PCER Seed Fund
Scheme at a glance / key facts
- Who it’s for – eligibility and suitability
- How much money is available and the number of awards we aim to make
- Duration of funding
- Key dates
Any researcher or public engagement professional at the University of Oxford can apply and be the Principal Investigator (PI). The PI is accountable for the project. Co-applicants – people who will contribute to the project and support the PI – can be other members of staff (e.g., researchers, DPhil students, teaching staff, public engagement professionals, museum staff) or external partners (e.g., patients, representatives of community groups, teachers).
Staff who are new to public and community engagement are encouraged to apply, as are those who are more experienced.
A University cost centre is needed to host an award. College-based activities can occur, but funds must be managed through a Faculty or Department.
At least one applicant – either the PI or a co-applicant – must be a researcher at the University.
A total of £60,000 is available to support seed projects; each project should request no more than £6,000. Depending on how many culture change projects we fund, there might be more money available.
We intend to fund at least 10 projects, half of which will be Participatory research projects
Projects can be up to six months long:
- Your project cannot start before January 2023
- You will need to have spent all your award by 30 June 2023
- Application deadline: midday, 21 October 2022
- Decisions announced: December 2022
- Projects start: January 2023
- Projects spending deadline: Friday, 30 June 2023
- Projects submit evaluation reports: on or before Monday, 31 July 2023
About this scheme
- What we're looking for
- Possible activities
- Participatory research
- Community engagement
- Evaluation and reporting
The University’s Public and Community Engagement with Research (PCER) team takes a broad view of ‘public engagement’ as any activity that connects or involves non-academic audiences with our research. This could variously be described as engagement, outreach, participation, involvement, co-production and more. Public engagement encompasses a broad spectrum of often similar, albeit differently nuanced, goals and methods that aim to make research more transparent, available, and accessible for those who want to be involved or participate in different ways.
‘Good’ public engagement means different things to different people. However, it tends to involve meaningfully listening to and involving public audiences in a way that improves research. For some forms of research, it might even be unethical not to engage with the public, for example, particular medical research projects.
We want to support engagement projects with a clear purpose. We’re most interested in why you want to do this work and what you want to achieve from it. The outcomes for your work should be expressed in terms of how they will make a difference to someone or something. For example, your project might aim to:
- improve awareness of a particular research area among a defined group so that they can make informed decisions;
- bring about a change in what’s taught in schools;
- inform and shape your future research.
We are keen to see projects that have a purpose that links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The product(s) or output(s) of your project should not be considered an end in itself. For example, we are unlikely to support:
- the development of a website all about your research area;
- a new video for your YouTube channel.
These are not absolutes. A website and YouTube video could be important elements of a wider project to build awareness, but you would need to explain how your target audience would find them and how they would make a difference.
What you do should be driven by the differences that you’re trying to make. The following types of high-level difference could be achieved by the associated activities:
- Informing and inspiring the public: these sorts of projects should increase the audience(s) knowledge about the research presented and/or make them more enthusiastic about what it has to offer. Tangible, long-term differences will probably be difficult to measure, especially at scale. Possible techniques include participation in festivals, interactive talks and shows, podcasts, films and animations.
- Consulting and listening to public views: these projects should shape researchers’ own views and guide future research, based on the audience’s/community’s perspectives and experiences. Possible techniques include human-centred design, public debates, online consultations, panels and user-groups.
- Collaborating with the public: these projects involve the public as essential contributors, who lead, advise on, or contribute to the research. Possible techniques include citizen science and co-production.
There are not always distinct boundaries between these different purposes. The activities and techniques suggested can also be used in different contexts.
"Participatory or co-produced research strengthens research outcomes by involving the communities and users of research, better recognising their experience, needs and preferences, and giving greater agency to communities to implement findings."
Half of the seed awards fund is ringfenced for participatory research projects.
Applicants should indicate if they wish to apply for funding to support a participatory research project. These projects should focus on enabling Community engagement (see below) to be involved in research that affects them.
Participatory projects could include:
- projects that build capacity to do participatory work; for example, initiating conversations with a local community group so you can hear their perspectives on your research and have ongoing dialogue with them, or training community members as researchers
- identifying and addressing community challenges that could be improved by collaborative research that involves community member
A community can be any group of people that is connected by place (e.g., people who live in the same town suburb or postcode region), by practice (e.g., teachers, entrepreneurs), or by affiliation/identity/interest (e.g., gender, sexuality, health, climate change). In many ways, ‘community’ is another way of thinking about your audience. Which community or communities you decide to work with should be influenced by, and in turn influence, your research.
What is distinct about engaging with communities is purpose and practice. Community engagement should be oriented around understanding a community’s needs and improving their circumstances in a co-constructed, non-paternalistic way. As such, community engagement should be built around inclusive, participatory practices and be oriented around consulting and collaborating, rather than informing.
"[Community engagement] often involves partnerships and coalitions that help mobilize resources and influence systems, change relationships among partners, and serve as catalysts for changing policies, programs, and practices."
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Principles of community engagement (1st ed.). Atlanta (GA): CDC/ATSDR Committee on Community Engagement; 1997
The differences that you intend to make (outcomes) should shape your evaluation and reporting. Where possible, you should identify what you can measure to indicate whether you have successfully made your intended difference(s).
If you are funded, you must submit:
- a detailed evaluation plan for your project soon after it starts;
- a final evaluation report (a template will be provided).
Support for evaluation will be provided.
We will publish summary details of all the awards we make via internal and external communication channels.
What you should do
- Identify whether you are going to do
- a new project that will develop or pilot new public and community engagement with research activities, with a clear purpose; or
- a project that builds on/enhances an existing public and community engagement with research project.
- Decide whether your project will
- inform and inspire;
- consult and listen to; and/or
- collaborate with the public,
- the audience(s) and/or communities that you engage with;
- your research;
- your future approach to public and community engagement;
- another practice/institution/system/programme or ‘thing’.
- Choose your target audience(s), as defined by demographics (such as age, location, gender, socioeconomic status) or their interests/attitudes/views, and/or communities (see About this scheme). In any event, they should be people who are not formally involved in some way with research at a higher education institution.
