The British Science Association (BSA) has today (6 June 2023) opened grant applications for its latest funding programme – the Community Led Research Pilot – inviting communities in Reading and Slough who are traditionally underrepresented in research to develop and deliver their own research projects. 

The programme, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), aims to put communities at the heart of research, exploring the issues that matter to them. It is supporting local community groups to develop their own research agenda working with researchers from the University of Reading to help bring their projects to life. The BSA is working with a dedicated team of local community researchers and community partners; Reading Voluntary Action and Slough Council for Voluntary Services.

While grant applications are only open to communities who have already been involved in the initial outreach stages of the programme, researcher recruitment is now open to academics working in Reading and Slough across a variety of disciplines. We are currently working with community groups to develop research questions that are broadly science-based. Researchers interested in the opportunity are encouraged to complete our expression of interest form.

The Community Led Research Pilot is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and co-created with the BSA, the University of Reading, community partners in Reading and Slough and communities that are new to or are traditionally underrepresented in research. The full list of partners can be found here.

The importance of community led research

The need for academic research and its impact to reach beyond the walls of a university is becoming increasingly prominent. 

What would research be like if, rather than researchers coming up with ideas and then working with communities to study them, communities are given the initiative to tell researchers what truly matters to them? What if the entire research project was led by the community group, with the researcher using their expertise not to direct but to support community research interests?

The Community Led Research Grant aims to address these questions directly by supporting local people and community groups to feel that research and science are more accessible to them, and to highlight the value communities can bring to research by improving its quality and relevance.

The opportunity for five community led research projects

Since November 2022, the BSA, the University of Reading, UKRI and local community partners have been working together to identify grassroots communities in Reading and Slough that have research questions they would like to explore, and are traditionally underrepresented in research. These include:

  • people from minority ethnic groups;
  • communities living on low incomes;
  • those experiencing inequalities in accessing education and work; and
  • people who are neurodiverse or are considered to have a disability.

As part of this outreach, community groups are exploring what a research project is, what questions it might help them address, and how it might make a difference in their local area.

These communities are being invited to apply for five grants of up to £9,200 to support them to work with researchers on designing local research around themes, ideas, issues and questions that are important to their communities. 

Essentially, the grants aim to put communities in the ‘driving seat’ – allowing them to develop their own research questions and decide what the focus will be.

Researcher recruitment

Researcher recruitment is now open to academics at all levels and across all disciplines to take part in the programme. Researchers interested in the opportunity are encouraged to complete the expression of interest form.


Over the coming months, community groups will develop research questions that are broadly linked to science - this may include arts, humanities and social sciences topics, perspectives and approaches. Researchers will be matched with community groups through one-to-one researcher and community group conversations to establish how they can best work together.

For researchers, the programme aims to develop their community/participatory action research skills and experience, build networks with local communities and other university researchers, and provide a unique opportunity for the researchers involved to be part of a research project where the community is at the heart.

Kate Orchard, Head of Community Engagement at the British Science Association says:

The British Science Association wants to champion the role of communities, especially those people currently underrepresented in science, to have a more powerful voice and build stronger relationships within the research sector. We believe that the Community Led Research Pilot will create a legacy of more equitable ways of working between the communities and researchers involved, and on a wider scale. 

We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the five grant-funded research projects later this year and using the shared learning to explore how we can influence wider changes in approaches to public engagement with research through our work with partners going forward.

The BSA will continue to work with the University of Reading and local community partners to provide local support in Reading and Slough for the community groups and researchers involved in the five-grant funded research projects. 

Professor Adrian Bell, Research Dean for Prosperity and Resilience at the University of Reading says:

Through the Community Led Research Pilot, we are delighted to be working with the BSA using participatory action research to tackle local issues that genuinely matter to communities.

Our experience at the University has demonstrated that co-creating research with community partnerships is both impactful and transformative. This is the research that has the capacity to really change lives - something that should be the focus of methodologies and disciplines - as the relevance of research for our communities becomes our priority.

Over the coming months, we look forward to further establishing our position and expertise in empowering local communities to lead research that informs a change in thinking, policy, and practice in Reading and Slough.

We believe that unlocking knowledge at the community level in this way is essential for tackling social injustice and developing sustainable impact.

Steve Scott, Public Engagement Lead at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) says:

We want to enable communities across the UK – particularly those that are underrepresented – to play an active role in research and innovation, and benefit directly from it. This is part of UKRI’s wider vision for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit.

We know that when a more diverse range of people are included in research and innovation, it is more relevant and useful for all of society. We therefore support a range of community-led programmes, including the Community Led Research Pilot, to provide opportunities for closer working between researchers and community groups. We believe this is a key approach to developing and applying new knowledge and insights to address societal challenges and leads to better, more equitable research.

For more information 

For community groups and researchers interested in finding out more about the grants, information can be found on the Community Led Research Grants webpage.


Get in touch

If you have any questions about the grant scheme or want to find out more, please get in touch with us by emailing [email protected]


Our Community Engagement work

The British Science Association runs a wide range of programmes to support community leaders and organisations who work with groups underrepresented in science.