promote physics and inspire the next generation of scientists.

Josie Rawes

(Credit: J Rawes)


Kristin Lohwasser

Kristin Lohwasser is a researcher at the University of Sheffield, investigating fundamental particles and their interactions at the ATLAS experiment in CERN, Geneva. She completed her physics degree at Dortmund University and also finished a degree in journalism, including a one-year internship at a newspaper. After her undergraduate, she completed a DPhil at Oxford and worked as post-doc at Freiburg University and at DESY.

Kristin Lohwasser

(Credit: Susann Niedworok, DESY)


Laura Kent

Following a PhD in materials chemistry at the University of Surrey, Laura joined the electronics and magnetic materials group at NPL. Laura has been involved in numerous public engagement events including developing science engagement activities for primary schools and introducing the three minute thesis competition to the University’s postgraduate conference.

Laura Kent

(Credit: L Kent)


Martin Black

My name is Martin Black. I completed my undergraduate degree in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Glasgow. Having enjoyed my optical and practical courses, I decided to transition into engineering. I applied to join STFC, at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, as an Optical Engineer. Since then I've worked on about 10 different project for astronomy, medical imaging, and Earth observation.

Martin Black

(Credit: M Black)


Sally Cooper

Sally is a Research Associate at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester. Her research is on searching for pulsars using the next generation of radio telescopes, like the Square Kilometre Array. Part of Sally's research is to learn how to train computers to help identify pulsars using machine learning techniques.

Sally Cooper

(Credit: RADA Big Data)


Sabrina Gaertner

Sabrina’s background lies in laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry, in particular studying gas-phase ion chemistry in star forming regions. Now she is an Instrument Scientist at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source focussing on the structure of water ice, and uses many outreach opportunities to promote what I consider to be interesting science!

Sabrina Gaertner

(Credit: STFC)


William Taylor

Willian has been based at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh for the last ten years. Starting with his PhD through the University of Edinburgh and then literally moving down the corridor to join STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre. He now works as a Project Scientist: splitting his time between research into Massive Stars and more technical work to help build new instruments for telescopes.

William Taylor

(Credit: W Taylor)


William Trickey

William Trickey is a PhD student at the University of York. His research involves the study of extreme shocks in plasmas with application in fusion energy. Will helps with a variety outreach projects at the University of York including the creation of a fusion podcast called: A glass of seawater.

William Trickey

(Credit: W Trickey)


Download PDF

PEER Forum - equality impact assessment (PDF, 128 KB)

Last updated: 30 July 2019


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