AccessLab: Scientists to share evidence and skills to help decision making

27 April 2018

A new public engagement opportunity will see environmental scientists paired with parliamentary, policy and council workers, journalists and marine industry figures to help boost the benefits of NERC research beyond the academic community.

Attendees at AccessLab workshop

NERC has joined forces with non-profit organisations the British Science Association (BSA) and FoAM to launch AccessLab - an exciting opportunity for researchers to build new relationships and help those working in their local community to access and use scientific research.

The new scheme, focused on the South West of England will pair researchers with parliamentary, policy and council workers, local media and bloggers, and marine industry figures to facilitate conversations about how NERC research can be used by and made accessible for new groups.

University researchers are the most trusted source[1] of accurate information about controversial environmental research issues, yet many researchers lack confidence and experience in engaging with non-specialists. Through the AccessLab programme, researchers will develop skills in engaging with different public groups in different ways, including understanding the needs of non-researchers and helping non-specialists to develop research skills. It offers the opportunity for the paired public groups to learn how to find sources of scientific information and how to judge the reliability of these sources.

Each matched pair will live or work near to each other to build long-lasting relationships, based on personal interaction. This will allow for longer-term engagement within the community, who will make use of research findings, making the research more impactful.

Researchers can express their interest in the project by applying to the open call - external link. Following a matching process and researcher training, the following AccessLab workshops will be held:

  • Wednesday 18 July 2018 (Penzance): researcher training
  • Friday 20 July 2018 (Penzance): workshop pairing marine industry figures and researchers
  • Wednesday 15 August 2018 (Exeter): researcher training
  • Friday 17 August 2018 (Exeter): workshop pairing journalists and bloggers and researchers
  • Wednesday 7 November 2018 (Plymouth): researcher training
  • Friday 9 November 2018 (Plymouth): workshop pairing parliamentary, policy and council workers and researchers

Non-researchers interested in getting involved in AccessLab can contact FoAM at .

The AccessLab project is part of NERC's public engagement programme.

Alison Robinson, NERC Director of Corporate Affairs, said:

AccessLab will allow both researchers and non-specialists to build relationships that we hope will inspire new ways of thinking and working for both parties. We want to help journalists, councillors and those working in the fishing industry to better use robust information, and have a constructive conversation with our scientists. We are proud to be partnering with BSA and FoAM on an innovative public engagement initiative that will go far beyond simply communicating the importance of environmental science - ultimately bringing NERC research to life within this community.

Ivvet Modinou, Head of Engagement at the British Science Association, said:

As public engagement practitioners, we often build platforms through our events, festivals, workshops and shows that elevate experts purely as purveyors of facts. What would happen if we experimented with changing this power dynamic and tried to focus more on the skills that researchers possess, rather than their knowledge? AccessLab represents an innovation in public engagement and, with the support of NERC, we are really excited to see how this new form of engagement will develop. We're excited to work with NERC researchers to explore how different communities understand, communicate and manage their local environments.

Amber Griffiths, Director FoAM Kernow, said:

Having access to reliable information means that people can make well informed decisions in their lives and work. In the South West there is a divide between those who work in the universities and the broader local communities. Getting people to meet and work together as equals means we can help develop understanding and forge links between those who have information, and those who need access to it.


  1. NERC Public Insight Research final report (PDF, 676KB)

Further information

Hannah King
Public Engagement Officer
01793 411572


Notes

1. The British Science Association believes that science should be part of - rather than set apart from - society and culture, and is owned by the wider community. Their programmes encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with science, become ambassadors for science, and ultimately to be empowered to challenge and influence British science - whether they work in science or not. 

Established in 1831, the BSA is a registered charity that organises major initiatives across the UK, including British Science Week, the annual British Science Festival, regional and local events, the CREST Awards and other programmes for young people in schools and colleges. The BSA also organises specific activities for professional science communicators, including a specialist conference and training.

2. FoAM Kernow is a non-profit organisation inhabiting the spaces between society, research, education and policy. They enable people to develop creative and confident relationships with science and technology, merging their experience in science, programming, arts and design in a broad range of transdisciplinary research and education projects.