Public engagement: Wonder Initiative



Science and technology can inspire people from all backgrounds. In reality, we know that the playing field isn’t level.

There are areas across the UK where people do not have the same opportunities to explore science and technology, and children who simply end up feeling that it’s not for them. Starting to address this imbalance is a key aim of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) public engagement strategy, through working to improve our reach with diverse audiences.

The Wonder Initiative is now in its second phase. It continues to connect people from socioeconomically deprived areas with our science and technology, and embedding this across all that we do. Wonder is about giving these under-served communities an equal voice by listening, understanding and responding to what people want to know about science and technology.

Who Wonder communities are

The Wonder Initiative focuses on working with participants from the 40% most socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK, in particular eight to 14-year-olds and their families and carers.

In developing our priorities for Wonder, STFC’s public engagement teams considered a range of different groups under-represented in science and technology and under-served by science engagement opportunities.

The decision to focus on socioeconomic deprivation was informed by the then emerging work of the ASPIRES research project and the concept of ‘science capital’. Science capital can be described as the extent to which people are exposed to science-related knowledge, experience, values and attitudes in their daily lives.

ASPIRES research shows that young people from areas of greater economic deprivation have less access to engagement opportunities and as a result typically have lower science capital. Therefore, we have chosen to focus on this community for Wonder. Also, from a pragmatic perspective, there are good national data sets on socioeconomic deprivation that we can use to help us to design and evaluate our activity.

Within this group, we are prioritising eight to 14-year-olds as research shows that low science capital at this age shapes a young person’s outlook and could dissuade them from a career in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM). Parents, teachers, carers and other adults are all key influencers in shaping young people’s aspirations and attitudes, and as a result, are also an important audience focus for Wonder.

Prioritising a group that constitutes 40% of the population is a relatively broad approach. This will inherently include representations of other under-served communities. We expect that some Wonder activity will make valuable improvements to engagement with these groups, without this being the formal, initial focus of the initiative.

Apply for funding to run a Wonder project

Any of STFC’s public engagement grant schemes can be used to plan, deliver and evaluate engagement that benefits Wonder communities.

If you are an applicant, make sure you provide evidence that you understand your target audience and have designed a programme that responds to their needs.

Search for STFC funding opportunities.

Last updated: 7 December 2023

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