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The list of project summaries for this year's PER Seed Fund projects are now available - 20 projects were funded in total, five from MPLS researchers. It's always interesting to see what was funded; whether you applied, are thinking of applying, or just curious about different ways of doing engagement.

The University’s Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund is an internal grant scheme for academics and researchers to: - Develop or pilot new Public Engagement with Research projects or; - Improve existing Public Engagement with Research activity; - Evaluate and gather evidence of the impact of the activities. The fund is supported by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

20 projects have been funded (ranging from £2,000 to £4,000) in response to the 2018-19 call for proposals. The fivr from MPLS researchers were:

Christopher Duncan, Research Fellow (Dept of Physics)

Multi-wavelength astronomy in VR

We will develop a Virtual Reality (VR) experience demonstrating the spectacular Universe in multiple wavelengths of light. Researchers will guide participants around the full celestial sphere, displayed all around them within the VR headset. Starting with the familiar visible sky we will show real astronomical observations from multiple telescopes, which require radically different locations and technologies to create. In showing the Universe in all of these different observations, we will demonstrate how different types of telescope are windows into radically different astrophysical process, from the earliest light of the Big Bang, to local nurseries where new stars are being born. 

Professor Alain Goriely, Director of External Relations and Public Engagement Statutory Professor (Chair) of Mathematical Modelling (Mathematical Institute)

Oxford Mathematics Escape Room

This project will be part of the Oxford Maths Festival, giving adults who enjoy tackling puzzles and who are curious about mathematics the opportunity to learn about the department’s current research in an innovative and highly engaging way, and to interact with researchers. Escape rooms are a very popular activity, in which teams of players solve a series of puzzles to ‘escape’ from a locked room or to reveal a secret. We will provide an enjoyable experience based on this premise, with puzzles directly related to and drawn from current mathematical research. The escape room will be designed and delivered by a collaboration of multiple researchers (both staff and graduate students) and the outreach team in Oxford Mathematics and Statistics, giving the opportunity for a joint effort between those experienced in public engagement and those new to working with the public. We will also produce an online version of the puzzles for schools and individuals to use, which we will promote using a short video of the event.

Dr Tonya Lander, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (Department of Plant Sciences)

Citizen Science for Inspiration, Education and Bee Conservation

There is widespread concern about global bee decline, however, there are knowledge gaps limiting our ability to respond effectively to this decline. This project focuses on two of these knowledge gaps: (1) We know approximately where individual bee species occur in the UK, but we don’t know how many of each species we would expect to find. Hence we can identify when a species goes extinct, but not always when it is in decline; (2) We need specific guidance about what woodland and urban land management interventions support and enhance wild bee populations. Oxford Plan Bee and the Wytham Woods Bumblebee Walk engage citizen scientists in collecting data about wild bees in Oxford City and Wytham Woods. We aim to collect essential data for long-term monitoring of wild bee populations, contributing to global efforts to understand and reverse pollinator decline. We will also develop evidence-based management interventions for woodland and urban environments to protect and enhance populations of wild bees. The project will also engage with the local community to promote public understanding of plants, bees, ecology and conservation, and develop public ownership of local bee conservation programs.

Professor David Pyle, Professor of Earth Sciences (Department of Earth Sciences)

Volcanoes and Regrets

Volcanoes & Regrets begins with the extravagant act of throwing a book of regrets into volcanoes in Kamchatka and Sicily by artist George Finlay Ramsay. What follows is an exhibition and events programme taking place at Platform Gallery in Southwark, London in spring 2019. Using the richness of working across disciplines, the project will include an exhibition documenting and expanding on George’s trip, a musical performance, contributions from volcanologist David Pyle, poet C. A. Conrad and educational and creative workshops with adults and children.

Dr Cedric Tan, Post-Doctoral Researcher (Department of Zoology)

The WildCru game

The WildCRU Game: Global Carnivore Conservation was created to engage the public with our research on endangered species. The design and play-testing stage have been Page | 8 completed and during this phase, we will produce copies of the game to be used at science festivals, schools and professional associations’ events. During game play, the players will make decisions for choose-your-own adventure style challenges based on real-stories in the field as well as answer questions on research on wildlife. Data collected during play will also be used to examine perceptions on challenging issues and to explore new solutions for difficult conservation problems and research questions. Furthermore, we will quantify the effects of this game on learning using established assessment tools. The game will aim to educate and engage the participants, in the hope that it will shape perceptions and behaviour about conservation through affective learning.

You can read about the projects from across the University here.

Congratulations to everyone - we can't wait to see how these projects develop!