Reflections on public engagement: talking climate change at Haverstock School

Reflections on public engagement: talking climate change at Haverstock School
29th May 2019 Mae Oroszlany

by Nicole Watson, LoLo CDT MRes Student

One of the most important challenges we face as researchers is how to communicate our findings to policy-makers and the public. I’m particularly interested in how we can reach those outside of the academic world, and inspire younger generations to get excited about our work. For this reason, I signed up for the ‘Haverstock University’ educational outreach programme.

The Haverstock University initiative was established in 2018, with the aim of facilitating engagement between higher education institutions and students from ‘hard to reach’ backgrounds. The programme connects UCL academics and PhD candidates with students currently undertaking A level qualifications at Haverstock School, a comprehensive school in Camden. Researchers from the UCL team deliver weekly after school lectures and workshops, giving pupils a chance to experience university style learning, and providing researchers with an opportunity to present their work to a new audience.

My talk focused on work that I did during my MSc, on the broader topic of climate change and the frameworks in place at the global level to tackle this challenge. This involved a short lecture on the history of international climate negotiations, after which I led a debate on the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement. I concluded my session by speaking about some of the research that is being done at LoLo to address questions directly relevant for achieving the UK’s carbon emission reduction targets.

Discussing climate change (and research in general) with A level students was a rewarding and inspiring experience. It was fantastic to see how confident and engaged the students were, with diverse opinions on how the technical, ethical, and policy issues presented by climate change should be approached. Delivering my talk also challenged me to see my own work through the students’ eyes and to think carefully about how academic research can be made more accessible. As someone fairly new to the field, I found the Haverstock University outreach programme to be a great opportunity to gain practical experience in public engagement and to develop an understanding of how to communicate research beyond the academic community.

The Haverstock University programme was established by Yasi Qureshi, UCL School of Public Policy alumna. Sessions are delivered by Yasi Qureshi and Oliver Patel, Research Associate and UCL European Institute Manager.