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The University of Southampton
Public Engagement with Research

Public Engagement with Research Development Projects 2014

In July 2014 the Public Engagement with Research Unit invited expressions of interest to develop new engagement activities.

From the 27 brilliant public engagement ideas received, 5 projects made it through the full application process and ran successfully during 2014/15.  They all had Southampton research at their heart and featured mutually-beneficial collaborations with internal and/or external partners.

excavating a tudor drain at Basing House
Stories from Bones

Stories from Bones

Human skeletal remains are able to offer fascinating insights into the lives of people in the past. The experiences of individual people leave traces on their skeletons that can tell us about people’s occupations, gender, health and experiences. This project made use of medical imaging techniques in order to analyse bones from skeletons found in the environs of Basing House; a complex multi-phase archaeological site. Recent carbon-14 dating was combined with 3D outputs from CT scans in a collaboration between archaeologists, scientists and museum professionals, resulting in the presentation of these data to the public in a travelling mini exhibition.

Project Leads: Nicole Beale, Faculty of Humanities & Martin Browne, Faculty of Engineering & Environment

cafe logo
Researchers Cafe

Researchers' Café

'The Researchers' Cafe is a mechanism to allow University PGRs and research staff to meet each other and the public, practice explaining their research, and gain new insights and ideas.'

Find out more

Project Lead: Tony Curran, Faculty of Engineering & Environment / Bringing Research to Life Roadshow,





sea-side walk
The Sea and Me

The Sea and Me

The Sea & Me event took place on 22nd November 2014, as part of the AHRC/British Academy Being Human Festival.  It brought together researchers, local cultural institutions, and the wider public for a series of talks, workshops, and hands-on activities around the theme of The Sea.

The day was organised and delivered by researchers mainly in Humanities at Southampton, working with a number of other partners.  150 people attended the event, including some who had travelled from other parts of the country.

As a port city, Southampton has a long history of interaction with the sea and the industries surrounding it. This event, open to everyone, was an opportunity for the public to learn about and engage with innovative research on the sea across space and time.

Download a more detailed project Report from the link below.

Project Lead: Zena Hilton, Faculty of Humanities,

Fulcrum Festival graphic
Big Ideas Project

Big Ideas Project

This dynamic project, run by Nuffield Theatre, enabled theatre artists to collaborate closely with STEM researchers from the University of Southampton to develop a bold new piece of theatre inspired by research.

The project featured award-winning theatre company Little Bulb. The company worked closely with Professor Paul White (Institute of Sound & Vibration Research) to explore the possibilities for creative engagement and public interest in his cutting-edge research on the song patterns of humpback whales.

Working practically together with Paul throughout the year, the artists became deeply engaged with the science of whale song, enquiring about its nature and reasons, and spent a week developing a playful work-in-progress performance, entitled Wail.  The piece took the form of a lecture led by two whale enthusiasts, utilising theatrical language, performance techniques and music to convey their interest and fascination to the audience.  Wail was presented, alongside a talk from Professor White, at the Theatre's science and arts festival, Fulcrum, in March 2015, and was subsequently taken to other venues later in the Summer.  In this video from a linked TEDx event, Professor White and Little Bulb Theatre discuss how they developed Wail.

Little Bulb are continuing to develop Wail into a full-length piece, following excellent reviews of the work-in-progress.  Nuffield is currently discussing the next round of Big Ideas, and remains committed to exploring the power of the arts to express the intracies of research.

Project lead: Dawn Taylor, Nuffield Theatre.  NB. Dawn is no longer with the Nuffield, but please contact Hannah Bevan ( if you would like to follow up anything in connection with Wail or the Big Ideas Project.

Shared Vision: community-student-staff research partnership for public engagement with underused open spaces

This project brought together the University’s Centre for Environmental Sciences (CES), SO18 Big Local, Training for Work in Communities (TWICS), and Southampton City Council (SCC) to research local community use of three underused open spaces (Harefield Woods, Frogs Copse, and Hidden Pond), and to increase local appreciation and ownership of these spaces.

A key focus of the project was to provide the evidence base for future work by SO18 Big Local by gaining better insight into local residents’ views on the green spaces. This research built on previous collaborations between CES and the City Council on locally-focussed research projects, and in collaborative community engagement through the Southampton BioBlitz activities. Two MSc Environmental Sciences students took up the opportunity to undertake their research dissertations with the Shared Vision project, focusing on:

Local residents participated in surveys and focus groups. Traditionally the University has had limited interaction with the residents in SO18; this project gave them the opportunity to not only interact with student and staff researchers, but to be directly involved in research that will have a tangible outcome for their local area.

This research was coupled with dissemination of the research project and engagement activities on the green spaces, including publicising it through newsletters and community days. The project organised two Nature Hunts on two of the green spaces (Frogs Copse and Harefield Woods), including a family nature trail with prizes and craft activities. These provided a reason for local residents to visit the green spaces with the aim of raising the profile of the spaces. By creating a specially-designed trail, the hunts encouraged residents to explore the previously-unfamiliar green spaces within the comfort of an organised event.

The project has benefited all the partners:

Download a full report on the Project via the link below.

Project Lead: Julia Kendall, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Engineering & Environment


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