We welcome and encourage applications that aim to work people/communities who are in some way disadvantaged, marginalised or minoritised by society, or those who experience significant barriers to engaging in traditional modes of research.
- Plan how you will do your project, including how you will reach your audience/community and what you will do to engage with them.
Think about whether you might want to use equipment that available to hire (free of charge) from the University. This ranges from cameras and microphones to gazebos and tables. We would strongly recommend exploring what is available before including costs for equipment within your application. Details are available from the PERShare website.
What you shouldn’t do (what we won’t fund)
Projects that are solely based on activities that are eligible for funding through (or relate solely to) supporting undergraduate and graduate access to the University. These projects should apply to other sources of funding and opportunities organised by Oxford Access.
Projects that aim to engage primarily with businesses and industry should apply to other sources of funding such as the University’s Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund.
Policy engagement may play an important role in eligible participatory projects, in which case policy makers can be included as relevant stakeholders. However, they should not be the only stakeholders and nor should the engagement be primarily with/for policy makers. If your project is mainly about shaping policy, see opportunities available on the OPEN network.
How we will assess your proposal
We will consider:
- The differences that the project aims to make, and the importance of those differences to your target audiences and/or communities – your objectives and associated rationale.
- Whether there is good evidence that proposed activities are likely to achieve the objectives – your activities and associated rationale.
- The plans for evaluating whether those differences were achieved – your evaluation approach.
- The justification of the costs and value for money – your budget.
- How well the project relates to a specific research project or research area of the researcher(s) involved – your project’s relevance to research.
- The project’s potential longer-term impact or contribution, which could include
- continuing past the period of funding;
- serving as a best practice case study for Public Engagement with Research;
- building staff capacity for PCER;
- activities for which further funding will be sought (through other funding sources);
- contribute to future Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact case studies; – your broader impacts.
If your project is about participatory research, we will also consider whether you are being appropriately:
- Collaborative: which research phases in your proposed research include meaningful collaboration and co-production?
- Respectful: are you respecting all those engaging in the research, including the communities involved in, leading, or affected by it, and is this reflected in your project design and process?
- Inclusive: have you considered carefully who is included in (or excluded from) research decisions and agenda-setting?
- Transparent: are your processes transparent, accessible and ethically grounded throughout, from initial design to dissemination and evaluation?
- Responsible and fair: is your project underpinned by a sense of responsibility in terms of developing just and equitable research projects and have you reflected this in your application?
You can see examples of charters and guidance of responsible research practice in Picot & Grasham, 2022a, b; Universities UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity)
References including detailed definitions and discussion of co-production and participatory research
- Kindon, S. and Pain, R. and Kesby, M. (2009). 'Participatory action research.', in International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-008044910-4.00490-9
- Picot, L. E. and Grasham, C. F. (2022a). Code of Conduct for Ethical Fieldwork. University of Oxford
- Picot, L. E., & Grasham, C. (2022b). Fieldwork: institutions can make it more ethical. Nature, 609(7926), 245. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-02805-6
- Turnhout, E., Metze, T., Wyborn, C., Klenk, N., & Louder, E. (2020). The politics of co-production: participation, power, and transformation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 42, 15-21.10.1016/j.cosust.2019.11.009
How to apply
Download and complete the Case for support template
Save the completed form as a PDF
Use the University’s Internal Research Award Management System (IRAMS) to complete the online application form by
completing the project details section;
giving a financial breakdown:
you must describe the costs being requested in the ‘description’ field for each budget line with a justification, if appropriate;
you must attribute costs to Year 1 only;
more lines will become available once the purpose for three of them has been filled in;
uploading the PDF version of your completed case for support.
Your application will be automatically submitted to your Department or Faculty. Subject to departmental approval, it will be reviewed by an internal panel of Oxford researchers and academics, and public engagement professionals, who will make the funding recommendations.
You should check that your application will be approved by your departmental approver before you submit it. This will help to avoid unnecessary delays.
Enquiries to the central PCER team are welcome at any time. Applicants may seek support from the Divisional public engagement leads and/or departmental public engagement staff.
PCER contact details
For logistical support submitting your application, please contact the Public and Community Engagement with Research team.
To discuss how to evaluate your project, please contact Rowena Fletcher-Wood.
To discuss your project idea, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your divisional PER lead (see below).
You could also speak to members of
- the Public Engagement Facilitator Network (Microsoft Teams link), which consists of PER facilitators across the University;
- RISN’s Engagement and Impact community of practice (Microsoft Teams link).
Divisional PCER lead contact details
Gardens Libraries and Museums
Head of Research and Impact Management – Harriet Warburton
TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, Head of Cultural Programming and Partnerships – Victoria McGuinness
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division
Head of Public and Community Engagement with Research – Michaela Livingstone-Banks
Medical Sciences Division
Public and Policy Engagement Coordinator – Martin Christlieb
Social Sciences Division
Head of Engagement – Aileen Marshall-Brown
2021-22 funded projects
1.1 Dr Hazem Zohny
Research Fellow in Practical Ethics, Neuroscience and Society; The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Faculty of Philosophy
We are developing a chatbot that can walk users through the intricacies of various topics in ethics, especially ones related to research in emerging technologies (such as gene editing, AI, human enhancement, synthetic biology). ‘Philosobot’ is the working name for the project and it will be designed to work on Facebook Messenger and potentially other platforms. Rather than drily inform users of the views of various thinkers on these topics, it will ask users questions about specific issues in practical ethics, and depending on their responses it will offer alternative views or arguments using highly accessible language and humour. It will also link directly to more detailed academic resources where appropriate, as well as inform users about the various research projects and events organized by the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
2.1 Professor Helen Johnson
Professor of Ocean and Climate Science; Department of Earth Sciences
DPhil Candidate; Environmental Change Institute
Education Officer; Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Postgraduate; Department of Earth Sciences
Postgraduate; Department of Earth Sciences
Coordinator of the Oxford University Polar Forum; School of Geography
Climate Change: Science, Research and Performance
Aimed primarily at children and young people, this project explores creative responses to climate science and research through performance and music. It consists of two complementary strands: a musical theatre show about climate change aimed at children (11+), teenagers and their families, and creative climate science workshops for older teenagers. These elements will be devised and delivered by science theatre duo Geologise Theatre, in collaboration with climate researchers from the University of Oxford, coordinated by Helen Johnson, Professor of Ocean and Climate Science. The hour-long musical theatre show will tell a story about climate change, directly informed by climate science research. The workshops will connect climate change researchers from a range of disciplines with young people, who will interview these experts and devise their own creative responses to the discussions. This project aims to break down traditional barriers between arts and sciences, and between researchers and the local community. It aims to empower young people to explore new ways to engage and express themselves in relation to climate change, its impacts and solutions.
