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Public to help shape exciting new range of research on the issues that impact their lives


Public to help shape exciting new range of research on the issues that impact their lives
  • 53 projects, worth £1.4m, will enable members of the public to actively contribute to research and innovation projects that affect their lives 
  • The projects cover a diverse range of topics from plastic pollution to period poverty, and net zero carbon emissions to air quality 
  • Programmes will actively encourage people who would not usually get involved in research to take part in ground-breaking discovery and innovation. It’s part of a new approach and greater investment in public engagement by UK Research and Innovation  

UK citizens are set to contribute to world-leading research on air quality, plastic pollution, period poverty, farming methods and many other issues that directly affect their lives. 

They will join in 53 innovative projects across the UK, funded by the government via the research and innovation funding agency UK Research and Innovation.

The projects will target communities who would not normally engage with research and innovation, so they can shape research and innovation that is relevant to their lives and their local areas.  

This will expand the opportunities for people from across the UK to actively contribute to publicly funded research and encourage underserved communities to share their ideas, concerns and aspirations and to get involved in decision making. The projects also aim to inspire a new generation of children and young people about the wonder and potential of research and innovation.   

Twenty-five public engagement projects will support researchers, innovators, universities and other research institutions to work with community partners or organisations from communities that have fewer opportunities to engage with research and innovation. The projects include:  

  • Local communities helping the University of Stirling, The Glasgow School of Art and the British Geological survey to understand the everyday energy challenges facing people in Clackmannanshire and develop new ways to involve those who are often excluded from debates about climate change in discussions about achieving a low carbon future. 
  • Homeless people in the North West of England helping the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool to explore women's experiences and perspectives of managing menstruation under circumstances of deprivation. 
  • Farmers working with researchers in North West Devon to make informed decisions on future land management to deliver carbon emission targets. The project will use methods such as co-creation and a Citizens’ Jury to develop priorities for future research.  
  • Schools and young people helping Swansea University to test whether digital immersive environments are a useful way to engage people from a diverse range of backgrounds with local history and heritage research.  

A further twenty-eight projects focus on citizen science and will see diverse groups of people helping research teams to crowdsource and analyse data and collaborate with researchers to develop research questions. These include: 

  • Researchers at the University of Nottingham will use a cutting-edge virtual reality game “Swat or Not?” to engage young people in the study of insects. Through helping volunteers learn to differentiate stinging insects from harmless hoverflies, researchers hope to create a community of lay experts who can contribute to the study of insect distribution. The project will also help researchers to test hypotheses about the evolutionary origins of mimicry. 
  • The Marine Biology Association will bring together environmental researchers and communities in three coastal locations, Mablethorpe, Appledore and Morecambe Bay, to explore new approaches to developing long-term citizen science initiatives around climate change, weather and environmental science. The projects will centre around local community owned art works - Time and Tide Bells – which will provide a focal point for community activity. 
  • Researchers at the University of Durham will engage a range of participants from the North East to explore whether quantum computing/quantum dynamics can successfully be taught to non-specialists using an innovative puzzle tool, and whether citizen scientists with no background in quantum computing develop the skills needed to solve quantum compilation problems. 

UK Research and Innovation’s Head of Public Engagement, Tom Saunders, said:  

“As part of UKRI’s new vision for public engagement we launched two new funding calls last year, one aimed at encouraging researchers to explore citizen methods, and another aimed at supporting researchers and universities to engage with communities and places and communities who have fewer opportunities to participate in research and innovation.  

“The 53 pilot projects that we have funded represent an exciting range of ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work, from games to citizens’ juries, storytelling to data crowdsourcing.  

“In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.” 

The projects are the first to be funded as part of UKRI’s new vision for public engagement, launched in 2019. Each project will run for six months, starting in December 2019. A full list of projects is available here:

UKRI Place and Citizen Science project summaries


For media enquiries, contact press@ukri.org or Tamera Jones, 0734 202 5443, tamera.jones@ukri.org  


  1. UKRI’s new vision for public engagement has four ambitious goals [https://www.ukri.org/files/per/ukri-vision-for-public-engagement-pdf/]. 
  2. We will support researchers, innovators and institutions to: 
    1. Engage under-represented communities and places with research and innovation 
      Some groups in society have many more opportunities than others to participate in activities related to research and innovation. We are committed to closing this gap through our public engagement programmes and partnerships. 
    2. Actively involve a wide range of people in their work 
      Active participation in research — such as citizen science or co-designing research projects with communities — can improve research quality, make it more relevant to society and have significant benefits for those who participate. We want to help researchers and innovators shift the balance of public engagement, from communication of research findings to active participation. 
    3. Nurture a future generation passionate about research and innovation 
      The UK needs an outstanding, diverse workforce if we are to secure our place in the world in the 21st century. Informal learning experiences at museums, science centres, festivals and school clubs are an important way for young people to engage with research and innovation. All young people should have access to these experiences, no matter their background or where they live. 
    4. Listen to public concerns and aspirations 
      The UK has pioneered approaches to understanding public concerns and aspirations for research and innovation. As the pace of innovation continues to increase, it is more important than ever that policymakers, funders, researchers and innovators are able to engage society in the development of plans and priorities. 
  3. Enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement - https://www.ukri.org/funding/funding-opportunities/enhancing-place-based-partnerships-in-public-engagement/ 
  4. Citizen Science Exploration Grant - https://www.ukri.org/funding/funding-opportunities/citizen-science-exploration/ 
  5. UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.   

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.  

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