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Listening to the public

The research councils fund a variety of activities which aim to identify public attitudes and values through the lifecycle of research and foster debate that will enable public aspirations and concerns to help inform their policies and research strategies.

Dialogue review 

The research councils conducted a review of public dialogue (PDF, 345KB) 2003-2012. The purpose was to reflect on what has worked, and in what ways dialogues contributed to the goals of research councils' public engagement strategy.

Public dialogue

We are in the process of updating our information in this area, but some examples of past public dialogues that research councils have funded are given below:

Synthetic Biology Public Dialogue 2010

BBSRC and EPSRC, with funding from Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre, commissioned the British Market Research Bureau to conduct a public dialogue on synthetic biology.

Geoengineering Public Dialogue 2010

NERC, in partnership with Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre (ERC), carried out a public dialogue on geoengineering to assess public opinion on how future research relating to the subject should be directed, conducted and communicated.

Open data dialogue 2012

Undertaken on the behalf of the research councils in partnership with JISC, the Royal Society and Sciencewise ERC, this public dialogue explored views on open data, data reuse and data management policies within research. This public dialogue was designed to:

  • provide insight on the business issues that the dialogue will support, at the research councils and JISC
  • build on prior work in the area and account for the wider policy framework
  • engage people meaningfully around this complex area, enabling the public to frame issues and test out any principles emerging across a range of research contexts.

You can view the final project report (PDF, 1.2MB) and evaluation report (PDF, 109KB).

Planet Under Pressure 2012

The Planet Under Pressure (PDF, 54KB) conference focused on solutions to the global sustainability challenge. It aimed to provide scientific leadership towards the 2012 UN Rio +20 conference and identify opportunities for enhanced partnerships between research, policy, industry and the public. The University of East Anglia, the British Science Association, research councils and Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre developed the Youth Voice Project to ensure the perspective and voice of young people was presented at the conference.

Space Weather 2015

The Space Weather public dialogue developed a set of recommendations to facilitate action from government and members of the space weather community.

Other government funded initiatives with research council involvement

UK Public Attitudes to Science surveys 2000 - present

These are national surveys of public attitudes to science, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Previous surveys reported in 2000, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014. The research is aimed at understanding the UK public’s attitudes to science, scientists and science policy. The survey is expected to be undertaken again in 2018.


The Sciencewise programme has provided assistance to policy-makers to carry out public dialogue to inform their decision-making on science and technology issues. Sciencewise is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Public attitudes research

Up-to-date and robust evidence of public sentiment towards science and scientists is vitally important, as it helps shape the design of our programmes and our commissioning. For our latest piece we have commissioned Ipsos MORI to monitor public opinion towards science, scientists and scientific information during the COVID-19 pandemic. This involved a fortnightly online survey from mid-April to late August 2020 with UK adults aged 16+ (c.1,100 per wave, for 10 waves). For more information about the research please get in touch with graham.bukowski@ukri.org.

Download the report: How has COVID-19 affected trust in scientists? (PDF, 589KB)