Seed funds

This RCUK funded Catalyst project has now finished. The University continues to support public engagement activities, please contact  with any enquiries.

Round Three

Freyja Cox Jensen (Humanities)
Freyja will be using her seed funding in conjunction with a current collaborative research project on ‘The Tragedy of Thomas Merry’ from Thomas Yarington’s Two Lamentable Tragedies (1601). In March 2014, Freyja and her colleague Emma Whipday (UCL) staged the play for the first time since the 1590s in order to investigate early modern rehearsal and performance practices and to explore social issues in both a 1590s and a modern context. They are now embarking upon a series of workshops with a variety of community groups in Devon, London, and Kent. Participants will present their responses, along with scenes from the play, to an invited audience of their friends and families, and some groups are planning to perform their own production of the play as a complete piece of theatre.

Dr Claire A. Dunlop & Prof. Claudio Radaelli (Social Sciences and International Studies)
The project will engage citizens – from the University of the Third Age (U3A) and University of Exeter staff – in an evaluation of the impact of the myth busters challenge panel (MBCP) project run by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They will engage just under 100 citizens in an experiment designed to assess the impact of different information formats. The experiment will be run as part of a half day workshop on Health and Safety myths at the University of Exeter. Participants’ views on the research, its future direction and the public engagement (PE) format will also be elicited in this session.

Felicity Henderson (Humanities)
‘Visions of a New World: Robert Hooke’s Micrographia’ is a UK-wide project celebrating the 350th anniversary of Micrographia, the first illustrated book of microscopy. In 2015, institutions holding original copies of Micrographia are planning public events and exhibitions that will give a wide audience access to this ground-breaking early scientific work. Felicity will organise two workshops to be hosted by Exeter Cathedral Library at which local writers and artists will explore Hooke’s use of images and words to communicate previously-unimagined microscopic structures to a wide readership.

Derek Janes (Humanities)
The Smugglers’ Coast is a Coastal Communities Fund/European Fisheries Fund Project in SE Scotland, developed through Gunsgreen House Trust, centred on the declining fishing port of Eyemouth. Derek’s project will involve recording the development and execution of the early phase of the creation of the Smugglers’ Coast using film/video, photography etc. The purpose is to demonstrate how such a large scale project (c.£157,000) was researched, developed and implemented, highlighting the relevant processes and timescales. It will show the way that work carried out under the aegis of the University has enabled Derek to build links with the local community and with key partners, such as the local authority (Scottish Borders Council), VisitScotland, Eyemouth Museum and the National Trust for Scotland.

It shows how a creative approach to research – in this case an entertaining, but relatively obscure topic, – can attract public enthusiasm and the support of key funders, whose focus is economic development.
Alice Moseley (Social Science and International Studies)
Alice and her team will organise two half-day workshops between academics and public service providers and service users from Devon, to help stimulate a programme of co-produced research on choice in public services (focused on social care and health). The research aims to develop mechanisms to support choice and test these through randomized controlled trials, and builds on recent work of the applicants. The workshops will explore (i) citizens’ use of different forms of information to inform choices (eg performance information, peer testimony, research, own experience); (ii) existing services to support choice (eg brokerage, benchmarking websites).

Cassandra Phoenix (Medical School)
Our ageing population has resulted in stories around ‘healthy ageing’ holding great relevance for the public. However, research in this area often excludes the voices of the very people it is focusing upon. Cassandra’s aim is to continue an ongoing dialogue with the public regarding perceptions and experiences of physical activity in older age through the use of verbatim theatre.
Working in collaboration with her external partner ‘theatrescience’2, they will use stories gathered through the Moving Stories project from older members of the public about their experiences of physical activity to produce a theatrical piece.

Round Two

Clive Adams, Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW)
This project will produce a small report looking at how the arts can support engaged research using the CCANW’s recent experiences of developing working relationships with the University of Exeter.

Anna-Marie Linnell (with Callan Davies and Nora Williams), Humanities, PhD Researchers.
The Staging Exeter project will work with local amateur dramatic groups to revisit the drama of early modern playing spaces to explore how embedding a modern audience into these spaces adds to scholarly understanding of the works.

Jonathan Memel, Humanities, PhD Researcher.
Jonathan will set up a short series of workshops for fellow PhD students to hear about, discuss and reflect on public engagement and how PE can be integrated into current PhD research and beyond.

