Since 2015, the British Science Association (BSA) has led a series of programmes to support community organisations who work with groups that are under-served and under-represented in science. A showcase report has been released today, offering a closer look at these programmes and what we have learnt from them so far.

What began as a pilot to enable more people to run events during British Science Week six years ago, has since grown into a unique, grassroots network supporting hundreds of community groups each year.

These programmes, detailed in the showcase report, include Community Leaders and Community Buddies, as well as a series of grant schemes such as the UKSFN Making Connections Grants, COVID-19 Community Innovation Grants and British Science Week Community Grants. An estimated 77,000 people have taken part in projects funded by the British Science Week Community Grants alone.  

These community engagement programmes were initially funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and since 2019 have been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Read the full report here

We believe our role is to (as much as possible) “get out of the way” and let communities decide how best to structure, develop and execute their engagement with science. By offering support, training and access to the expertise in our wider network where required, we have enabled community leaders and their communities to take control of how, and in what form, their science engagement is delivered.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation said:

“UKRI’s vision is an outstanding research and innovation system for the UK to which everyone has the opportunity to contribute and from which everyone can benefit. We are proud to have supported the British Science Association’s Community Engagement programmes which provide opportunities for communities to engage with research and innovation, and those working in it.”

The showcase report highlights the learning process and the journey the BSA has undertaken in the past six years. For instance, we have listened to community leaders, many of whom are volunteers without the time or resources to complete complex forms, and simplified the application process for micro-grants, making it as straight forward as possible (pages 8 and 11).

“If you’re a small charity, you don’t have someone that is able to go through pages and pages of application forms. It just becomes a barrier to engaging and taking that next step.” - Marsha Fisher, Sutton African & Caribbean Cultural Organisation (British Science Week Grant recipient).

 We have also acted on requests to build on the skills and experience of community leaders in delivering science engagement by establishing the Community Leaders Programme (pages 12-17).

“It allows you to be able to tap into different skill sets and to build your confidence as a science engager. Becoming a BSA Community Leader also gives you a sense of validation that if you’re able to deliver work that’s been given the BSA’s seal of approval, it must mean that it is a quality provision.” - Carmel Britto, LPF Kiddies Club (Community Leader).

And, more recently, connected these leaders with scientists in their local area, creating opportunities to collaborate on science engagement activities that are relevant to the needs of their own communities through the Community Buddy Programme (pages 18-23).

Gisela Abbam, Chair of the British Science Association said:

“These efforts are bearing fruit across all regions of the country for communities and researchers, tearing down barriers, building confidence and offering more and more people the opportunity to engage with science in ways that are relevant to them.”

“It is only by unlocking the potential in all of us that our society can truly thrive. By engaging a more diverse network of individuals and communities, together we will be better placed to tackle any new challenge the future may hold. I hope you enjoy this showcase report, which highlights some of this ground-breaking and important work.”

The showcase report is not intended as a comprehensive analysis of the impact of these engagement programmes, rather to provide an overview of what these programmes have achieved using participant interviews and annual evaluations.

We hope that by sharing what we have learned, the showcase report will not only inform funders and other stakeholders in the science engagement sector, but the stories of those who have been involved in these programmes will inspire other community leaders in the future.

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].