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CaSE’s Guide for Engaging the Public

We want to help advocates engage the public in relevant and meaningful ways

This guidance has been informed by CaSE’s nationally-representative polling of more than 20,000 UK adults and 14 focus groups. Our advice can help advocates reach less receptive audiences – younger people, women and those in lower income jobs – without alienating existing supporters.

Visit the Public Attitudes to R&D pages for the data behind our advice.

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The fundamentals: Purpose and Place

Download our short guide to the fundamentals of engaging the public

Download our summary

The fundamentals: Purpose and Place

R&D advocates should foreground the purpose of R&D and the place it’s happening. There is appetite among our public audiences for honest conversations about the rationales, risks and rewards involved in R&D. Similarly, talking about location can help R&D feel more tangible, with the public expressing pride in local research and welcoming the idea of more of it.

Use messaging that demonstrates research and development is…

Solving real problems

Put the issue that R&D is seeking to address front and centre

Helping the next generation

Emphasise that R&D can help create a better future for others

Relevant to real life

Help audiences connect with R&D’s people, processes and products

Benefitting local areas

Talk about wider benefits, such as to jobs and the economy, including locally

Solving real problems: Put the issue that R&D is seeking to address front and centre

Support for R&D investment increases when it is clearly linked to an issue that audiences care about. Net support for increasing the R&D budget rose from 20% when no issue was provided to 47% when linked to jobs, 46% for healthcare, and 46% for the environment. Under-45s are particularly motivated by issues and those aged 18-24 were far more likely to say they would be more supportive of Government investment into R&D if they knew it was going to support almost any issue.

Helping the next generation: Emphasise that R&D can help create a better future for others 

As a tagline, “R&D: Making a better future for all of us” was seen as the most convincing way to describe R&D’s purpose and was strongest across all audience groups. Those in favour of increasing R&D investment frequently mentioned the need to prepare for challenges of the future. The gender gap in our polling narrowed when R&D was framed as a way to be ready for tomorrow’s problems.  

Relevant to real life: Help audiences connect with R&D’s people, processes and products

In focus groups, participants actively looked for connections between R&D projects and their own lives or local areas. To avoid R&D feeling like an abstract concept, use examples that show the people and processes involved, and allow audiences to imagine how R&D can benefit them, their loved ones or their communities. 

Benefitting local areas: Talk about wider benefits like job creation and economic benefits, including local impact 

The spillover benefits of R&D are well-received, but rarely front of mind for people. Those who want their region to carry out lots of R&D, or who support a new research lab being built in their area, are motivated by job creation, local and national economic benefits, and education opportunities. 

Our audiences

To achieve broader public support for R&D, advocates must maintain the enthusiasm of existing supporters while also building support among those who are more skeptical.

Our data identified five audience segments on a scale of awareness and support for R&D. At the more supportive end our aim is to activate and empower people as champions, while at the more sceptical end we need to better connect with people’s motivations. With this in mind, we have identified three priority audiences who view R&D less positively:

  • Under 45s: Age was one of the strongest differentiators of opinion in our data, with younger groups less likely to see R&D’s benefits or support investment, and more likely to agree we currently invest too much in R&D rather than solving issues that matter now
  • Those in skilled, semi/non-skilled manual work or retired: These groups, referred to as socioeconomic groups C2DE, were less aware of R&D, felt less supportive of R&D investment, and were less likely to say they feel R&D’s benefits
  • Women: Our research suggests women are generally less positive towards R&D than men, finding arguments to invest less strong and being more likely to say there are other more pressing priorities than R&D

Our guidance has been developed to appeal to these groups, without distancing existing supporters. Read more on the demographic differences we saw in our data.

What works when talking about R&D

How to engage effectively

Our Guide for Engaging Politicians aims to help advocates demonstrate public support for R&D