How we support public engagement

We provide funding support for high-quality engagement between researchers and wider society so that everyone in the UK can participate in research and innovation whatever their background.

Examples of common public engagement activities include:

  • citizen science projects where members of the public are involved as contributors or collaborators
  • community co-design where research is developed by members of the target audience
  • festivals and workshops.

You can:

  • include public engagement activities in your funding applications to our councils
  • gain specific funding from UKRI and our councils to develop and deliver public engagement and research projects co-designed with the public
  • be part of programmes that encourage young people to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers or get involved in research and innovation across the arts, humanities, science and social sciences
  • take part in programmes that bring together the public and experts to discuss ethical and social issues around research and innovation.

Supporting engagement with research

We actively encourage researchers to involve the public in their research. It improves research quality, making it more relevant to society and offering significant benefits for those who participate.

You can include public engagement activities in your wider applications for funding. You should check to ensure that the activity you propose meets the funding criteria for any individual opportunity.

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement and the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research are useful sources of advice and guidance.

You can also apply for funding through dedicated public engagement awards. Some examples are included here, and all available opportunities are published in our funding pages.

Citizen science and participatory research awards

We want to help researchers and innovators shift the balance of public engagement, from communication of research findings to active participation.

Our citizen science and participatory research funding schemes support researchers to co-design and deliver research and innovation projects with the public.

Through the citizen science collaboration grants, we are funding five multidisciplinary research projects that are enabling the public to work as equal partners with researchers to reshape our understanding of important issues, such as airborne microplastics and migration.

Place-based partnerships in public engagement

We have supported collaborative place-based public engagement between research organisations, partner organisations and communities through the enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement funding opportunity.

In 2020 we funded 25 projects that were driven by a geographically defined need in communities from the 40% most socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK.

Wonder Initiative

The Wonder initiative, run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, connects people from the 40% most socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK with science and technology. It gives under-represented communities an equal voice by listening, understanding, and responding to what people want to know about science and technology.

Engaging the public with impacts of digital economy research

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is funding researchers to tell the story of the impact of a digital economy research project. They will engage diverse audiences and people underrepresented in digital economy in creative and interactive ways.

How to apply

Empowering young people

We support programmes that empower young people to pursue careers and take part in research and innovation across the arts, humanities, STEM subjects and social sciences. Some examples are included here, and you can search for all available funding opportunities.

STEM Ambassadors

We help to support the network of 30,000 STEM Ambassadors who act as role models for young people. They offer talks, clubs, mentoring and workplace visits, raising awareness and understanding of STEM careers through their personal experience.

CREST Awards

We support the British Science Association’s CREST Awards. CREST inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers. It is a nationally recognised scheme for student-led project work in the STEM subjects.

British Science Week

British Science Week is the UK’s national awareness campaign for science, run by the British Science Association (BSA). Our funding allows BSA to provide grants for disadvantaged schools and community groups from backgrounds that are underrepresented in science to participate in events and activities.

Nuffield Research Placements

We support Nuffield Research Placements, a programme developed by the Nuffield Foundation that helps young people over 16 years old, from underrepresented backgrounds, to experience research in real-life laboratories.

Adolescence, mental health and the development mind

Funded by MRC, ESRC and AHRC, the ‘Adolescence, mental health and the developing mind’ programme is examining how mental health problems emerge in young people, and supporting interventions to promote positive mental health. A young people’s advisory group is ensuring the research addresses the needs of people most affected by these issues.

Young Innovators Awards

The Young Innovators Awards have given 18 to 30-year-olds funding from Innovate UK to turn ground-breaking ideas into a reality. In 2021 winners came from diverse backgrounds, with nearly a third from ethnic minority groups and 17% identifying as disabled.

Listening to public concerns

We believe that research and innovation thrive in environments open to different ideas and ways of thinking. We support programmes that allow everyone to contribute and to listen to and engage with ideas different to their own.

Sciencewise

We fund Sciencewise, an internationally recognised programme that brings together the public, scientists, other experts and policymakers to share views on ethical and social issues in research and innovation.

Sciencewise has supported more than 60 dialogue projects since 2004, on subjects ranging from climate change to online targeting. Sciencewise often works in partnership with councils on dialogues, such as the dialogue on genome editing in farmed animals with BBSRC.

Healthy Environments dialogue

Between December 2020 and July 2021 we ran an innovative online public dialogue to inform decisions about the future of NERC’s healthy environment programme. 100 people from underrepresented groups took part from across the country to shape research priorities

Last updated: 31 March 2022

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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