2.2 Dr Ali Marie
Post-Doctoral Research Assistant; Department of Engineering Science
Scientific Adventure to Unravel Mysteries of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay (dental cavities) is one of the most common diseases in the UK and the main reason for tooth loss. Expenditure on dental services is significant, for example between 2015-2016 the NHS spent £50 million only on tooth extraction, not to mention other costs. Public health research has shown that prevention programmes aid in the reduction of tooth decay, and this activity aims to explore causes of tooth decay, steps everyone may take to promote dental health and some related materials research at the University of Oxford. Our group Dr Cyril Besnard, Dr Sisini Sasidharan led by Professor Alexander Korsunsky, research is to tackle tooth decay challenge by undertaking a systematic, coordinated, multi-scale microscopic investigation, coupled with numerical disease modelling to move towards better diagnosis, and proactive intervention and treatment of tooth decay. We would like to highlight some basic physical process, including mechanisms of tooth cleaning (brushing and flossing) and biomineral loss from teeth, and explore public perceptions of dental care and materials research. Using the format of a drop-in hands-on science festival activity, I want to develop my own and my research group’s public engagement skills meanwhile delivering messages of science to children and families, teenagers and adults. These messages include: relevance of research to daily life, how science and engineering is all around us and that anyone can be involved at many different levels, there are careers in science that are exciting and varied, and that we can develop skill sat any stage in our lives that can help make us healthier.
2.3 Dr Patricia Rodriguez Macia
Glasstone Research Fellow in Science; Department of Chemistry
Education outreach officer; Department of Chemistry
Small, yet Mighty! / Molecular machines to power our world.
This project explains current Oxford Chemistry research into the hydrogen economy andenzymatic and microbial fuel cells, showing how metalloenzymes can be exploited in biotechnological applications to provide new routes for renewable energy technologies that contribute towards a more sustainable future. The newly elected Glasstone Research Fellow, Dr Patricia Rodriguez Macia, and two Oxford Chemistry students, supported by Chemistry ‘Ambassadors’ and the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory team, will co-develop and deliver at least four 1-hour workshops targeted at 14-16 year olds. The design of this ‘blended’ workshop combining interactive/hands-on practical work and an online Q&A will allow it to be delivered in Oxford Colleges and/or Oxfordshire Schools during May-June 2022, and the workshop will become a staple of the Department’s engagement programme beyond the funding term. Those engaging with the workshops will gain a greater understanding of Oxford Chemistry research, its relevance to their everyday lives and the future potential of this area of research in solving the energy crisis and limiting climate instability. As a result of participating, those involved in this project will be more positive about the role of scientists and science in providing viable solutions to the climate crisis.
2.4 Dr Suzie Sheehy
Royal Society University Research Fellow; Department of Physics
Dr Laurence Rowe
Department of Physics
Funky-Shaped Drums and Particle Accelerators
You may be hard-pressed to find a link between drums and particle accelerators. The underlying physics of these seemingly disparate instruments, however, is identical: our accelerator physics research to design a component that is able simultaneously accelerate and control a beam of particles in a particle accelerator is analogous to asking “if we build a drum that isn’t circular but instead more funky-shaped, what will it sound like?” This project will develop and pilot a workshop for 11-14 year-old school children to investigate the link between music, drums and particle accelerators. Students will be encouraged to play and undertake experiments with different funky-shaped drums and Chladni plates and help us with our cutting-edge physics research! We also hope to hold a concert in Oxford where the student can perform to their families using the funky-shaped drums and explain the underlying physics. The aim of our project is to broaden student’s knowledge of what actually counts as science, build their science capital, and encourage an uptake in post-16 STEM study.
3.1 Professor Aris Papageorghiou
Professor at Nuffield Department of Women's & Reproductive Health; Clinical Research Director, Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute (OMPHI).
Dr Elizabeth Bradburn
Clinical Research Fellow; DPhil Student. Nuffield Department of Women's & Reproductive Health
Trust in Results USing Technology (TRUsT)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a fast-evolving area of medicine. For AI to be successfully embedded and implemented into routine clinical practice, it is vital that both healthcare workers and patients understand and trust the technology. The aim of the TRUsT study (Trust in Results USing Technology) is to understand healthcare workers’ and patients’ opinions of AI technology and its introduction into maternity care. We will conduct semi-structured interviews in four diverse locations (Canada, Kenya, Rwanda and the U.K.) where we will explore perceptions and understanding of AI including acceptability and ‘explainability’. Using these results, we will develop a framework that can be used when introducing AI into healthcare settings.
3.2 Madeline Tremblett
Qualitative Researcher; Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.
Dr Charlotte Albury
Mildred Blaxter Fellow in Health Behaviours; Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.
CoRe-PeLWO: Co-developed signposting of community resources for people living with obesity
Obesity is said to be rising in the UK, and general practitioners are instructed by government to speak to patients at every opportunity about their weight. Our research team have developed training on how GPs can best do this, in a way that is helpful and respectful to patients that are living with obesity. A key finding is that GPs should not give general diet and exercise advice, as this is not helpful. However, PPI have argued that signposting to local community healthy living groups is helpful, and GPs agree that being able to signpost would be beneficial in consultations. We aim to develop a signposting resource, using the knowledge of people who know what works best –people with lived experience. We will gather a range of views on community groups that are helpful, using a survey that people across the country can contribute to. We will then use a panel of public participants with lived experience of obesity to condense the survey results, and develop a resource that we will disseminate to GPs across the country. We will host this resource online so that anyone can access it, and envision that this will help change support for people living with obesity.
