How do you reach seldom-engaged communities? This is a journey we’ve been on for many years, particularly boosted by our new mission to regenerate the diversity and inclusivity of science and increase the percentage of the UK population who are actively engaged and involved in science.   

Society’s biggest challenges and opportunities aren’t the concern of science alone. Areas such as medicine, climate, transport, and technology are often seen as the domain of science – but each requires significant debate, action and application from the rest of society. They belong to and affect us all. 

However, there are many communities around the UK who do not have the same resources, pathways, and freedoms to be able to engage with STEM. Barriers exist between languages and culture, millions live away from the extensive offerings of big cities, and families across the country are economically marginalised, without time nor money to expend on anything other than the basic needs of food, work, and shelter. 

If we are to stand by our vision, which is to see a world where science is at the heart of culture, then we must ensure that science reaches every community, enters every household, and empowers every person. 

To do this, we need to overcome prejudices, tackle stereotypes, collaborate, listen, and understand individual needs. We’re delighted to share some of our progress with you. 

A British Science Week community event: we must ensure that science reaches every locality in the UK

Thanks to thesuccess of ourBritish Science Week (BSW) grant scheme, we've witnesses the formation of an indispensable network of individuals working in under-served communities across the country. We wanted to make use of this network by harnessing their passion, nurturing their ideas andenhancing their skills to enable them to become leaders of science engagement in their own communities.   

Following a consultation with this network, which was made upvarious community development professionals who have delivered BSW events, we were able to launch our pilot Community Leaders course.  

Over a period of six months, whosted four one-day workshops for those who have run BSW events in their region. The first three focused on honing the cohort’s skills and planning their long-term engagement projects. The final workshop was held aftethe launch of their projects, with reflection on the journey so far and sessions dedicated to planning the next steps.  

During the meetings, our participants explored a range of topics, including: the vision of the British Science Association and how it links to their communities’ aspirations, content development, accessing additional funding, principles of long-term engagement, communications and marketing, and measuring impact.  

British Science Week was busy for the community leaders, with their projects launching all around the country and engaging thousands of people. Highlights included:

  • LPF Kiddies Club in South East London delivered a crime scene investigation with their STEM Heroes club
  • Wardleworth Community Centre ran their annual Science Extravaganza in Rochdale 
  • The Syrian Community of Leeds ran some practical sessions with young people in the local area 
  • Papay Development Trust ran a skill sharing workshop with the islanders of Papa Westray 
  • Two of our community leaders, one based in Hull and one based in Anglesey, exchanged sand from their local coastline to study and will be doing a community exchange in the summer

Sand samples from the Angelsey/Hull community exchange event

One of our Community Leaders, Mohammed Rahman, said about the programme: 

"Community Leader's gave me the opportunity to travel into London and meet other people on common ground. I was looking for an answer as to how our community science project can become bigger, better and ongoing. Via the workshop and interaction with fellow colleagues, I have aidea of where this project is leading. For the future, our team of volunteers hope that with the support of the British Science Association and other organisations within Rochdale, we can form into a recognized organisation and carry on developing our method of engaging the under-represented into science. 

All the participantprojects are now running in their local areas. Over the coming months, we will continue to work with them to further connect them with partners and enhance their networks. We will also be evaluating the impact they're having on their communities, so they can learn the positive effects they're having and better prepare for future projects.

At the British Science Association, we will always be working towards better engagement with under-served audiences. It’s not one-size-fits-all. Groups differ in the needs they have and barriers they face, but with thorough research, strong relationships, open communication, and well-trained champions, we will continue to ensure that science is for everybody, not just scientists.