An exciting new pilot based in Reading and Slough is putting communities at the heart of the research process – inviting them to develop and deliver their own research. The Community Led Research Pilot is part of our ongoing Community Engagement work at the British Science Association (BSA).

The pilot, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will be co-created with the BSA, the University of Reading, and communities that are new to or traditionally underrepresented in research.

Why is Community led research important?

Community led research puts communities in the driving seat – allowing them to develop their own research questions and decide what the focus will be. This approach ensures communities’ local needs and priorities are being addressed, but also taps into the unique insights they can provide.

The pilot aims to support local people and community groups to feel that research and science is more accessible, and to highlight the value communities can bring to research by improving both its quality and relevance.

Credit: HSHAZ Oxford Road Storytelling Project
Example of participatory action research.
The University of Reading working with Baker Street Production.

How does the pilot work in practice?

The Community Led Research pilot will take place in Reading and Slough with the University of Reading as our academic partner, building on their experience of participatory action research and public engagement within their local communities.

Communities will be supported by community researchers and researchers from the University of Reading  to explore local priorities on wide-ranging topics and themes linked to science that matter to them. These insights will then form the basis of five funded research projects in 2023.

Through this process, the pilot aims to create a legacy, forming new networks and more equitable ways of working between local communities and the research sector and by building confidence, interest, and ownership when it comes to research, and science more broadly.

The pilot builds on learnings from the BSA’s Community Engagement work and The Ideas Fund. 

The shared learning and evaluation from these programmes will explore how we can influence wider change in approaches to public engagement with research. The BSA’s long-term ambition is to extend the pilot to other UK locations (currently funding is confirmed until 2023).

Our partners

All of the partners involved in the Community Led Research Pilot will shape the programme development and delivery, including active participation in the learning programme, being an ambassador of the pilot, and amplifying learnings and successes.

The BSA is working with our academic partner, the University of Reading on Early Career researcher recruitment and support. A team of five Early Career researchers from the University of Reading have now been selected to work on the pilot. We will also be working alongside:

The BSA is currently in the process of identifying a Training Partner and a Learning Partner. We will be working closely with all partners with the aim of developing learning and knowledge together, inspiring community led research, and empowering people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with science and inform social change. 

Our academic partner: The University of Reading


Credit: HSHAZ Oxford Road Storytelling Project
Example of participatory action research.
The University of Reading working with Baker Street Production.

The University of Reading is well known for its collaborative approach with local people and organisations by using community-led and participatory action research (PAR) to tackle local issues and needs.

Supported by Dr Sally Lloyd-Evans, the University’s Fellow for Public Engagement with Community Research and co-founder of the Participation Lab, a dedicated team of PAR assistants and community researchers, students and local partner organisations will work on this new pilot. The team has established expertise in empowering local communities to lead research that informs changes in thinking, policy, and practice in Reading and Berkshire. 

Examples of recent community led projects from the University of Reading team include:

The outcomes of these projects have meant participatory and community led research is being increasingly embedded in local decision and policymaking, with plans to develop new collaborative initiatives and opportunities in science around this exciting partnership with the BSA on the Community Led Research Pilot.  

For more information, please also visit:

New partnership with the University of Reading on a Community Led Research Pilot

If you would like to know more about the Community Led Research Pilot, get in touch at [email protected]

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