3.3 Dr Rebecca Watson
Postdoctoral Researcher; Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry
Professor Catherine Creswell
Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology; Department of Experimental Psychology
Emerging Minds Network Manager; Department of Psychiatry
Engaging young people with evidence-based mental health resources
This grant funding follows on directly from our Medical Research Council knowledge mobilisation grant, which aims to develop evidence-based resources to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We have worked with a youth-led media production partner, Fully Focused Productions, to create a drama series to support young people with feelings of loneliness and isolation. The drama is underpinned by evidence-based messages (generated by research and clinical experts) on how to support young people with this aspect of their mental health and wellbeing. This fund enables us to work with Fully Focused Productions to disseminate the drama series in ways that are accessible and engaging for young people and that amplify the evidence-based messages. It provides a public platform for young people to learn about and discuss evidence-based strategies to help themselves, or others, who are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
4.1 Dr Catherine Briddick
Departmental Lecturer in Gender and International Human Rights and Refugee Law; Oxford Department of International Development
Dr Dilar Dirik
Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow (Lady Margaret Hall)
Women and War
Women in regions affected by war and forced displacement are highly visible in media accounts. Yet, their resistance against different forms of violence – from so-called domestic abuse to large-scale state violence – often goes unrecognized. Women & War is a platform to learn about powerful women’s struggles for justice and peace. The podcast brings together critical contemporary feminist work in the field of war, violence, colonialism, and forced migration. The invited guests - engaged feminist academics - will speak about legacies of genocide, femicide, occupation, and invasion in the context of places like Armenia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kurdistan, Palestine, and Pakistan. Host and guest will challenge simplistic ideas and instead center women’s practices of resistance and collective struggle, past and present. While offering historical context to contemporary wars and conflicts in the region, Women & War seeks to be a space to build transnational feminist solidarity. A public symposium will be held with speakers from women’s grassroots organizations from the region. Members of the public, scholars and advocacy groups are warmly invited to the discussion.
4.2 Dr Talita de Souza Dias
Shaw Foundation Junior Research Fellow in Law, Jesus College; Faculty of Law
Just Speech: The Film
In a world where most social interactions take place over the Internet at an unprecedented speed and reach, online hate speech has led to real harms worldwide. But states, tech companies and users have struggled to find the right balance between countering online hate and protecting user freedom of expression. To address these questions and provide concrete answers to various stakeholders, the ‘Just Speech’ project has set out to produce an engaging short film. With powerful animations and interviews with the project lead, Dr Talita Dias, the film explores three legal categories of online speech under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights–prohibited, limited, and protected –and their different implications for relevant stakeholders –states, tech companies and users. It takes these audiences through a journey that starts from general legal provisions to real-world examples of the tension between countering online hatred and protecting free speech, such as the role of Facebook in enabling violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar and Donald Trump’s inflammatory tweets and their influence on the United States Capitol insurrection. The short film also instructs states, tech companies and users on best online practices to ensure respect for fundamental human rights.
4.3 Dr Kathryn Eccles
Senior Research Fellow; Oxford Internet Institute
DPhil Student; Oxford Internet Institute
Design, Interrupted: An Interactive Exhibition of Algorithms at Work
The aim of this interactive gallery installation and accompanying workshop is to foster a dialogue with creative professionals and engage the public with research on the role of algorithms in design. As designers work in a visual language, this project provides a dynamic opportunity to use designers’ methods and toolkits to communicate academic research in a design-friendly lexicon. The research that will be presented through this installation considers how algorithmic bias may influence creativity in ideation, a critical early step in the design process. There is extensive research on algorithmic bias within the context of racial bias and political transparency. This project situates these questions within the context of design and considers how a critical early stage of the design process might be “interrupted” by algorithmic bias.
4.4 Dr Ekaterina Hertog
Postdoctoral researcher; Department of Sociology
Dr Lulu Shi
Postdoctoral Researcher; Department of Sociology
This project will result in two videos, in which we will explain our research project DomesticAI to engage the public in the discussion around the future of unpaid domestic work. There are three main target audiences: schools, policy makers and industry experts, and domestic technology users. The first video will discuss how technology experts imagine the future of unpaid domestic work (our study forecasts that 39% of all domestic work can potentially be automated in ten years’ time). The second video will focus on the social consequences of automating domestic work with a gender and class perspective. Investigating how unpaid domestic work can be transformed by technology can contribute to efforts in understanding gender inequalities in both the paid labour market and in the unpaid domestic sphere. The goal of the project is to make complex social science ideas easy to understand for non-experts and to motivate young people to think about important social questions.
4.5 Dr Marc Macias-Fauria
Associate Professor in Physical Geography; School of Geography and the Environment
Coordinator of the Oxford University Polar Forum; School of Geography
Polar Pod: A podcast from the Oxford University Polar Forum
Polar Pod from Oxford University Polar Forum is a new podcast that dives headfirst into exploring the regions at the poles of our planet and why they matter for all of us. Drawing on the expertise of Oxford researchers, Polar Pod explores the big questions that researchers of all backgrounds are grappling with today. Is the melting of the Greenland ice sheet unstoppable? In the battle to stake national claims to the Arctic and Antarctic, who will be the winners and losers? How is life in the polar regions changing as the ice melts? Is the melting permafrost a ticking carbon bomb—and what do mammoths have to do with this? Join Polar Pod to explore the big questions raised by the rapid changes underway at the Earth’s poles.
