The British Science Association are looking for proposals from organisations that are interested in working with us to conduct research into our programmes and participants, which will transform our organisation and ultimately enable us to improve the inclusivity of our programmes and the diversity of our audiences.

This request for proposals is part of a wider programme of work that the BSA is undertaking with regards to equality, diversity & inclusion following the receipt of a grant from the Wellcome Trust in 2018. Over the next three years, we aim to transform the diversity and inclusion of our organisation, its programme audiences and the wider science engagement sector. We are seeking to catalyse change at the BSA, and within the wider science engagement sector, to make science more representative, equitable and relevant. Diversity is a critical issue for science engagement. Not because of a lack of enthusiasm from the sector, but because historic educational and institutional structures exist that limit the speed of progress. At the BSA, for example, while our governance structures have evolved, we are still operating within systems created for those already engaged in science. Our ambition is to challenge organisational and social inequalities, and this invitation to tender will support us in making these changes happen.

We are seeking proposals for all or part of the work outlined in this document.

Download the invitation to tender document (pdf)

About the BSA

Thank you for your interest in working with the British Science Association (BSA).

The BSA is a charity founded in 1831, established under Royal Charter. Our vision is of a world where science is at the heart of society and culture, and our mission is to transform the diversity and inclusivity of science, reach under-served audiences, and increase the number of people who are actively engaged and involved in science. We want to create a world where science is seen as a cultural activity alongside areas such as sport, politics and the arts. Science is often seen as the preserve of professional scientists, and 76% of the UK public identify themselves as not interested or inactive towards science (King’s College London, 2016). A key challenge is the lack of diversity within science, and those who traditionally engage with it; this is captured by our audience model.

The BSA has three programme teams – Cultural Development, Education and Engagement – which organise several major annual programmes including the British Science FestivalBritish Science WeekCREST Awards for schools and bespoke activities for science communicators, the mediapolicymakers and business. We have a network of over 30 volunteer branches across the UK. We seek to influence and collaborate with stakeholders from across science, business and policy.

The BSA has an annual income of approximately £3.1 million and is managed by a professional staff of around 30 people based in London including a Senior Management Team (Chief Executive and two Directors) and four Heads who manage the programme teams and marketing/communication team. We have a Council of 11 members which forms the board of trustees. We are funded by a mix of grants, sponsorships, donations and earned income.

The BSA has experience of targeting and reaching underserved audiences through programmes such as the British Science Week Community Grants, which provide micro-grants to community leaders to run science initiatives for communities unrepresented in science. Since our change of mission in 2018 – to actively transform the diversity and inclusivity of science – we have commenced new work such as the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) which aims to promote the inclusion and progression of people from diverse backgrounds in STEM, and to encourage government, parliamentarians, academics, businesses and other stakeholders to work towards a STEM sector that is representative of the population. 

Our public engagement programmes

We organise several major annual public engagement programmes, including:

  • The British Science Festivalis Europe’s longest standing science festival, travelling to a different place in the United Kingdom each year. Our Festival aims to connect people with scientists, engineers, technologists and social scientists. Each year, we bring an inspiring programme of free events to the public over four or five days. Our talks, workshops and drop-in events span a diverse range of subjects that encompass science in the broadest sense, promising something for everyone.
  • British Science Week is a national campaign culminating in ten days of activity in March to inspire and support teachers, scientists, engineers, science communicators and the general public, on both an individual and organisational level, to produce and engage in science and engineering events across the UK. We give out community grants for community groups that work directly with audiences who are traditionally under-represented and currently not engaged in science activity. The aim of the grants is to empower community groups to run activities that encourage their communities that science is something for them. We also give out Kick Start Grants for schools in challenging circumstances to organise their own science and engineering events in British Science Week.
  • Community Leaders is a programme which trains British Science Week community grant recipients to become ambassadors for science engagement in different regions of the UK. By creating ambassadors who work with and are trusted by their communities, we aim to create opportunities for science engagement by more diverse audiences.
  • CREST is a nationally recognised scheme for student-led project work in the STEM subjects. It gives young people aged 5–19 the chance to choose their own subject and methodology when completing their hands-on investigation. It has been running since 1986 and sees tens of thousands of young people taking part each year. CREST provides activities and project ideas for a range of ages, group size and abilities. From off-the-shelf, one-hour long challenges through to large-scale, student-led projects of over 70 hours work or more, CREST can be done by anyone.
  • We create education resources to inspire young people to engage with science. Examples include project ideas for CREST awards and our activity packs for British Science Week.
  • We often run science project competitions for young people, including the Youth Industrial Strategy Competition and the Youth Grand Challenges.
  • Future Forum is our focus group format for engaging with young people on topics in science.
  • The Run Series is a live race event with a supporting app that guides runners through a scientific area. We have previously held events such as Run the Solar System, Run to the Deep and Run with the Ancestors.
  • Future Debates is a programme of public debate events run by community groups on a single topic. We have previously held Future Debates series on genomic medicine, vaccinations and industry-funded research.

