Public engagement is important to universities, over 70 UK universities, including the University of Northampton, have signed the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s Manifesto which states:
“We believe that universities and research institutes have a major responsibility to contribute to society through their public engagement, and that they have much to gain in return.
We are committed to sharing our knowledge, resources and skills with the public, and to listening to and learning from the expertise and insight of the different communities with which we engage.
We are committed to developing our approach to managing, supporting and delivering public engagement for the benefit of staff, students and the public, and to sharing what we learn about effective practice.” NCCPE
The question is can universities and research institutes transparently demonstrate this engagement? It is not that these institutions are not doing public engagement activities and meeting these statements, they will be to a lesser or greater extent; but how to show it transparently.
Blockchain has the potential to help in this area. Seeing Blockchain as a distributed ledger raises the potential of making the data about impact on these activities more widely available, and protecting the sustainability of the data, because the ‘chain’ would be distributed across the machines so in effect backing it up.
As an example, outreach activities with schools and youth groups could be recorded; each one event as a transaction in the chain. Within each transaction information such as: a unique code for school/youth groups; ratio of females to males; a unique code for school/youth groups; ratio of females to males; ratio of female to male participants; number of participants; date; unique code for each facilitators; length of the activity in minutes and may be satisfaction scores.
The unique codes would not be made public available but may be coded, internal to the organisation, to indicate categories the participants or facilitators belong to (e.g. primary, secondary, staff or student facilitators). Internally organisations would know which partners they have worked with and perhaps allocated resources accordingly. The more interesting area is because this data would be, or can be, made publicly available per institute.This can be mined to look at impact externally and if several institutions used it, then impact more widely. This would enable tools from the growing area of network analysis to be applied to mine the data further (see the diagram below). It could also be linked, internal to the institution, to schemes such as for student facilitators, for example to some of the other Blockchain ideas such as ‘More than Grades’ or ‘Student Coin’