4.6 Dr Fiona McConnell
Associate Professor of Human Geography; School of Geography and the Environment
Dr Liam Saddington
ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow; School of Geography and the Environment
Engaging Minority Youth in Europe: Role-playing 'Model UNPO'
The state dominates understandings of geopolitics: maps of the world consist of neatly coloured-in state units, and state leaders dominate international headlines. However, those who are most acutely affected by conflict, human rights abuses and environmental injustices are frequently not represented by state interests. Often, they seek to represent themselves internationally, as stateless nations, indigenous communities, minorities, or as de facto states. Over 40 of these non-state actors have come together as the ‘Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization’(UNPO). This project facilitates debates on these issues by working with youth organisations representing refugees, diaspora and ethnic, national and linguistic minorities in Europe. Since 2014, Fiona McConnell has run a Model UNPO General Assembly simulation with geography undergraduates. Based on this, Fiona McConnell and Liam Saddington have developed these materials for secondary and primary pupils. Building on this experience, this project will work with migrant and minority youth to adapt and redesign these materials for new audiences. Working with the UNPO, the European Free Alliance and Youth, and Youth of European Nationalities, youth participants will co-design a two-day programme for youth groups to debate self-determination, minority rights and inclusive societies. These new materials will then be made freely and publicly available.
5.1 Dr James Harris
Teaching Curator; Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
DPhil Candidate; School of Archaeology
Museums are not just static keepers of history but are spaces of care with the ability to improve people’s wellbeing. Talking Memory is a public engagement with research project connecting the role of museums as repositories of memories with their role as spaces of social care. By examining the theme of memory with an interdisciplinary cohort of Oxford post-graduate and early career researchers and older adults, Talking Memory offers an opportunity to foster meaningful encounters between researchers, objects, and the public. The project’s combination of gallery talks, informal discussions, and art projects is designed to promote mental wellbeing in a growing demographic, older adults. Studies have shown that when older adults engage with object-oriented talks, reminiscence programming, and creative art projects in museums, they improve mood, self-esteem, cognition, and overall mental wellbeing. Talking Memory promotes the role of the Ashmolean as a space of social care and aims to improve the targeted audience’s wellbeing, while also creating benefits and value for the post-graduate and early career researchers.
5.2 Dr Federica Gigante
Curator of the Collection from the Islamic World, History of Science Museum
Dr Joshua Bull
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Mathematical Institute
An Islamic laboratory of scientific instruments in Virtual Reality
The project aims to recreate in Virtual Reality (VR) one of the most famous laboratories of scientific instruments of the Islamic world, based in Lahore in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Using existing VR equipment already purchased through a John Fell Fund for a different GLAM exhibition, we would like to involve refugee, local, and source communities from Islamic countries to work alongside the curator and the developers to design and reconstruct the features of this laboratory. The objects will be virtually placed into context and the various phases of their making will be illustrated. The Museum holds the largest collection of instruments made by the famous laboratory of Lahore by different generations of makers and is therefore the ideal setting for such an endeavour.
2020-21 funded projects
2019-20 funded projects
1.1 Dr Erica Charters
Associate Professor of Global History and the History of Medicine / Co-director of the Oxford Centre for Global History, Faculty of History
Oxford and Empire Podcasts
Oxford and Empire podcasts would provide permanent, widely accessible, and engaging audio recordings (with accompanying text and images) of the historical relationship between Oxford and empire. Speakers – Oxford residents, local historians, postholders, and PG students – would provide short c. 3-minute historical back ground on a variety of buildings, objects, and locations around Oxford. Because these podcasts would record a variety of subjects narrated by a range of speakers, it would capture the diversity of individuals within Oxford, as well as the variety of approaches to understanding the legacies of colonialism. In particular, it would integrate academics, students, and Oxford residents to tell the various histories of Oxford and its relationship to empire. It will also enable history postgraduate students to add substantially to the public understanding of Oxford’s imperial past while reflecting upon their discipline’s public and political context.
1.2 Professor Katrin Kohl
Professor of German Literature, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages
Slanguages: Multilingual Performance in Oxford
In modern languages research, considerable work has focused on European languages, but less work has been undertaken on the uses of non-European and community languages and their creative possibilities. Boliyan and Jugni are traditionally performed in Punjabi. Working with two-times Grammy Award winning percussionist Lekan Babalola, award winning Indian Folk Bhangra Dancers Nachda Sansaar, and three young female BAME artists, the Creative Multilingualism programme has developed multilingual versions of these South Asian art forms, which will be showcased in Oxford.
The audience will enjoy an inspiring, practical demonstration of the creative uses of languages that are widespread in UK communities but barely acknowledged in the UK’s perception of its linguistic identity. They will be introduced to new genres of performance, or an example of a familiar form presented innovatively. A post show Q&A will allow the artists to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of their work.
2.1 Dr Joshua Bull
Postdoctoral Researcher, Mathematical Institute
What's The Point? Investigating spatial point patterns through citizen science
This project will create a new app which is both a puzzle game and a valuable “citizen science” collaboration with Oxford mathematicians! App users will place points to try to match shapes and solve challenges, with each attempt contributing to a large dataset of labelled point patterns.
We are developing new mathematical techniques to automatically identify structure in this type of dataset, something that humans can do easily but computers struggle with. Interpreting spatial patterns in these datasets is crucial for improving our understanding of problems in a huge range of areas, including describing the clustering of immune cells within tumours, the structure of neurons in the brain, and the way that information can be interpreted by computers.
Our app will allow users to help us build a database of point patterns which have been labelled by humans, accelerating the development of new mathematical descriptions of point data and providing insight into diverse problems across maths, biology and ecology.
2.2 Dr Ruth Feber
Zoology Research Fellow, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Department of Zoology
Citizen science and social networks
Citizen science has tremendous potential for engaging the public in research and for generating valuable data. One scheme, the National Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS), run by Butterfly Conservation, is one of the largest citizen science schemes in the UK, generating datasets that are used by scientists to underpin national assessments of biodiversity change and for wider environmental research. A network of over 100 volunteer coordinators play a vital role in the scheme, by receiving, verifying and computerising moth records contributed by the public. The rapid growth in digital communication has enabled far more people to participate in the scheme but is also changing the traditional face-to-face social networks that have historically underpinned the success of the scheme. Working with Butterfly Conservation, we will consult the volunteer coordinators on the opportunities and challenges that the digital environment presents for them. In particular we will focus on exploring the impacts of changing social networks on their motivations and engagement with the scheme. The project will lead to wider recommendations on how to foster networks to achieve successful joint working in citizen science monitoring programmes in a digital age.