Our other programmes

We also run bespoke activities for science communicators, the mediapolicymakers and business. We seek to influence and collaborate with key stakeholders from across science, business and policy including through the Huxley Summit, our high-profile thought leadership event.

Since our change of mission in 2018 – to actively transform the diversity and inclusivity of science – we have commenced new work such as the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM which aims to promote the inclusion and progression of people from diverse backgrounds in STEM, and to encourage government, parliamentarians, academics, businesses and other stakeholders to work towards a STEM sector that is representative of the population.

We also run the UK Science Festivals Network, which supports both science and non-science festivals across the UK which provide national platforms for researcher engagement.

Our equality, diversity and inclusion aims

In 2018, the BSA received a ‘Sustaining Excellence’ grant from the Wellcome Trust to undertake a three-year programme of work to transform the diversity and inclusion of the organisation, its programme audiences and the wider science engagement sector. We are seeking to catalyse change at the BSA, and within the wider science engagement sector, to make science more representative, equitable and relevant. 

Diversity is a critical issue for science engagement, not because of a lack of enthusiasm from the sector, but because historic educational and institutional structures exist that limit the speed of progress. At the BSA for example, while our governance structures have evolved, we are still operating within systems created for those already engaged in science.

Our ambition is to challenge organisational and social inequalities, and this research will support us in making these changes happen.

We have created a theory of change that aims to give the BSA the evidence, capability and networks to develop and change its programmes to enable more diverse audiences, currently under-served by science engagement activities, to be more engaged in science to be more engaged in science.

The three-year programme will aim to improve the BSA’s:

  1. Evidence: We need to understand how people from different backgrounds engage with science, what this means for good science engagement and what we and other organisations can do to change the programmes we offer. The research we are looking to commission through this request for proposals will provide this evidence. We will use this research to embark on a review of our current programmes to assess their suitability to reach under-served audiences and to help us develop new projects and programmes to engage key under-represented groups.
  2. Capability: We are creating a programme to invigorate a cultural shift in our approach to diversity and inclusion within the BSA and the sector. This will include building an internal learning programme for our Council, staff and volunteers to develop the capability and confidence to champion diversity and inclusion and embed it throughout the organisation. The programme will also look at other areas such as recruitment and selection processes and our supply chain. 
  3. Networks: We aim to have the networks to drive diversity and inclusion across the science engagement sector, which will ensure the sustainability and continued relevance of the BSA’s learning and development. The BSA will run an annual programme of activities targeted to organisations and individuals to catalyse long-term diversity and inclusion change in the sector and position the BSA as an organisation that can challenge and influence others in the science engagement sector to create a common purpose around improving diversity and inclusion. We will share the findings of the research outlined in this request for proposals with the wider science engagement sector.

Our issue

Our current programmes reach a variety of audiences with differing levels of engagement with science. We currently use our audience engagement map, which is a single-question scale that incorporates views and behaviours. We have also conducted some quantitative research into the demographics of people in our audience groups. However, the map is limited to understanding current levels of engagement and does not tell us about how we can influence our participants and society at large.

But to fulfil our mission, we need to know how to change views and behaviours, to enable everyone to engage with science through work, study and through personal interest. And, to maximise the social impact of our work, we want to target those that are least engaged with science, and most excluded from getting involved.

Armed with new knowledge about what is effective at creating our desired change, we need to evaluate and improve our current programmes and create new formats for engagement that are attractive to funders including from government, corporate sponsors and grant-making organisations. We want to create new programmes that create the most positive change possible with the resources we have available.

Our research so far

As a starting point, we have created diversity characteristic reports on gender, disability, ethnicity/race and class/socioeconomic status, which outline the meaning of each characteristic and explain the issues that these groups face in engaging with science. These help us to understand the barriers people face in engaging with us and contain statistics and summarise the socio-political issues involved in each characteristic. They will be updated regularly and will help us keep abreast of changes in terminology. These can be shared with submitting organisations on request.

