‘Growing Roots: public engagement annual call’ is the new public engagement funding opportunity from NERC. This funding opportunity aims to support public engagement with environmental science research. Projects will be delivered between October 2021 and March 2022.
The size of these grants (minimum of £1,000 and maximum of £7,000 per project) is designed to allow individuals and organisations to trial public engagement projects that could be innovative in their way of delivery or subject area.
The projects should be designed and delivered as a ‘proof of concept’. NERC hopes that successful grant holders may go on to develop the projects further and access other funding including public engagement or science funding opportunities from NERC or UKRI.
Choose two objectives
Applications must meet a minimum of two of the following objectives.
Build equitable partnerships for public engagement with environmental science:
- across disciplines
- with those outside of academia
- both across disciplines and with those outside academia.
This could include creating equitable relationships with those working in a professional, such as:
- third sector
- government bodies.
Also non-professional capacity, such as:
- citizen scientists
- environmental group.
These relationships are necessary before planning public engagement in a full research funding opportunity. For example, funding time for potential partners to:
- develop ideas
- become familiar with the concerns, issues and expertise of the other
- reframe and develop common agendas.
New public engagement opportunities
Engage the public with environmental science where new opportunities have arisen which were not available when a research grant award was initially made.
- the change of dates of COP26 from 2020 to 2021 may bring about new opportunities for engagement
- the completion of a project might point to relevant engagement which may not have been apparent at the start of a grant, or projects related to public engagement which hadn’t been listed in the original science grant application using spare grant funds.
Trial public engagement approaches
Trial public engagement with environmental science approaches, including those which may be innovative in the environmental sciences or with particular communities.
- using public engagement methodologies from other disciplines or sectors which are rarely used in environmental science
- new, innovative and exciting activities which may be considered ‘too risky’ or an ‘untraditional’ method of public engagement to receive funding elsewhere.
Build capacity and capability
Build capacity and capability for excellent public engagement with environmental science.
For example, this might include:
- seed funds
- external critique
- sharing best practice
- changing cultures.
Leadership in public engagement
Leadership activities in public engagement with environmental science, such as raising the profile within your organisation and more broadly.
For example, this small grant could cover staff time for leadership activities.
COP26 public engagement
Plan and deliver public engagement related to COP26.
This could include the design and delivery of public engagement activities or training of researchers to conduct engagement in the run up to, during and after COP26.
Applications should also consider how the project contributes to the NERC Responsible Business Statement.
Part of the assessment process for this opportunity will be focused around this. Specifically, you should consider how to adopt responsible practices through your public engagement activities to reduce harm or enhance benefit on the environment and society.
Specifically, this covers:
- actions taken to reduce environmental harm, such as minimising travel and waste generation
- actions taken to engage the local communities in your project, such as local school engagement
- actions taken to promote equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) such as ensuring communications materials are accessible to a broad range of groups.
NERC will require proportionate evaluation of projects and as such collection of data for reporting purposes. NERC will provide specific evaluation guidance and templates to successful applications. These evaluation reports are usually no longer than 4 sides of A4. NERC will expect qualitative and quantitative evaluation to be provided by successful projects.
NERC is interested in sharing learnings from funded projects and the project evaluations will be one of the mechanisms used. NERC will also require participation in catch up video calls with all funded grant main applicants.
We encourage applicants to secure additional leveraged funding as part of their submission from appropriate sources, where possible. Applicants must clearly state the source and amount of any existing leveraged funding (in-kind or cash).
As a responsible funder NERC will not fund projects which have already received funding through other means. In this instance other means could refer to:
- projects which have been funded through other NERC and UKRI grants
- where public engagement is considered to be part of an individual’s usual responsibilities as set out by their organisation.
Successful projects must focus on new opportunities which could not have been foreseen or delivered when applying for previous funding opportunities.
Acceptable examples of funded projects could include:
- new opportunity has become available
- research staff capability has increased to enable new delivery of public engagement
- a new reactive approach to public engagement is required due to implications of COVID-19 (such as social distancing, and greater reliance on digital engagement).
For this funding round of Growing Roots, an acceptable reason for requesting funding is because COP26 has been moved to a later date of November 2021.
The environmental science content of applications must have a focus on a specific NERC research area, more information can be found in the NERC delivery plan. Clear links between the project and the NERC funded research that it focuses on must be clear and succinct. General environmental science communication will not be accepted.
All public engagement activity must be linked directly to environmental science research (public engagement with research) and broader public engagement with science is not appropriate in this context.
Applications will need to be sensitive to social distancing and other restrictions brought about as a result of the coronavirus, including adhering to government COVID-19 guidelines.
Requirement best practice
Public engagement activity must have a clear purpose. Read the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s guidance on developing public engagement with a purpose.
Researchers must consider their responsibilities in-line with NERC’s responsibility approach, which may include but is not limited to conducting public engagement with the intention of generating impact.
The audience for the engagement should be specified, and reasons for engagement justified using evidence. Read the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s guidance on identifying an audience.
Applicants planning to involve those outside of academia, such as public and community groups, must build equitable, ethical partnerships, managing risks in-line with best practice, such as that highlighted in the Creating Living Knowledge report.
Engagement must focus on the UK public. As a secondary audience, applications may plan to engage audiences internationally if the application is related to the COP26 opportunity objective.
Requirement and impact
Engagement activity should be planned such that it has intended outcomes and impacts. Impact may focus upon society, culture or the environment, or any other area of impact as described by the Research Excellence Framework. Proposed projects should focus on reach, significance of impact or both of these.
This is a public engagement funding opportunity, so there must also be demonstrable benefits to members of the public as well as to research or researchers.
Applications can include fully justified direct costs incurred in delivering the project. The budget and costings must be based on valid estimates.
Funding requests may include, for example:
- staff resources including:
- administration and coordination
- contributions to salaries (where a named individual will undertake work that would not be considered part of their normal duties)
- sub-contracting of services
- enabling public or community partners to take part
- non-staff resources including:
- cost of materials
- travel and subsistence
- meetings and events
- materials and equipment
- evaluation costs
- the costs of additional childcare, beyond that required to meet the normal contracted requirements of the job, and that are directly related to the project, requested as a directly incurred cost if the institutional policy is to reimburse them.
Travel and subsistence costs should adhere to UKRI’s travel and subsistence policy.
Childcare costs associated with normal working patterns may not be sought.
Funding will not be provided for:
Directly allocated costs or indirect costs, such as:
- travel and subsistence costs will not be covered to enable individual’s attendance at the main COP26 conference
- estates and in-direct costs
- fees or honoraria to people already in paid employment to deliver activities where such activities would reasonably be undertaken as part of their normal duties
- retrospective funding, including those projects with a start date after the closing date but before the funding decisions are announced
- Infrastructure or building costs
- expenses incurred submitting the application
- academic courses such as Master’s degrees or PhDs, and other tuition fees.