2.3 Dr Seham Helmi
Postdoctoral Research Assistant in DNA-Templated Molecular Devices, Department of Physics
DNA Self Assembly: DNA 2.0 Gala Event
We would like to develop an art-science collaboration to engage diverse community groups around Oxford with research on DNA self-assembly. We are proposing a DNA self-assembly Gala Event, which would bring this innovative research to an audience that may not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with it. The content will be co-created through workshops, in which community groups (such as schools, charities and community centres) will collaborate with a professional choreographer to create a dance of their own inspired by the research. The final gala event will showcase these dance performances alongside more in-depth talks about the science and its applications.
This project provides an opportunity for community groups to demonstrate their own understanding and interpretation of the research through choreographed dance, enabling participants to engage on a creative, social and intellectual level. Furthermore, this project brings an additional benefit for the gala audience, who will learn about innovative research presented in a novel format.
2.4 Professor Simon Hiscock
Director, Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum
Dr Tonya Lander
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of Plant Sciences
Oxford Plan Bee: Citizen Science, Education and Conservation
There is widespread concern about global bee decline, which is expected to impact both ecosystem function and human food security. This project focuses on filling two of the knowledge gaps that reduce our ability to respond to this decline: (1) We know approximately where individual bee species occur in the UK, but we don’t know how many of each species we would expect to find. That means usually we can identify when a species goes extinct, but not when it is in decline. (2) We need specific guidance about what woodland and urban land management interventions support and enhance wild bee populations.
Oxford Plan Bee works with citizen scientists to collect data about wild bees in Oxford City and surrounding areas using a network of public and home bee nest boxes and guided walks. We aim to collect essential data for long-term monitoring of wild bee populations, contributing to global efforts to understand and reverse pollinator decline. We also work with the University Estates and Wytham Woods to develop evidence-based management interventions to protect and enhance populations of wild bees. The project also engages more broadly with the local community to promote public understanding of bees, plants, pollinator-friendly gardening, ecology and conservation.
2.5 Dr Ali Marie
Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, Department of Engineering Science
Engineering a Great Smile
Tooth decay (dental cavities) is one of the most common diseases in the UK and the main reason for tooth loss. Expenditure on dental services is significant, for example between
2015-2016 the NHS spent £50 million only on tooth extraction, not to mention other costs.
Public health research has shown that prevention programmes aid in the reduction of tooth decay, and this activity aims to explore causes of tooth decay, steps everyone may take to promote dental health and some related materials research at the University of Oxford. Our group, led by Professor Alexander Korsunsky, research is to tackle tooth decay challenge by undertaking a systematic, coordinated, multi-scale microscopic investigation, coupled with numerical disease modelling to move towards better diagnosis, and proactive intervention and treatment of tooth decay.
We would like to highlight some basic physical process, including mechanisms of tooth cleaning (brushing and flossing) and biomineral loss from teeth, and explore public perceptions of dental care and materials research. Using the format of a drop-in hands-on science festival activity, I want to develop my own and my research group’s public engagement skills meanwhile delivering messages of science to children and families, teenagers and adults. These messages include: relevance of research to daily life, how science and engineering is all around us and that anyone can be involved at many different levels, there are careers in science that are exciting and varied, and that we can develop skills at any stage in our lives that can help make us healthier.
2.6 Professor James Martin
Associate Professor of Probability, Department of Statistics
Dr Tom Crawford
Stipendiary Lecturer in Mathematics, St Hugh’s College
Tom Rocks Maths Intern Programme
The PER seed fund will allow 2 students to work with Dr Tom Crawford during the summer of 2020 to produce a series of outreach content that aims to explain interesting mathematical concepts and research for a general audience. The students will be free to choose their own topics to cover, with the final outcome being a 5-minute video, a 10-minute podcast and a 2000- word article, each of which will be published on Tom’s award-winning website - Tom rocks Maths.
The goal of the project is to train the students in the art of public engagement through online content and live performances, with the hope that they will become future champions of PER.
With Tom’s guidance, the content produced by the students will be designed to encourage those who have no interest in maths to engage with the subject. Maths is one of very few subjects where people are happy to admit that they struggle with it or that it ‘isn’t for them’. This can even be seen as a ‘badge of honour’ or something to be proud of, which is something that needs to be changed. Maths is an integral part of almost everything that we do from the programming of computers to predictions of climate change and through the Tom Rocks Maths Intern Programme, the aim is to help people to understand this importance and ultimately to feel less afraid of the subject as a result.
2.7 Professor Clive Siviour
Professor of Engineering Science / Associate Head for Infrastructure, Department of Engineering Science
DPhil Student, Department of Engineering Science
Gas Gun Guys
Will it crush? Will it survive?
Watch the Gas Gun Guys explore how damage occurs in different materials. We will use our gas gun to fire projectiles at various objects and use a high-speed video camera to record how the objects react.
Learn how these experiments link to ongoing research within the High Rate Group and our quest to better understand the damage mechanisms of various materials under high strain rate deformation from impact loading conditions.
You will also have the opportunity to request (within reason!) any object that you want to see being impacted with our gas gun. We will learn together about how it responds and whether it crushes or survives the impact. Who knows? You might help us discover innovative impact resistant materials through this project by accident!
3.1 Dr Monique Andersson
Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, University of Oxford / Director of Microbiology, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust / Consultant in Clinical Infection, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Listening to the voices of African patients with HepB
In Africa, chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections have a health burden comparable to HIV and tuberculosis. Unlike with HIV, there has been little effort to listen to the stories of patients and families affected by HBV in African communities. We want to tell the stories of these patients digitally, by being the first to create a supportive space for patients and families affected by chronic (HBV) infection and their sequelae (liver cirrhosis and liver cancer) to share their experiences, helping remove stigma and sharing coping strategies and resources. With consent from the patients, we will record these sessions to create a digital storytelling compilation of subtitled short films. We will also use this material to make waiting room video inserts, posters, and leaflets, and supply them to local health centres in Cape Town, South Africa. We will provide this material in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa, the three most common languages spoken in Cape Town, South Africa. Our ultimate goal is to engage patients in the research process, raise awareness about HBV, and promote better management of HBV infection in African communities.