Our audience engagement question has been included in the upcoming 2019 Public Attitudes to Science survey, which will give us a wealth of information about the attitudes, demographics and behaviours of the adults in each of our audience groups including:

  • Participation in science engagement;
  • Demographic questions including gender, ethnicity, class/socioeconomic status, disability, sexuality, religion, age;
  • Family status;
  • Digital skills and internet use;
  • Education level;
  • Interests, hobbies and activities outside science.

Data from King’s College London’s 2016 Culture Tracker survey has given us a quantitative understanding of UK adults’ engagement with science.

We have also created a research philosophy, which guides all our research work in this area.

What we need

Over the next three years, we would like to commission research to support us in the following areas:

1.    Analyse existing quantitative data

The results of the Public Attitudes to Science survey will be available in July 2019, including the raw survey data. We need help to analyse this data and understand the societal picture of science engagement. The Culture Tracker data may also be useful for this. This work should be carried out as soon as the survey data is available.

2.    Grow our understanding of our target audiences

Bidders should propose how they will help build our understanding of:

  • existing conceptions of engagement with science, including Science Capital;
  • how the diversity characteristics of groups affect their relationship with science;
  • motivations and barriers for different groups when taking part in science, through work, study or casual engagement;
  • what causes views and behaviours around science;
  • how to change the views of people in the least likely to engage groups so they feel able to engage with science.

This work should be carried out in 2019. This main programme of research may be supplemented if we receive further funding from other interested organisations. However, we cannot commit to any further funding at this stage.

3.    Create tools and mechanisms to support us going forward from 2019 to 2021

Bidders should propose how they would create:

  • regular research updates for staff and stakeholders;
  • an updated audience engagement map to take account of this new information;
  • formats for engagement that make these changes to the views of our target participants;
  • an evaluation mechanism for assessing the efficacy of our current programmes;
  • an ongoing research plan for continuing our development work

We will begin creating our next three-year business plan at the start of 2020, so early development of the evaluation mechanism and ongoing research plan will be vital for this.

You may consider exploring

This is not an exhaustive list and we are looking particularly for innovative methods of achieving our aims.

  • Others conducting research in this area;
  • Qualitative research with our current participants and people that would never engage with science;
  • Observational research;
  • Further survey research;
  • Ideas around equality, equity, diversity and inclusion;
  • Existing formats of science engagement that are effective or not effective;
  • Classifications for ‘STEM workers’;
  • Census data on the groups of people working in STEM jobs;
  • Existing surveys of science engagement;
  • Hobbies and interests that could intersect with STEM (for example, running or gardening);
  • Case studies of societal and cultural change that we can learn from (for example, This Girl Can, the healthy eating movement, mental health awareness);
  • Behaviours and attitudes to science in other countries (with similar or different education systems);
  • Solutions to barriers faced by different groups, as identified in the characteristic reports.

Helpful background reading

How to apply

Questions and proposals should be sent to Louis Stupple-Harris, Research and Campaigns Manger at [email protected] and Jon Fitzmaurice, Head of Cultural Development at [email protected] 

Telephone conversations can be organised via email. You must include any applicable VAT in pricing. All tender documents submitted to us will remain confidential. We may decide to split the work between multiple providers.

Proposed timeline

The table below presents the scheduled dates for the procurement. Failure to meet the dates set out may result in exclusion from the procurement process. The BSA reserves the right to amend the timetable. Unless otherwise stated, all deadlines are set as the close of play for the dates below.

Request for proposals published

21 Feb 2019

Closing date for proposals

14 Mar 2019

Invitation to present

21 Mar 2019

Presentations and interviews

2-3 Apr 2019

Suppliers notified whether successful

8 Apr 2019

References and due diligence

9-12 Apr 2019

Anticipated contract award

18 Apr 2019

Anticipated contract start date

May 2019

Evaluation criteria

We will evaluate proposals using the following criteria (in no particular order):

  • Understanding of the BSA’s work and aims;
  • Value for money;
  • Experience and track record in successfully delivering research in this area;
  • Innovative approach;
  • Robust research outcomes that will help us drive change in our existing programmes and develop new ones;
  • Awareness of what research exists in this or similar sectors.

Submission Requirements

We would like to see evidence of the following documents included in the proposal, ideally as appendices:

  • A declaration of any known interests or connections with the BSA, our funder (the Wellcome Trust), and any other personal or professional relationship between you or a subcontractor and a BSA staff member, volunteer or trustee;
  • A summary of the last two years’ accounts;
  • Company registration number and registered address;
  • Evidence of Professional Indemnity and Public Liability Insurance;
  • Your Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy, if you have one.