Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Arts-based public engagement with climate change

Apply for funding for a new collaborative public engagement partnership, as part of the ‘creative climate connections’ opportunity.

Your partnership will engage members of the public with climate change research and related societal issues.

Your project must:

  • take an arts-based approach to engagement
  • engage groups with lived experience of climate change or under-represented in climate change conversations
  • focus on climate change research.

Your team must include at least:

  • an environmental science researcher within NERC’s remit
  • an artist or creative
  • a person representing a UK community organisation or a public-facing group.

You can request:

  • up to £30,000 per partnership
  • funding to set up more than one partnership.

Who can apply

When submitting proposals, the main applicant must meet UKRI eligibility rules. Proposals should be submitted by the main applicant, but should be co-created with input from all of the partners in an equitable way.

Check if you are eligible for UKRI funding.

Applicants to this opportunity may submit only one proposal as the main applicant.

Collaborative partnership team requirements

The collaborative partnership team must include at least the following three people.

Environmental science research collaborator

At least one researcher currently working in NERC’s remit, with a focus on climate change, who must be based at an eligible organisation, according to UKRI eligibility rules.

Artist collaborator

At least one artist or creative (in the broadest sense: theatre, music, film, dance, photography, comedy and so on), able to connect with a particular audience. The artist can be an academic researcher and practitioner.

Public collaborator

At least one person representing UK community organisations, publics or public-facing groups, for example:

  • patients
  • professionals
  • students
  • educators
  • policymakers.

These people could be based at:

  • learned societies
  • environment groups
  • charity members
  • community groups
  • local authorities
  • commercial companies providing a public service
  • a combination of these.

Examples of groups of people who have a stake or interest in the research and may be relevant to engage include, but are not limited to:

  • people particularly affected by, with lived experiences of, or close connections to climate change in the UK, such as those living in areas at risk of flooding, gales and loss of flora and fauna
  • people who have been less engaged with traditional climate change narratives (Climate Outreach). Projects might include working with:
    • members of faith communities
    • people who hold particular political views
    • people from specific regions
    • young people
    • people from particular ethnic groups.
  • people who are most at risk of being affected by the socio-economic consequences of climate change, such as increases in food prices.

There is flexibility in the make-up of the teams as long as there is clear representation from each of these areas present.

The collaborative partnership team may also include others across academic disciplines or outside academia. This could include:

  • interdisciplinary climate change researchers and practitioners across academic disciplines, or fields outside academia
  • equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and access specialists
  • interdisciplinary specialist
  • environmental science sector (including stakeholders in business, third sector, government)
  • engagement and impact specialists, including university public engagement professionals
  • project managers
  • technical or creative professionals and arts advisers

Individuals applying to this opportunity may submit only one application as the main applicant and one as co-applicant.

Costs for the involvement of all groups may be covered.

We are particularly interested in receiving applications from a diverse range of groups and individuals including those with protected characteristics and from under-represented groups in environmental sciences.

What we're looking for

The ‘creative climate connections: COP26 environmental science public engagement’ funding aims to create positive change for the members of the public and other collaborators by engaging under-represented groups with NERC-funded climate change research (adaptation and mitigation) and related societal issues through the arts.


The projects should plan to meet the following objectives:

Create equitable partnerships

Create equitable partnerships to encourage critical thinking, dialogue and exchange of ideas about research between three collaborators all chosen based on clear, evidence-based justifications:

  • an environmental science researcher
  • a person representing community organisations, publics or public-facing groups
  • an artist.

This could include setting up a researcher(s)-in-residence or artist(s)-in-residence within a community setting.

Produce creative output

Produce creative output(s) that aim to make a positive change to individuals, groups, organisations and society (details about ownership of creative outputs will be shared with grant holders) through engaging people with climate change research.

Arts practices and forms should encourage partnership and explore opportunities for diverse groups to debate and discuss these issues.

Distribute the work through an exhibition or event

Distribute the work through an exhibition or event designed in collaboration with representatives from the public group and then to make a legacy version of the work and related evidence-based content openly available for all. This could be the creative output itself.

Inspire and build knowledge, skills and confidence

Inspire and build knowledge, skills and confidence in:

  • specified public groups to be curious about, contribute to, understand, or respond to climate change and climate (action) research, researchers and research process. The positive change for the public groups might include (but is not limited to):
    • help to explore and address complex and sensitive issues associated with climate change
    • engage marginalised communities and under-represented groups, for example, through choosing art forms which are meaningful to those people in a culturally relevant way
    • promote social change
    • build skills, knowledge or confidence
    • build communities.
  • researchers to improve engagement skills around complex and sensitive topics and research and engagement practice
  • artists to develop research engagement and links to climate change research
  • in all partners of the project to recognise and respect different perspectives, priorities and contributions.

Plan legacy for the project

Plan legacy for the project, which could include, but is not limited to:

  • building longer-term partnerships to increase (longer term) participation in or engagement with climate (action) research, with potential to apply for future funding, such as through the UKRI grant ‘case for support’ section (Fast Track Impact)
  • legacy for public groups
  • plans for longevity of artworks.

