Last week, the University of Oxford’s historic Divinity School hosted a special evening event to celebrate the seven new community-led research collaborations formed over the last 12 months through the Science Together engagement programme.
Over the last ten months, community groups and organisations across Oxfordshire have been working with researchers and staff facilitators from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University on a range of initiatives designed around local needs, perspectives, and interests.
This year’s Science Together collaborations have been co-developed with:
- African Families in the UK – building bridges between scientists and young people living in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, by providing access to high-quality science education opportunities, to help inspire a new generation of STEM researchers and technicians from Oxford;
- Cutteslowe Primary School – examining a new method of integrated learning for primary schools, to see how effective it is in supporting children with highly complex additional needs;
- EMBS Community College – exploring the interaction between nature, learning, and wellbeing through a staff and student-led initiative to renovate an overgrown garden into a new vegetable patch;
- MuzoAkademy II – delivering a programme of music-and-performance opportunities to help people in and around Oxford to develop a range of transferrable life skills;
- Oxford Community Action – learning about lived experiences of sickle cell anaemia in the community, and sharing medical advances in new treatments with communities most likely to be affected;
- Oxford Mutual Aid – examining improvements that could be made to the organisation’s supply chain and operational processes, to optimise the support it provides to people in Oxford who are struggling to make ends meet;
- Oxford United in the Community – exploring how the harnessing of shared interests within a community through the expansion of Oxford United’s ‘Manor Club’ initiative might help to tackle loneliness and social isolation.
Science Together is an exciting programme that sees real life impact as a result of collaboration between universities and local communities. Being part of this year’s projects and seeing the partnerships come together through shared knowledge, expertise and interest has been really special. There’s real passion in the work undertaken and I encourage anyone involved in community groups and initiatives, or working at Oxford’s universities, to consider getting involved.
Daisy Hopkins, Science Together Programme Manager, University of Oxford
Most of these collaborations are still underway as the academic year draws to a close, but the summer celebration in central Oxford provided an opportunity for everyone involved to get together and find out more about one another’s research projects. Participants from the programme’s inaugural year also returned to find out about the latest collaborations, as did people wanting to find out more about being part of the next round, starting this autumn.
Guests enjoyed catering from refugee-run social enterprise, Damascus Rose Kitchen, and light music from Oxfordshire musician, David Vine of Dirty Weekend.
Launched in 2021, Science Together is a community-first engagement programme, co-ordinated by staff at the University of Oxford in partnership with Oxford Brookes University. It aims to harness the power of cross-sector collaborations to overcome challenges and seize opportunities for people who live and work in Oxfordshire. This year’s projects involved nearly 40 staff from across the two universities.
Collaborations from the programme’s pilot year in 2021/22 ranged from tackling under-reported bike crime to producing sustainable paint using dyes from hedgerow cuttings, collating research for an evidence report on the impact of freeform play on young people in Oxfordshire, or investigating the interplay between the evolution of hip hop and the development of recording technology.
Helen Earl, Inclusion Manager at Cutteslowe Primary School, Oxford, said: ‘Science Together has been a privilege to be part of and the collaboration has been so valuable. Utilising the expertise and skills of the team in-house, together with researchers and our facilitator as critical friends, has really opened up my thinking around the project. A wide variety of voices have been robustly collected and listened to. The children have had such a well-resourced provision, that has supported their love of learning, school and helped them achieve ambitious outcomes, which we have also tracked thoroughly through software we would not have had access to.’
Easy Chalmers, who helps to run the MuzoAkademy II programme, said: 'This has been a fantastic experience and one we’d highly recommend to any community group. Working closely with a group of dedicated researchers has been educational and has illuminated new ways of thinking about our project and its delivery. The Science Together team, the researchers, and the facilitators have all been fantastic and have helped to deliver a truly unique programme, which has had a tremendous positive impact on our community project.'
You can find out more about Science Together and how you could get involved during the new academic year starting in October 2023, here.
Collaborating university teams and departments this year:
University of Oxford – Department of Chemistry, Department of Engineering Science, Department of Experimental Psychology, Department of Oncology, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Physics, Department of Statistics, History of Science Museum, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Nuffield Department of Medicine, Nuffield Department of Population Health, Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, Oxford Cancer, and Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Oxford Brookes University – Department of Psychology, Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery, Research Engagement team, and School of Education, Humanities and Language