The British Science Association runs the Community Buddy programme with funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of our ongoing community engagement work. The programme connects Community Leaders with local researchers to spark new ideas and drive innovative community-led science engagement.

The programme aims to:

  • Create greater empathy and understanding between researchers and communities; 
  • Support researchers and communities to create authentic, mutually beneficial relationships with equal sharing of power;
  • Increase the skills and capabilities of both researchers and communities to engage with each other.

The programme is split into two phases:

  1. Phase one: Relational

  2. Phase two: Grant


Most of the things I do are very output driven…This is the first thing I've done for a while that was refreshingly interest-driven, and not necessarily for a particular goal in sight. And actually, it’s been really nice in that way. 

- Community Buddy (Leader)

The Community Buddy programme builds on the skills and experiences community organisers develop through our Community Leaders programme. These Leaders have a history of developing high-quality, long-term science engagement with communities underrepresented in science. They have expressed a desire to work collaboratively with local science role models, so we believe the next step is to enable these connections.

After participating in our Community Leaders programme, we match community organisers with researchers from their local areas. We support community organisers and researchers to develop relationships in their own space to create a legacy that will last beyond our involvement in their science engagement work.

We then train these Community Buddies on how to use relational meetings to learn about each other and discover mutual interests. This approach empowers shared decision-making and develops a collaborative, balanced relationship. This is a different way of working: we encourage the purposeful discovery of common goals instead of an agenda-driven approach. This ultimately leads to more meaningful science engagement projects and long-lasting relationships between communities and researchers.

In the Grant phase of the Community Buddy programme, we provide grants of up to £4,000 to support existing Community Buddy pairs to develop co-created science engagement projects and to inspire a legacy that will last beyond their involvement in the scheme.


To find out more about the Community Buddies programme, check out these recent blogs: 

To read the executive summary of the Community Buddies evaluation report, click the button below: 


The benefits for researchers

Researchers that took part said they found the buddy programme gave them:

  • Understanding, insight, and connection with their local communities;
  • Increased skills and capabilities to develop long-term engagement and impact projects linked to their research;
  • Fresh perspectives and ideas for their work as a researcher;
  • Authentic, mutually beneficial relationships;
  • Innovative collaborations that benefit both the local community and their research.

2023-24 Community Buddies

  • Helen Hughes from Stephens and George Charitable Trust and Claire Nollett from Department for Medicine at Cardiff University
  • Lesley Self from ArtCare at Salisbury District Hospital and Claire Elizabeth Clarkin from the Skeletal and Developmental Biology research group at University of Southampton
  • Nusrat Begum from SocietyLinks Tower Hamlets and Keri Ka-Yee Wong from the Psychology Department at UCL
  • Hajita Saidat Oketunde from Faiths Women Community UK/SMF and Adam Fellows from the Department for Medicine at Imperial College London
  • Claire Schmidlin from STEAMTISTIC and Gavin McStay from the Department for Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science at Liverpool John Moores University
  • Paul Hollick from 1st Yetminster Scout Group and Stacy Dianne Wall from the Digital Marketing and Communications Department at Bournemouth University
  • Iqra Akhtar from Banbury Madni Masjid and Catia Nicodemo from the Health Economics Department at University of Oxford
  • Justine Kigozi Nakimuli Odwongo from Ugandan Community Association Liverpool and Taryn Smith from the Women and Children's Health Department at University of Liverpool
  • Lindsay White from Community Supporters and Jacob Kempster from the Physics and Astronomy Department at University of Sussex
  • Shikha Ahuja from Milan Senior Welfare Organisation and Louise Margaret Mitchell from the Department for Rural Economy, Environment And Society, Environment & Countryside at Scotland’s Rural College
  • Arun Bector from BME Housing Consortium and Martin Khechara from the Biomedical Science Department at Wolverhampton University
  • Robert Whan from 1st Spa Boys Brigade and Niamh O’Kane from the Department for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast

2022-23 Community Buddies 

2021-22 Community Buddies

2020-21 Community Buddies

  • Steve Williams, OASIS Community Centre & Gardens with Emilie Brignall, University of Sheffield
  • Amar Azam, Unleashing Potential with Jill Stuart, London School of Economics
  • Carmel Britto, LPF Kiddies Club with Yvonne Abebola, King's College London
  • Neil McLaughlin, Barnet Libraries with Matthew Billing, London South Bank University
  • Paul Hyde, Whippet Up with Natalie Butcher, Teesside University
  • Mohammed Attaur Rahman, Wardleworth Community Centre / Rochdale Science Initiative with Claire Garside, University of Leeds
  • Zaffer Khan, One Voice Blackburn with Oliver Kerr, University of Central Lancashire
  • Yang Zhou, Mandarin Speakers Association Derry with Kevin Curran, Ulster University
  • Saoirse Higgins, Papay Development Trust with Joanne Porter, Heriot-Watt University
  • Leah Vellam-Steptoe, Battle Down School with Sarah Bekaert, Oxford Brookes University
  • Gemma Martin, Wheal Martyn with Katharine Willis, University of Plymouth
  • Juliette Jackson, Seadream Education with Julia Latham, Independent conservation consultant
  • Carl Gillam, Canolfan Ebeneser with Delwen McCallum, Bangor University
  • Claudia McFarlane, African Caribbean Achievement Project with James Poulter, University of Leeds

To prepare the Community Buddies for their work, the BSA delivers group training on relational meetings. The buddy pairs then have six months to establish a relationship and discover common interests. In March, Buddies join to share their experiences and workshop their ideas. 

We encourage our Buddies to maintain their relationship and access opportunities within the BSA’s community engagement programmes and beyond.

For more information about the work the British Science Association does to support and engage with community groups, please visit our Community Engagement page and follow BSA Communities on Twitter.

If you have any questions about the programme, please email [email protected].