Independently evaluate

Independently evaluate the project (an external person may need to be costed in), based on meeting and sharing learning with other grant recipients, through:

  • capturing outcomes and impacts (including benefits of the project to different groups of people)
  • providing evidence for the extent of the effectiveness of arts-based approaches in engaging research participants
  • publishing learnings (including issues and challenges) based on the project and processes.



Applicants must ensure that principles and best practices of partnership working are followed, and build equitable, ethical partnerships, managing risks in-line with best practice, such as that highlighted in the Creating Living Knowledge report.

Ethical considerations should include data governance of personal information, emotional support, and consent. See UKRI’s open research guidance.

Public groups must be included in developing the activity to ensure that it is relevant, accessible and resonates with that particular community, which could include co-producing aspects of the project, in order to be transparent, accountable and reflect and respect the lived experiences of these individuals.

Building on existing learnings

Projects should build on existing knowledge around approaches to arts-based engagement (see examples in the ‘Additional information’ section).

Governance and administration infrastructure

Provide clarity on:

  • payment or other rewards for participants
  • roles and responsibilities including accountability
  • legacy and sustainability of the work.

Evaluation and reporting

NERC will require proportionate evaluation of projects and collection of data for reporting purposes. NERC will expect qualitative and quantitative evaluation to be provided by successful projects.

NERC is interested in sharing learnings from funded projects and the project evaluations will be one of the mechanisms used. NERC will also require participation in meetings with all funded projects.

Coronavirus contingency

Plans for any changes that might be made to rules around the pandemic.



Applications should consider the sustainability of the project: “sustainability for NERC is all about creating and nurturing an environment and culture in which social, economic and environmental responsibility is embedded, balancing the needs of the NERC community and our stakeholders, including immediate needs and those of future generations.”

The project must aim to make a positive change to individuals, groups, organisations and society in a way that is culturally relevant and accessible to those involved, in line with NERC’s responsible business statement.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

As well as the key legal requirements, applicants should consider how they will address specific needs related to EDI and realise EDI impacts that arise at the result of the project.

Funding available

Applicants can request up to £30,000 per partnership (between environmental science research collaborator, artist collaborator and public collaborator) and can request funding to set up more than one partnership.

Each partnership requesting up to £30,0000 must meet all of the objectives. This includes creating an equitable partnerships between unique collaborators. For example, it wouldn’t be eligible to repeat the partnership with a different community group, or work with the same community group and a different artist. Multiple partnerships may be used to share learning or repeat an approach, for example.

Applications can include fully justified direct costs incurred in delivering the project.

The budget and costings must be based on valid estimates. This may include, for example:

  • staff resources, including:
    • administration and coordination
    • contributions to salaries (where a named individual will undertake work that would not be considered part of their normal duties)
    • sub-contracting of services
    • enabling public or community partners to take part
    • if public engagement is not considered part of formal workload planning, time for their involvement can be included
  • non-staff resources, including:
    • cost of materials
    • travel and subsistence
    • meetings and events
    • consumables
    • materials and equipment
    • evaluation costs
    • costs incurred through arts processes (such as art materials, art spaces and so on)
  • the funding of expenses, an honorarium for time, childcare, access and other costs to allow for participation of those within and outside of academia
  • capacity and capability building, for example:
    • professional development for researchers in partnership building
    • training to build the capacity of public groups to take a confident and active role in the partnership and research activities.
  • networking (possibly facilitated) between partners
  • time and resource to fully explore the relationship, build language and understanding
  • administration support for the project
  • independent evaluators.

This opportunity is funded outside of full economic costing rules. No VAT is chargeable, and the funding requested in applications should reflect this.

Full economic costing guidance (EPSRC)

Costs not covered

Funding will not be provided for:

  • estates and indirect costs
  • fees or honoraria to people already in paid employment to deliver activities where such activities would reasonably be undertaken as part of their normal duties
  • retrospective funding, including those projects with a start date after the closing date but before the funding decisions are announced
  • infrastructure or building costs
  • expenses incurred submitting the application
  • academic courses such as Master’s degrees or PhDs, and other tuition fees.

Funding breakdown

All work must be completed before invoicing NERC. Grant holders will need to agree project milestones with NERC at the start of the project.

All applications must align with the following cost breakdown:

  • 60% of the budget requested to be delivered by 31 March 2022
  • 40% of the budget requested to be delivered by 31 September 2022.

For example, if a successful grant is awarded the value of £50,000, NERC requires:

  • £30,000 of this to be delivered and invoiced for in the financial year of 2021/22
  • £20,000 to be delivered and invoiced for in the financial year of 2022/23.

Engagement must focus on the UK public. As a secondary audience, applications may plan to engage audiences internationally.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted to Hannah King by emailing the application form to by 19 August 2021 16:00.

