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 to develop and deliver research projects co-designed with the public
  • join in activities that encourage young people to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers or get involved in research and innovation across the arts, 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.

Including public engagement in 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 (PDF, 580KB) are useful sources of advice and guidance.

You can also apply for funding through our citizen science and place-based partnerships in public engagement awards.

Citizen science awards

You can gain support to co-design and deliver your research and innovation project with the public through our Citizen Science Awards.

We funded 28 citizen science projects in 2020, including:

  • a cutting-edge virtual reality game, Swat or Not?, to engage young people in the study of insects
  • a project to assess whether quantum computing and dynamics can successfully be taught to non-specialists using an innovative puzzle tool, and whether citizen scientists with no background in quantum computing develop the skills needed to solve quantum compilation problems.

Place-based partnerships in public engagement

You can apply for support for collaborative place-based public engagement between research organisations, partner organisations and communities through the enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement funding opportunity.

It supports projects that are driven by a geographically defined need in communities from the 40% most socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK.

In 2020 we funded 25 projects including:

  • local communities helping the University of Stirling, Glasgow School of Art and British Geological Survey to understand the everyday energy challenges facing people in Clackmannanshire and develop new ways to involve those often excluded from debates about climate change in discussions about achieving a low-carbon future
  • homeless people in the North West of England helping the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and University of Liverpool to explore women’s experiences and perspectives of managing menstruation under circumstances of deprivation.

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.

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. The awards are recognised by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service as an excellent way for young people to boost their personal statement.

British Science Week

British Science Week is the UK’s national awareness campaign for science, run by the British Science Association (BSA). It provides a popular and accessible opportunity for a range of audiences to get involved in science and related areas. Our funding allows BSA to provide grants for disadvantaged schools and community groups from backgrounds that are underrepresented in science. This enables them to participate in the week through running 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.

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.


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 genomic medicine to climate change and online targeting.

Last updated: 24 November 2020

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