The British Science Association (BSA) is delighted to announce our partnership with the University of Reading on an exciting new participatory programme which puts communities in the driving seat to develop and deliver research ideas.

The Community Led Research Pilot will be co-created with communities that are new to or are traditionally underrepresented in research. The pilot invites community groups to decide on a research focus and define their own research question on topics that are relevant to them.

The research pilot, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will be managed and led by the British Science Association (BSA), building on our Community Engagement work and The Ideas Fund programmes. The shared learning and evaluation will explore how we can influence wider change in approaches to public engagement with research.

After an extensive selection process, the BSA are delighted to announce that Reading and Slough are the locations for the pilot. We identified the University of Reading as our academic partner, building on their experience of public engagement and participatory action research in partnership with local communities.

The University of Reading will provide support in-kind by recruiting and supporting the early career researchers that will be involved in the pilot. They will also contribute to the training programme, the evaluation of the pilot, and act as an ambassador of the programme, amplifying the learning and key successes throughout the UK’s University and Public Engagement networks. 

Interested? Register for the online information session and find out more

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

A place-based approach

Five local community members will be recruited and trained as “Community Researchers” bringing their lived experience, skills and knowledge to the project. Together with researchers from the University of Reading, they will reach out to local community groups and work closely with them to understand local priorities and turn those into research themes broadly linked to science.  The pilot will be supported by two local community partners; Reading Voluntary Action (RVA) and Slough Community Voluntary Services (SCVS).

Local communities will shape the project, research ideas and the questions, based on topics and themes that matter to them. These questions will form the basis of five funded community led research projects in 2023.

By adopting a place-based approach, the Community Led Research Pilot aims to create a legacy, forming new networks and more equitable ways of working between local communities and the research sector. The pilot will support communities build confidence, interest, and ownership when it comes to research, and science more broadly.

More about the University of Reading

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 problems.

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. They believe that locating knowledge at the community level and not just in academia, enables communities to influence the process of change – which is essential for tackling social injustice and developing sustainable impact. 

Recent community led projects from the University of Reading team include: the Whitley Researchers collective, a partnership with the Whitley Community Development Association, who are currently working on youth voice and transforming local food systems; the Community Participatory Action Research (CPAR) project investigating the impact of COVID-19on health inequalities; and the HSHAZ Oxford Road Storytelling Project. This has led to the local council recognising the value of participatory and community led research in strategic planning and policymaking, with plans to develop new collaborative initiatives and opportunities in science around this exciting Community Led Research Pilot. 

Credit: HSHAZ Oxford Road Storytelling Project
The participatory action research team from the University of Reading

Read more about the Community Led Research Pilot here

Sign up to join our online information sessions (4 and 5 October)

The BSA will be hosting four online information sessions for researchers interested in participating

1. Community researcher online info session to learn about the role and application on:

  • Tuesday 4 October 19.00-20.30 or
  • Wednesday 5 October 10.30-12.00

2. University / early career researcher online info session to learn about the role and application on:

  • Tuesday 4 October, 13.30-14.30 or
  • Wednesday 5 October, 16.30 – 17.30

To register to attend, please email: [email protected]

If you can’t join any of the sessions, please register your interest via the email address above and we will send you the recording.

You can learn more about our programme of community engagement work here. If you have any questions, please get in touch at [email protected]