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Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Visiting Fellow
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Polis, Phil, Econ, Dev, Geog
  • Politics

Professional biography

Nick is a Research Fellow based in the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance and PoLIS. He leads ‘Creating Publics’, which is an Open University funded project that aims to investigate, test-out and develop new ways of using theoretical work on the topic of ‘the public’ to help re-conceptualise the ‘public engagement with research’ agenda. Nick is Director of CCIG’s Publics Research Programme.

Research interests

Nick was co-investigator and a co-organiser of the 2008-2010 ESRC Seminar Series 'Emergent Publics' and held an ESRC Post-doctoral fellowship between 2010-11, during which time he prototyped The Experimental Democracy Console. With Clive Barnett, Nick was also commissioned in 2010 by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and the ESRC to generate a report about the benefits and difficulties of using segmentation techniques for public engagement in the HE sector. Nick has organised a wide range of events, including the April 2011 workshop ‘Crisis of Participation; Participating in Crisis’; the July 2011 International workshop ‘Creating Publics’ (co-organised with Dr. Liza Griffin); and, the June 2012 International Workshop ‘Creating Publics, Creating Democracies’ (co-organised with Dr. Susan Pell) – this particular event also led to nine short articles by workshop participants being published during a week-long editorial partnership with on the theme of ‘Creating Publics, Opening Democracies’.

Nick’s work continues to focus on the mediation and formation of contemporary publics. His on-going interest in emerging developments in the field of public participation also informs the Creating Publics project, that currently investigates ‘the publics’ of public engagement with research. He has a background in design as well as social science and a particular interest in processes that open out possibilities for creativity and criticality.

For example, his work on the Creating Publics project currently involves setting up a new Open University website called ‘Participation Now’. At the heart of this is an openly accessible collection of participatory public engagement initiatives from across governmental, social movement, media, arts and other domains. The overall aims of this project are: to help track and animate the growing variability of ways that participatory public engagement initiatives are now being structured, made and imagined; to support the investigation of what is at stake in this emerging landscape of thinking and practice; and, to inform the much wider and more on-going debate that is now taking place concerned with the possibilities (and difficulties) of forms of participatory public engagement, as mediums of public action, now and into the future.

 Participation Now has forged a ‘editorial partnership’ with, to help kick-start the ‘comment, debate and analysis’ section of this site – this currently features a series short articles written especially for Participation Now by scholars and practitioners from around the world, including Leah Leivrouw, Chris Kelty, Shannon Jackson, Jenny Pearce and Janet Newman, amongst others. Alongside working on Participation Now and producing academic publications (see below), the Creating Publics project has also programmed a keynote lecture series (these are archived online and feature Prof. Larry Grossberg, Prof. John Holmwood and Prof. Rachel Pain). With Mark Carrigan, Nick has also organised a January 2014 Roundtable on ‘Social Science and the Politics of Public Engagement’. Further details about these and other activities as well as resources can be found on the Creating Publics project blog; for twitter updates see @CreatingPublics.

The development of Participation Now has been made possible, in part, through funding from the RCUK-funded Open University ‘Catalyst’ project - Nick is one of the Co-Investigators on this project. This funding has also led to the appointment of Dr. Hilde Stephansen, who has also has been deeply involved in the development of the Participation Now project since her appointment as Catalyst/Creating Publics project Research Associate in January 2013. As part of this role Hilde is currently also investigating how the public effects of public engagement with social science research might be evaluated, especially in contexts where the existence of publics cannot be taken for granted or is in flux.

Nick is also co-investigator on the ESRC-funded ‘Making publics across time and space’ project. This involves collaboration with the team of researchers’ (based at McGill University) who developed the ‘Making Publics’ research project between 2005-2010.  One of the early results of this ESRC project has been the formation of the international and interdisciplinary ‘Publics then now and beyond’ network, which Nick co-convenes, with Dr. Hilde Stephansen. This network already has over 35 members, some of whom have been involved in organising the 2013-14 ‘Publics then now and beyond’ ‘travelling seminar series’ (seminars at the LSE, University of Sussex and The University of the West of England).

