Beltane Training

Between 2008 and 2017, the Beltane Network’s core team ran a programme of training in public engagement with research. This programme was run for and on behalf of all four universities in Edinburgh.

Since autumn 2017, when the structure of the Network changed, individual Beltane partner universities took the lead on running public engagement training. The provision varies by university. Much of the training run by each university is still open to researchers from all universities in Edinburgh. Please check with individual course organisers if you would like to attend a specific course.

Alongside core training, the four universities also run targeted, bespoke training to prepare researchers for specific large-scale public engagement activities. If the activity is open to all universities, then so is the the training. Some examples that fit into this category include FameLab, the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas and Explorathon.

How can I find out what public engagement training is on offer?

Regardless of which Beltane partner university you’re at, you will be eligible to attend training opportunities run specifically to prepare researchers for large-scale public engagement activities like FameLab and the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. To stay informed about these, please sign up for Beltane Network email alerts and follow the Beltane Network’s Facebook page and Twitter.

If you’re at the University of Edinburgh:

Public engagement core skills courses are offered by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). Courses currently offered are:

These courses are hosted within the IAD’s Doctoral programme. If you are a member of University staff, you may still find the course useful and be eligible to attend – please contact   to find out more.

If you’re at Heriot-Watt University:

Please contact Heriot-Watt Engage for information about public engagement training at Heriot-Watt University. Space allowing, you may also be able to attend some of the courses run at the University of Edinburgh – see above list and contact   to find out more.

If you’re at Edinburgh Napier University:

Please contact Dawn Smith at Edinburgh Napier University for information about public engagement training at Edinburgh Napier University. Space allowing, you may also be able to attend some of the courses run at the University of Edinburgh – see above list and contact   to find out more.

If you’re at Queen Margaret University:

Please contact Kim Stuart or Vivian Rutherford for information about public engagement training at Queen Margaret University. Space allowing, you may also be able to attend some of the courses run at the University of Edinburgh – see above list and contact   to find out more.

Beltane courses 2008-2017

The Beltane Network’s core team ran the following range of training between 2008 and 2017. Much of this training continues to be run in some form by the Beltane partnership. If you need to commission your own public engagement training for a particular group of staff or students, the below may also serve as inspiration.

Introductory public engagement skills

The core Beltane team delivered workshops suitable for PhD students and others new to public engagement with research. These included the NCCPE’s Research in Context, a basic communications toolkit (covering topics like jargon), and the experiential Research Communication in Action programme.

Dialogue skills

The core team offered a range of courses which help researchers and public engagement professionals to work with members of the public instead of talking ‘at’ them. Examples include Public Engagement Beyond Public Lectures and How to Design a Public Engagement Process. Oliver Escobar and Wendy Faulkner designed and delivered these courses, and continue to deliver versions of them through the IAD at the University of Edinburgh.

Social media and blogs

The Beltane core team commissioned training on social media for public engagement and blogging (including video blogs) on an as-needs basis. Barbara Melville (formerly of Illicit Ink and former Writer in Residence at the MRC Regenerative Medicine) delivered much of the blogging training; Simon Clews, Nicole Osborne and Louise Connelly also delivered excellent sessions.


The former core team worked with the Scottish Storytelling Centre to develop courses that help researchers speak about their work in a more engaging, less bullet-pointed way. This training was initialy delivered by Donald Smith, and later by Alette Willis. Storytelling training continues to be run on both an ad hoc and routine basis by the Beltane partnership of universities.

Beltane universities have also offered training in a softer version of Pecha Kucha that the wonderful Lisa Thompson has branded ‘snappy storytelling’; the final competition is integral to the training.

Edinburgh Fringe training

Performers in the Beltane partnership’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas shows  were invited to attend bootcamps in the run-up to the Edinburgh Fringe. These covered everything from finding a publicity-friendly hook for your show to stagecraft and publicity stunts. The bootcamps continue to run as Cabaret preparation and are delivered by Susan Morrison and Fair Pley’s Stephen Wright.

Impact and influence

The core team commissioned VOX training to deliver training on impact and influence skills. This training was especially useful for those who need to drive culture change (in public engagement, or any other field) while wielding little formal authority.


The core team offered evaluation surgeries, and also hosted Eric Jensen’s evaluation training.

Traditional science communication

The core team recognised that more traditional science communication still has a place, and is often still the way into public engagement for researchers in STEM subjects. The core team ran training on science busking and gamification (both on an as-needs basis) and running successful science festival workshops and drop-ins (usually runs in March). Aspects of this training were delivered variously by Lewis Hou, Sian Hickson, Lisa Thompson, members of Eureka Edinburgh and Tom Pringle and James Piercy of Science Made Simple.

Working with schools

The core team started to help develop a best-practice workshop that will hopefully be completed as more resources become available. Very useful (alebit less locally-informed) information about researcher engagement with schools is also available through the NCCPE.

Voice and presentation skills

Public speaking is a type of public engagement that many researchers will end up doing. The core team wanted to ensure that researchers could do it well! The core team commissioned training by Michael Hargreaves and Mel Sherwood; both trainers continue to deliver training through universities in the Beltane partnership. As well as general courses, specific coaching was commissioned for FameLab and TEDxUniversity of Edinburgh. Training in voice and presentation skills is still run by the Beltane partnership in various forms.

Media training

The core team offered a limited number of places on the intensive Research, Researchers and the Media course which is run in Edinburgh by the Institute for Academic Development. This course continues to be run by the Institute.

Creative writing

The core team worked with writer Barbara Melville to deliver training on creative nonfiction writing and creating nonfiction comics to communicate research.