Today, the British Science Association (BSA) has announced that it will be launching a new grants scheme in January 2021 aimed at building connections between communities and researchersThe Ideas Fund has been developed by the British Science Associationin partnership with Wellcome, and will support communities in tackling issues that matter to them by connecting them with researchers. The Fund will focus on projects that relate to mental wellbeing and will provide funding and support for communities to get their ideas off the ground.    

Between January 2021 and October 2023, the Fund will work with communities and researchers in four geographical areas across the UKDetails of the four areas, how to apply and what types of projects are eligible will be published when the Fund officially launches in January 2021. Those interested in knowing more about the Fund are encouraged to register on the website for updates ahead of the launch.  

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: “Over the past five years, the BSA has pivoted its existing programmes and core activity so that diversity and inclusion are at its heart, and has had great success in building up its community network, reaching new, and often overlooked, audiences.  

The BSA is therefore, well placed to lead on a new approach to designing and delivering a grants fund that will ensure that health research is more accessible and brings communities and researchers closer together.  

I am delighted that we have been able to develop this programme with the needs and concerns of our intended beneficiaries at its core, and I am excited to see what ideas are brought forward when we launch the Fund in the new year. 

Wellcome’s partnership with the BSA builds on their previous experience of running a Public Engagement Fund that supported creative approaches to engaging the public with health research in the UKWellcome recognised that the previous iteration of the Public Engagement Fund was not having the reach or impact that it hoped to achieve, and that some voices were being excluded, so it closed in 2019.  

Wellcome is an independent foundation that supports health research and campaigns for better science across the world. Its decision to partner with the BSA to deliver this new Fund is part of a wider global strategy to fund public engagement programmes through partnerships that empower people, lead to better research and enable science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. 

In the context of the current COVID-19 crisis, these strategic aims are vital. The pandemic has made already known health inequalities connected to poverty, culture and ethnicity more obvious, and we want to respond to people’s widespread demands for more transparency, accountability, diversity and inclusion within policy making and scientific research. If communities are not engaged in research, their needs are not voiced or represented, which means they are not being responded to appropriately within the design of services, policy, legislation or resource allocation. 

Through The Ideas Fund, the BSA aims to ensure that communitiesparticularly those in rural locations, minority ethnic groups and young, vulnerable or socioeconomically disadvantaged people who may have been overlooked by such engagement in the pastnot only engage with health research in the UK, but are put in the driving seat. The BSA has worked with a range of stakeholders, including potential beneficiaries, to co-design this funding programme, from a cohort of 43 individuals with a variety of backgrounds ranging from community members and researchers to public engagement specialists and grant makers. 

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