Press release

Wellcome Trust to provide ring-fenced funding for public engagement activities

The Wellcome Trust today announces that it is to provide ring-fenced funding to support its researchers in their public engagement activities.

From 10 October, researchers applying for Wellcome Trust funding will be invited to include proposals for programmes of activity linked to their area of research that aim to inform, consult and collaborate with the public and cost for this appropriately. The Trust will provide advice and support to help successful applicants realise their proposals.

It expects to build to around 1 per cent of its total research spend - as much as £4.5 million annually - to support high-quality activities.

Public engagement covers a wide range of activities. For example, Professor Sara Rankin at Imperial College London is working with artist Gina Czarnecki on a series of sculptures made of body parts that are generally wasted (e.g. liposuction fat and femoral joints removed during hip replacements) as a way of engaging audiences with the issues surrounding limb and tissue regeneration.

Meanwhile, scientists at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL developed an app, The Great Brain Experiment, that enables members of the public to take part in games that aim to measure impulsivity and attention while contributing valuable data.

"Public engagement is about inspiring learning, making connections, getting people talking about and involved in research," explains Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust. "This is something that is woven into the very fabric of our organisation: Sir Henry Wellcome himself believed in exploring science in its historical, social and ethical context, and this has shaped our commitment to supporting our researchers to engage with the public."

Lisa Jamieson, Head of Engaging Science, adds: "We know from speaking to our researchers that public engagement is not just of benefit to the people it touches. Talking and listening to the public can provide new perspectives on the researcher’s own work, as well as helping them raise the profile of their research and develop their communication skills. It is both rewarding and stimulating."

The dedicated public engagement provision will be integrated into the existing application mechanism with proposals reviewed in parallel to the research. It has been established in response to requests from Trust-funded researchers for dedicated funding to support their public engagement activities.

In addition, the Wellcome Trust continues to support public engagement activities through its Engaging Science programmes (which include awards to support arts projects and the development of documentaries, films and games) and directly through its activities at Wellcome Collection. It has also recently announced the latest of its Engagement Fellows. Last year the Trust spent around £13 million to support public engagement, including its own direct activities.

Further information, including eligibility and resources for researchers planning engagement activities, is available on the Wellcome Trust website.