Professional affiliations

Member of ESRC's Peer Review College; ‘HonoraryAssociate’ of the Leverhulme Trust funded ‘Making Science Public’ project; Academy of Finland funded ‘Super-democracy’ project, ‘project partner’; member of Cultural Studies and British Sociological Associations.

(2014) ‘The work of public engagement’, Communicazioni Sociali, part of special issue, edited by Maria Francesca Murra and Nico Carpentier, on ‘The value of critique: the responsibilities of knowledge and social relevance in research on communication and culture’

(2013) with John Clarke, ‘Public crises, public futures’, Cultural Studies 27 (4)

(2012) ‘Social Science Research and the Creation of Publics’, TOPIA 28.

(2011) with Clive Barnett 'Segmenting Publics' ESRC/NCCPE Research Synthesis Report.

(2010) ‘Making Democracy Spectacular’. Representation Volume 46, Issue 3, 39-352. Reprinted in ‘Democracy in theory and practice’ (2012) Routledge.

(2010) ‘Rethinking the Public: innovations in research, theory and politics Mahony, N., Newman, J. & Barnett, C. (eds.) Policy Press, Bristol.

(2010) ‘Mediating the Publics of Public Participation Experiments’ in Rethinking the Public: innovations in research, theory and politics Mahony, N., Newman, J. & Barnett, C. (eds.) Policy Press, Bristol.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CCIG: The Publics Research ProgrammeProgrammeFaculty of Social Sciences
Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences


Externally funded projects

An open research university: How to embed public engagement within the culture of research (RS-11-005-TB)

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01/Apr/201231/Mar/2015RCUK Research Councils UK
The aim of this proposal is to embed public engagement with research within The Open University’s (OU) strategic planning for research and the operational practices of researchers at all levels; to become an open research university.


Public crises, public futures (2013)
Mahony, Nick and Clarke, John
Cultural Studies, 27(6) (pp. 933-954)
The work of public engagement (2013)
Mahony, Nick
Comunicazioni sociali(3) (pp. 349-358)
Social science research and the creation of publics (2012-12)
Mahony, Nick
Making democracy spectacular (2010-09)
Mahony, Nick
Representation, 46(3) (pp. 339-352)
Democracy and the public realm: towards a progressive agenda? (2007-07)
Newman, Janet and Mahony, Nick
Soundings, 36, (pp. 56-66)
Mediating the publics of public participation experiments (2010)
Mahony, Nick
In: Mahony, Nick; Newman, Janet and Barnett, Clive eds. Rethinking the Public: Innovations in Research, Theory and Politics (pp. 15-28)
ISBN : 978-1-84742-416-7 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol
An Open Research University (2015)
Holliman, Richard; Adams, Anne; Blackman, Tim; Collins, Trevor; Davies, Gareth; Dibb, Sally; Grand, Ann; Holti, Richard; Mckerlie, Fiona; Mahony, Nick and Wissenburg, Astrid
Holliman, Richard; Adams, Anne; Blackman, Tim; Collins, Trevor; Davies, Gareth; Dibb, Sally; Grand, Ann; Holti, Richard; McKerlie, Fiona; Mahony, Nick and Wissenburg, Astrid eds.
ISBN : 9781473004030 | Publisher : The Open University | Published : Milton Keynes
Rethinking the Public: Innovations in Research, Theory and Politics (2010-06)
Mahony, Nick; Newman, Janet and Barnett, Clive eds.
ISBN : 9781847424167 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol
Designing Public-Centric Forms of Public Engagement with Research (2015-03-31)
Mahony, Nick
The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Segmenting Publics (2011-11)
Barnett, Clive and Mahony, Nick
National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, Bristol
Experimental Democracy Console (2010-05)
Mahony, Nick
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.