The work of public engagement
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This article explores the ‘the public’ in public engagement with research as a site of negotiation, production and possibility. In a contemporary context where the public cannot be taken for granted and is in a state of flux, it shows how three different perspectives on the public, drawn from the vast literature on this topic, are differently useful. The article reflects on several ways these perspectives were used as part of the process of setting up a new participatory public engagement initiative called Participation Now, at The Open University (UK). The article also begins to illuminate how this process led to a particular set of ways of thinking about the social relevance and the responsibilities of contemporary research. The article therefore contributes to this special issue but also to the literature on the public and public engagement by charting a new process that has recently been developed and used to negotiate and mediate ‘‘the public’’ in public engagement.
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