This article by a Wellcome Trust supported researcher working with OUCRU programmes in Nepal represents a rare look at engagement from a researcher's point of view - what are the incentives, rewards and barriers to them taking engagement with local communities seriously.
Global health funding bodies are increasingly promoting and offering specific funding support for public and community engagement activities, in addition to research and programme funding. In the context of this growing commitment to engagement work, we need to find ways to better support contextually appropriate and meaningful exchanges between researchers and community members. I argue that, rather than focusing solely on how to involve communities in engagement with global health research, we
should also pay attention to the quality and depth of the involvement of researchers themselves. This is an often overlooked dimension of community engagement in both practice and the literature. In this paper, I present three contextual factors, which created logistical and attitudinal obstacles for researchers’ involvement in meaningful engagement in a global health research unit in Nepal. These comprised implicit and explicit messages from funders, institutional and disciplinary hierarchies and educational experiences. Lessons were drawn from an exploration of the successes and failures of two participatory arts projects connected to the research unit in 2015 and 2016. Both projects intended to foster mutual understanding between researchers and members of their research population. As an engagement practitioner and ethnographic researcher, I documented the