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The University of Southampton
Public Engagement with Research

Public Engagement with Research - Development Projects 2016/17

Twelve projects were awarded PER Development Funding within our 16/17 Call, from a very strong field of 39 bids.  For an overview of each project please see the drop-down sections below.  If you would like to find out more about any of them, please contact the project lead, or email .

The projects will draw to a close in July and submit their final reports over the summer - please check again in September 2017 to see how they got on.

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Autism Community Research Network at Southampton (ACoRNS)

The ACoRNS project will co-construct an innovative research-practice partnership that is jointly developed and implemented by researchers at the University and autism community partners. ACoRNS will:

  • be a forum for discussing and sharing educational challenges and best practices, and findings from autism research;
  • jointly identify the research priorities of local community members;
  • provide a partnership for applying for research funding to address the research questions identified;
  • support students, and colleagues from the ACoRNS membership, to complete research projects linked to the priorities identified by the group;
  • promote autism and research awareness via local schools and colleges.

Project Lead: Sarah Parsons, Social, Human & Mathematical Sciences

Living with dementia – ordinary lives, inspirational voices

'Living with dementia - ordinary lives, inspirational voices' presents the ordinary lives and inspirational voices of people with dementia, through the media of narrative portraits and film. Bringing together people with dementia, advocates, researchers and doctoral students from the University’s Alzheimer’s Society funded Doctoral Training Centre, the stories of ordinary men and women with dementia tell a tale that helps others grasp the impact of dementia on everyday life and on a person’s biography. Exhibitions of this work will be available at Southampton City Library in July 2017 and online at

Project Lead: Tula Brannelly, Health Sciences

The Voyage Out: life on board East India Company ships

(contuinuation funding awarded due to external partner timescales)

The East India Company (EIC) was at the heart of Britain’s economy and society but was also a major part of our shared global history. The project aims to engage the public with our research concerning life on board EIC ships. EIC crew and passengers form a diverse group of people who helped share culture and ideas around the globe. The British Library is our main partner, but we aim to create performances which can be provided to other institutions such as the Bavarian State Library and heritage sites and performance spaces in the UK.

Project Lead: Helen Paul, Social, Human & Mathematical Sciences

Engaging with proteins

The public often think of protein as one of the basic food groups. The fact is that proteins are the building blocks of life. This project will involve the creation of a large communal piece of artwork, made up of small individual panels, which will explain how proteins play many roles in our bodies, are targeted by drugs and associated with disease. The public will decorate alongside scientists individual panels during public engagement events. The artwork will be exhibited with the aim of informing, engaging and encouraging the public in dialogue with research at the University of Southampton.

Project Lead: Halina Mikolajek, with Cornelia Blume, Natural & Environmental Sciences

Archives and the business of engineering

How a society organises engineering activity is critical for the successful delivery of, for example, transport and energy. This project employs case studies to encourage the public to explore engineering perspectives of managerial, political and financial factors contributing to the development of ‘Standards and Networks’. Historical records are used to contrast the development of railway infrastructure - telegraph, signals, and permanent way - in the 19th century with the emergence of electricity generation and distribution in the 20th. These are explored by ‘Connecting Archives’ held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, The Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Project Lead: Richard Wills/Roy Edwards, Engineering & Environment/Business & Law

Young people’s perceptions of sexual consent: exploring implications for policy and practice

This project engages young people with research carried out by academics in Southampton Law School on sexual consent. By arranging and leading workshops in educational institutions in Hampshire such as schools and sixth-form colleges, the project will use existing and ongoing research to stimulate public debate. By engaging the ‘target population’ directly in these debates, we seek to embed an enduring culture of dialogue between researchers and publics. This dialogue will have broader implications for policymakers and practitioners, and so the project additionally provides a valuable opportunity for engagement by publics with these groups.

Project Lead: David Gurnham, Business & Law

Life at the cutting edge: testing expertise, dexterity and skill transmission in the use of ancient technology

Bringing together researchers from Archaeology, Health Sciences, and the WSA, this project will integrate and engage the public directly in investigating a key archaeological question in human origins research: how can we recognise skill and expertise within the earliest archaeological tools? We shall test whether tools used by those more experienced with ancient technology can be discriminated from those used in the same tasks by people with less experience. This project explores how archaeologists measure expertise level and skill transmission in ancient tools using novel techniques and recording methods. Participants and the wider public are engaged at every project stage.

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Project Lead: Christian Hoggard / Cory Stade, Humanities /


Light emitting textile for fashion applications

Electronic textile is an emerging technology with the potential to revolutionise the fashion industry. It creates new platforms for designers to express their creativity through new designs which can potentially translate to people’s everyday life, such as fashion clothing and interior decoration. Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) has developed world leading light emitting electroluminescent (EL) textiles using bespoke inks and customised 3D printing technology.  This project will build upon established links between ECS and Winchester School of Art (WSA) by integrating the strong expertise on electronic textile and art/fashion design to develop prototypes for public engagement activities to maximise research impact.

Project Lead: Yang Wei, Physics Science and Engineering (FPSE)

What’s got up your nose?

You are a walking zoo, home to billioins of different bacteria.  Each body site is its own enclosure but do you know what bacteria you've got in the cage you call your nose?  The Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is one such bacteria which usuallylives harmlessly in the respiratory tract, but can cause serious diseases (eg pneumonia).  This project will invite pubic participation at the Southampton Science & Engineering Day, discussing concepts such as carriage, randomisation, and 'live' molecular testing as swab results are returned later the same day!  The project will build on ongoing research, providing a large cohort of S.pneumoniae carriage data that can inform public health strategy.   Find us on Facebook Twitter and online

Project Lead: Rebecca Brown, Medicine

Coastal flooding, a growing hazard

Coastal flooding remains one of the most significant risks that the UK faces with wide-ranging social, economic and environmental impacts. Building on our innovative national database on flooding (, this project aims to stimulate wider interest, excitement and debate about coastal flooding. This project is more than simply informing the public about our research; it is trying to actively engage them as participants, so we can record new flood events by crowding sourcing methods and improve understanding of old events by obtaining lost materials, such as photos, videos and stories, from which we can estimate flood depth, extent and impact.

Project Lead: Ivan Haigh, Natural & Environmental Sciences

Music and more from muck: the circular bioeconomy

Organic materials such as food, paper and farm wastes can be turned into energy and products using bioprocesses. This display will demonstrate how we can turn our rubbish to riches and muck to music within the ‘circular’ bio-economy. Here, biogas produced via anaerobic digestion will be funnelled into a ‘Rubens Tube’, creating dancing flames when sound is projected down the tube. Anyone can provide the music to create this spectacular display which will help to draw people into learning about the products and processes of the circular bioeconomy, and will also provide a gateway for collaborative outreach with ISVR.

Project Lead: Angela Bywater, Engineering & Environment

Stories from bones

State of the art biomechanics can help reveal new stories from old bones, bringing the subjects to life. Built on a foundation of ongoing collaborative research, the University of Southampton’s Bioengineering Science Group and Archaeology Department have developed a methodological framework to examine, analyse and present such stories from archive bones. This project will combine the expertise of engineers, bioarchaeologists and museum curators to enhance the museum experience by creating a ‘pop-up’ exhibit that will engage a wider audience. The exhibit will comprise of an interactive tablet application, live 3D-printed models and structural demonstrations of archeologically significant specimens.

Project lead: Chris Woods, Engineering & Environment/Humanities

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