3.2 Professor Catharine Creswell
Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Experimental Psychology
Emerging Minds Network Manager, Department of Psychiatry
How can research help to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems experienced by children and young people?
We will design and pilot workshops and resources to engage young people (aged 11- 14 years) in critical thinking and debate around the potential for research to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems in children and young people. In partnership with Debating Mental Health, we will work with a small group of young people, who struggle with public speaking, in weekly after-school workshops to help them to explore this question, develop their own perspectives and formulate their own arguments.
In addition, members of our developmental, clinical psychology research team will bring evidence based approaches to help participating young people to develop confidence and skills and overcome the challenge of speaking in public. The workshop series will culminate in a public debate, engaging a wider group of teachers, school staff, friends and family. We will work with a film maker to support young people to make a film about the project, showcasing their performances at the final debate. We will share this film widely through our UKRI Emerging Minds Network Plus, and other channels, to encourage continued and wider debate amongst young people, researchers and other stakeholders.
3.3 Professor Gabriele De Luca
Director of Clinical Neurosciences Undergraduate Education, Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences
Public Engagement in Medical Education Research
The Royal College of Physicians report ‘Advancing Medical Professionalism’ states ‘there is increasingly a gap between what doctors are trained to do and the realities of modern practice’. To address this, it explores seven key aspects of medical professional identity: healer, patient partner, team worker, manager and leader, learner and teacher, advocate, and innovator. We plan to use a humanities-based approach in a novel ‘Brain, Behaviour and Society’ module for 5th Year Oxford Medical Students to teach and assess professionalism. Engaging patients with chronic neurological conditions (multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and peripheral neuropathy) will enable us to create a patient relevant professionalism curriculum with patient-focused assessment tools.
We plan to reach out to patients by attending relevant disease society meetings, providing feedback training and organising seven focus groups (one for each key aspect of medical professional identity). The project will culminate in an event attended by patients, students and medical educationalists at the Ashmolean Museum, a non-clinical environment where the output from focus groups will be combined, discussed and refined.
The aim is to produce an evidence-based method of teaching and assessing professionalism for integration into medical education curricula more widely ensuring that we train doctors with skills that sustain them through their entire careers.
3.4 Dr Gemma Hughes
Health Services Researcher, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
Robots in the Museum
This project brings robots to the Pitt Rivers Museum in a series of activities designed to engage public audiences of different ages in debates about the possibilities of robotics in addressing health and social care challenges.
The project would build on previous collaboration between health services researchers at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and the Pitt Rivers Museum on public engagement in the Studies in Co-creating Assisted Living Solutions (SCALS) research. Messy Realities: the secret life of technology was created to engage the public in research into assistive living technologies (ALTs), funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh.
A new collaboration is proposed with the Oxford Institute of Robotics (ORI) to explore social and cultural views of robotics, which will not only raise awareness of the capabilities of robots, but will inform new, emerging research questions about how robots can be integrated into health and social care systems and services.
3.5 Dr Shing Law
Clinical Research Fellow, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences
Using ultrasound for Public Engagement
Our research into inflammatory arthritis is made possible by the donation of tissue from patients. Using an ultrasound guided needle, tissue samples are removed and used for our research. We plan to use this grant to purchase a portable ultrasound so that participants can attempt to carry out a simulated version of this procedure where they take a ‘biopsy’ of a grape hidden in a block of tofu. This activity will be part of a cluster of activities that illustrate inflammatory arthritis and our research some of which we already use e.g. Joint models and gloves which simulate having hand arthritis and some which will be developed to compliment the biopsy activity.
This suite of activities will be taken to a range of venues and events including science festivals and meetings of patient groups to enable us to talk about our research.
3.6 Dr Niall McGowan
Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of Psychiatry
Digital sleep technology in therapeutic communities for personality disorders
Sleep is a fundamental aspect of health that is increasingly encroached upon by modern life. For people with mental health conditions the consequences of poor sleep are particularly pronounced. Our on-going work focuses on understanding and facilitating better sleep in people with personality disorders.
Therapeutic communities are supportive spaces for individuals with personality disorders to relay their experiences and garner support from communal sharing. This project will engage and consult therapeutic community members about their experiences with sleep and attitudes about sleep research. Our aim is to promote insight and curiosity about individuals’ experiences with sleep using the therapeutic community as a forum for discussion. We will provide wrist-worn digital sleep monitors to participants so that they can experience tracking their own sleep. A key objective is to democratise access to wearable data used in scientific research as a means of empowering and inspiring patient and public groups that our research involves.
This project will challenge us to reflect on how our scientific work is disseminated to and perceived by the public and will lay the groundwork for tailoring future research questions connected with patient engagement.
3.7 Dr Susannah Murphy
University Research Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry
Psychopharmacology and Emotion Research Group:
Public engagement at community events
The Psychopharmacology and Emotional Research (PERL) Group carries out research to better understand the neurophysiological basis of mental health disorders, such as depression, and to improve current treatment approaches. We are actively involved in a program of public engagement activities, and see this as a central aspect of our work. This project aims to improve and expand upon our current library of public engagement resources. We will develop interactive activities that will appeal to all ages, for example, a ‘Play your emotions right’ game, based on the television show ‘Play your cards Right’; this game will help explain how negative perceptions of facial expressions play a key role in depression. The games will be produced professionally so that are durable and fit-for-purpose for outside events. We will trial the new resources at five local community festival and public engagement events to gain feedback from participants.
3.8 Dr Rachel Rowe
Senior Health Services Researcher, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health
after birth: a pop-up play about maternal mental health
This project will develop and pilot a pop-up theatrical production to engage audiences, including pregnant women, recent mothers and their families, with research evidence about maternal mental health, during pregnancy and after birth, with a view to raising awareness, reducing stigma, encouraging discussion and ultimately improving care and outcomes for women affected by perinatal mental illness. Based on a full-length theatrical piece developed in a collaboration with academics and women with lived experience of postnatal mental illness, this stripped-back mobile production will be followed by a question and answer session to encourage engagement and discussion, answer audience members’ questions and hear their perspectives. As part of this pilot project we will explore the opportunity to reach wider audiences through the development of the production as a training tool for health professionals and voluntary organisations working with pregnant women, recent mothers and families.