Anthony Musson, SSIS, Professor of Legal History.
This pilot project will develop links with local organisations eg the Landmark Trust, Exeter Cathedral and English Heritage to explore how to engage the public with the contributions lawyers have made to our cultural heritage.

Christabel Owens, UEMS, Senior Research Fellow
Working with the charities Campaign Against Living Miserably and The Alliance of Suicide Prevention Charities, this project will identify how to bring the voices of those bereaved by suicide into research.

David Owen (with Mari Paananen and Julie Whittaker), Business, Head of Research, Engagement and Impact.
This group will explore how tools conventionally used for one-way communications (eg newsletters) can be used to stimulate public engagement with research.

Damian Rumble (with Freya Aldred and Hannah Wakeford), EMPS, PhD Researchers
The team are building a radio telescope and funding from the Catalyst scheme will support an ongoing dialogue with the public about the project and the research the team will conduct with the telescope.

Richard Toye, Humanities, Professor of Modern History
Richard will host a one-day masterclass Visualising Engagement: improving academic communication. This will allow academics to explore ways of communicating their work visually and will be linked to the ECR Images of Research competition.

Matt Witt, CLES (ESI), Lecturer. Working with Rame Peninsula Beach Care this project will bring local action together with global scientific research by using data loggers to map pollution and marine litter.

Round One

On 1 February this year we opened our first round of the Public Engagement Seed Fund. We had £20 000 to award to projects that would support culture change, with applicants able to apply for up to £5000. In this first round we received 22 applications for a total amount of £69 467. We were lucky enough to have an additional £10 000 for this round only from the Wellcome Trust ISSF for researchers in the biomedical and medical humanities.

Mapping the projects onto the Public Engagement Triangle

The range of applications was really broad and came from all parts of the university. On 24 April we held a briefing day where applicants discussed key ideas for their projects.

During the day we talked about creating the conditions for engagement (or as one person put it: “getting the vibe right”) and how to spot engagement when it is happening. Tied into this we discussed evaluation tools and shared top tips and advice with the key learning point being that we can integrate evaluation into the engagement process.

The Catalyst is using the NCCPE’s Edge Tool to assess our progress. One significant part of this tool is about understanding and describing our publics. We know that we currently have many publics, but we don’t have a coherent understanding of who they are and what they might need. Our External Advisory Board raised this recently suggesting that it might be useful to consider the questions our public want answers to when they get involved with our research:

  • Where does my money go?
  • What are you doing with my samples?
  • What is a university anyway?

We also discussed things we were nervous about which raised some really interesting issues. Apart from negotiating the internal processes of a university, there were concerns about working to an external organisation’s routines and processes and how to negotiate power and expertise. A whole raft of ethical issues arose which means that Helen’s next job is to go and find out more about this.

There was a real sense of excitement about the seed fund projects. People were excited about working with external partners, sharing their work with others, and seeing how these projects fit into the bigger Catalyst picture.

We are really looking forward to seeing how these projects develop and sharing these experiences through this blog and at events within the university.

The successful applicants for round 1:

  • Caterina Balistreri, Humanities is working with one of our Champions, Sharon Strawbridge to develop a dialogic approach to physics engagement.
  • Dr Kerry Chappell, SSIS is asking the question “where does the public begin and end?” with her work with dance teachers/educators.
  • Dr Thomas Davies, CLES and Hannah Guy are working with community groups to create artistic responses to light pollution.
  • David Fisher and colleagues, CLES, are putting together a package of CPD and an event for fellow PhD students who are attending a conference at Tremough in September.
  • Dr Ruth Garside, European Centre for the Environment and Human Health, is developing a public user group for the centre (following the successful PenCLAHRC model).
  • Dr Rebecca Langlands and Professor Kate Fisher, Humanities are working with the RAMM to undertake formative evaluation for a forthcoming exhibition their Sex and History work.
  • Dr Natalia Lawrence, CLES, is developing a mechanism for politicians and policy-makers to access research evidence quickly, along similar lines to the Science Media Centre which connects journalists and scientists.
  • Camilla McHugh and Chris Morris, UEMS, are developing a patient user group for children and young people with disabilities.
  • Rachel Purtell, UEMS, will explore quality in dance activities for disabled people to support the empowerment of disabled people to have a greater say in dance activities.
  • Fiona Wotton, SSIS, is hosting a networking day for her research participants to share back her findings and look for future research questions.




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