AHRC and NERC will accept a completed application form of up to three sides of A4 setting out your plans and detailing where they would meet the programme objectives. The three side limit includes the ‘project information’ only (and not ‘application guidance’, ‘applicant information’ or the ‘submission agreement’).

Application form – Creative climate connections (DOCX, 70KB)

Multiple documents will not be accepted.

How we will assess your application

All proposals will be checked for their eligibility for funding and fit to scope for this opportunity before being sent to an assessment panel for review. NERC will reject applications judged not to be eligible or to be obviously outside of the scope of the opportunity prior to the assessment panel.

The panel will be selected based on the breadth of expertise required to assess the proposals submitted. Panel members may include:

  • public engagement specialists
  • environmental scientists, including early career researchers
  • interdisciplinary specialists
  • creative and arts specialists
  • community engagement specialists
  • specialists in sustainability or equality, diversity and inclusion.

The panel will review the proposals and consider the portfolio as a whole, before making recommendations to NERC on which ones should receive funding across England, Scotland and Wales.

Applicants may be asked for more information before a grant is confirmed as successful.

NERC reserves the right not to fund up to the limit allocated to the opportunity and to make changes to the budgetary limits of the successful grants.

Assessment criteria

All applications will be assessed based on the following criteria:

  • their potential to achieve the objectives listed in the ‘What we’re looking for’ section
  • the application demonstrates plans for high quality public engagement, including:
    • purpose: a clear, well-justified and proportionate vision and purpose for the project, responding to a need, with clearly defined desired outcomes
    • process: clear plans for delivery of the project
    • people: justification for who will be a beneficiaries of the project (for example,which public group (s), professionals, researchers), what the need is and why the chosen approach is taken
  • the project is well planned, researched and managed, allowing for a diversity of relevant perspectives to feed into plans, and has a clear approach to monitoring, evaluation and legacy (for example, how resources will be shared and partnerships sustained)
  • the project follows principles of best practice around building equitable partnerships
  • the project compliments and contributes to the NERC responsible business statement (please see ‘Additional information’ for requirements around this).

Assessors will also check whether the resources requested are appropriate and reasonable for the use of public money.

Panel feedback will be provided by NERC to both successful and unsuccessful applicants. No further feedback will be provided beyond this.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

Hannah King, Senior Public Engagement Programme Manager, NERC


Alternative contact (in Hannah King’s absence)

Hannah Lacey, Public Engagement Programme Manager, NERC


Additional info

Supporting documents

Application form – Creative climate connections (DOCX, 70KB)

Grant payment

The process to make payments for these grants will be as follows:

  1. A purchase order will be raised, and a purchase order number will be shared.
  2. The grant will be paid by invoice (which must include the purchase order number, site address, UKRI’s address and a unique invoice number).

NERC will require final project expenditure in line with proposed costs.

Information relating to applications may be shared, on a confidential basis, across UKRI councils.

Disbursement of funds

Funds will be transferred to the successful main applicant’s research organisation in the first instance. It is then the responsibility of that institution to disburse funds to the costed members of the partnership team, based on agreement between the partners.

The UK research organisation awarded the grant is responsible for the conduct and administration of the grant. It is accountable for the effective use of public funds and must therefore ensure that all grant monies are subject to proper financial management processes.

It is the research organisation’s responsibility to ensure that expenditure on collaborations is subject to robust controls to ensure value for money and propriety and that all costs should be fully vouched and maintained for possible inspection and checks by, or on behalf of, UKRI.

NERC may request to see the planned process to ensure payment of partners.

Collaboration finder

NERC has launched a collaboration finder for the ‘creative climate connections’ funding opportunity. This short survey provides a platform to help researchers, artists, public and community collaborators and others interested in developing a proposal for submission to the ‘creative climate connections’ funding opportunity to find and contact potential collaborators and project partners.

Collaboration finder for creative climate connections

Information provided will be shared by email as a password protected PDF with all participants in the survey shortly after each of the two collaboration finder deadlines, 15 and 29 July 2021.

All personal data provided via this survey will be processed in accordance with current UK data protection legislation. Details can be found in the guidance notes and on the UKRI privacy notice.

About arts-based approaches to engagement

Arts-based approaches involve engaging people with research through the arts. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • performing arts:
    • theatre
    • storytelling
    • audio drama
    • dance
    • body mapping
    • music
    • visual arts
    • comedy
  • games:
    • video games
    • board games
    • street-based games
  • immersive art installations and experiences, often incorporating multiple arts-based approaches
  • literary arts:
    • storybooks
    • comic books
    • oral histories
    • poetry
  • other approaches:
    • helplines supplying research-based ideas to artists
    • visual minutes for events.

For practical suggestions, one place to go for ideas is Arts-based engagement: a guide for community groups, artists and researchers (THIS Institute).

Applications must be sensitive to social distancing and other restrictions being brought in as a result of the coronavirus, including adhering to government guidelines.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance and support (GOV.UK)

NERC public engagement with research and innovation strategy

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