3.9 Dr Bryony Sheaves
Research Clinical Psychologist, Department of Psychiatry
Being around people whilst hearing voices
Hearing voices is one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia. The content of voices can vary (some can be positive) but this project is focused on voices that are derogatory and threatening (e.g. “I could be just told [by the voices] to hurt myself all day, that I am worthless”).
Hearing these nasty voices can make it difficult to maintain relationships. Isolation and loneliness is therefore common, but also makes the voices worse. This project will create a two minute animation to share our recent research on the two-way relationship between the severity of voices and social isolation. We will share the reasons why being around people can be helpful for alleviating voices, as well as the common barriers to being around other people for voices hearers. The animation will share top tips on how to manage being around other people whilst hearing voices, generated by people with experience of hearing voices. Our hope is that this resource helps people who hear these nasty voices to overcome the common barriers to managing relationships, prompts conversations with others about what it is like to hear these voices and inspires people to be empathic and supportive when with voice hearers.
4.1 Dr Lucy Baker
Research Associate in Urban Mobility, Transport Studies Unit, School of Geography and Environment
Technologies and tensions in everyday Indian urban mobility
Taxi-like mobility services are increasingly booked through smart phones, yet, commuters are often unaware of the impacts that changes in technologies have for operators. The penetration of digital technologies has significant implications for drivers who often are low-income citizens and heavily reliant on cash for everyday transactions like food and utility bills. New technologies promise to increase the efficiency of user-operator encounters, yet the project will observe why drivers cannot fully transition to accept digital fares that have evolved to meet the needs of middle-class millennials. This has resulted in daily conflicts between the public and drivers as payments are negotiated and an overall poor experience for the public. A short documentary film traces the day-to-day lived experiences of auto-rickshaw drivers who form a key component of Indian mobility systems. The film demonstrates both the positive and negative effects of emerging technical systems for operators and users; however, it brings into question the possibility of achieving equitable cities through solutions that are comprehensively technological. The project engages with Bangalore’s historically active citizen groups to address these challenges. Its success is measured by the level of impact the film has in changing perceptions of auto-rickshaw drivers and reducing daily commuting conflicts.
4.2 Dr Courtney Nimura
Researcher, School of Archaeology / Wolfson College
More than Money: Rethinking Coins in the British Iron Age
The introduction of coins is seen as marker of change in Iron Age society in Britain. It is easy to see these early coins as equivalent to the money of today – they are round, made of metal, and have consistent weight. They feel very familiar, but research shows that the ways in which they were used were often surprising. Through a hands-on event at the Ashmolean Museum and sets of online resources, More than Money will inspire audiences to think about how coins were made and used, and what this tells us about society in Iron Age Britain.
Over the course of a day at the Ashmolean Museum, families will be able to make their own Iron Age coins, look in detail at the ways in which they were created and ornamented through video installations, 3D models and giant replicas. Visitors can follow a trail of activities designed to inspire them to (re)think how coins were used in later prehistoric societies. The resources created for this event will form the basis of an online platform aimed at teachers and will have significant legacy as a foundation for future engagement activities.
4.3 Dr Erika De Berenguer Cesar
Senior Research Associate, School of Geography
Seeing through the Smoke
‘Seeing through the Smoke’ is a series of five short videos that provides evidence-based information about the drivers of fires in the Amazon, as well as their socio-ecological impacts. This series is narrated in both Portuguese and English to make it accessible to the general public in Brazil, the country that holds the largest portion of the Amazon, and the UK. These videos aim to debunk the series of myths regarding the Amazon that were disseminated during the 2019 Amazon fire crisis, in which Brazil played a central role. By linking my research on Amazonian fires with an issue that has gained a lot of interest recently, I aim to contribute with much needed knowledge surrounding the largest tropical rainforest in the world, as well as one of its main threats – fire.
4.4 Dr Alexander Geurds
Associate Professor in Middle and South American Archaeology, School of Archaeology
DPhil Candidate, School of Archaeology
The River Flow Memory Book Project
Water is a key element in the interplay between humans and their relations with each other and their environments. Multiple scientific studies demonstrate how archaeological research and local knowledge can shed light on non-invasive and efficient adaptation strategies to changing fluvial environments through time. Nevertheless, in order to effectively apply this knowledge, it is necessary to actively include the local populations in the knowledge-sharing process.
We will combine photography and storytelling techniques in recollecting local memories related to water and fluvial environment. The project is located in the extraordinary Mayales river valley of central Nicaragua, where local communities are constantly affected by fluctuations in water availability. Through personal interviews, the community members will be asked to describe their daily and extraordinary relation with their surrounding environment. This water memories will be collected in a photographic book as part of the “Memory book” project directed by the National Geographic photographer Alvaro Laiz.
Finally the “River Flow Memory Book” will be presented in a public event at the nearby city of Juigalpa. The final aim is to create a new shared knowledge that combines archaeological, botanical and traditional knowledge to face together modern problems of water availability and climate change.
4.5 Dr Uma Pradhan
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Oxford School of Area and Global Studies
For the Better Future
‘For the better future’ is an audio-visual project that documents the students’ lived experiences in the schools affected by 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Through partnerships with students and teachers in earthquake-affected schools, this project will co-produce a vivid display of visual experiences through 30 photographs and a participatory video. These media will be the basis for a series of exhibition and public talks in Nepal and the UK, in order to engage with the general public, researchers, and policy officials. This public engagement project will provide a glimpse into the students’ achievements, hopes and despairs in post-earthquake schools, thereby enabling the audiences to appreciate human experiences of natural disasters and illustrating the ways in which people utilise education to construct their ‘better future’. ‘For the better future’ builds on Uma Pradhan’s ongoing research on exploring education as a part of the social project of future-making in the Global South.
Polar Pod: A podcast from the Oxford University Polar Forum