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University wins funding for two projects to help public contribute to research

Pentrehafod pupils trying out VR technology

Swansea University has been awarded funding from the UK government for two projects, which will enable the public to contribute to research and innovation projects that affect their lives.

It is part of a new approach and greater investment in public engagement by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The projects cover a diverse range of topics and aims to actively encourage people who would not usually get involved in research to take part in ground-breaking discovery.

They also aim to inspire a new generation of children and young people about the wonder and potential of innovation.

Copperopolis: Place-making, engagement and heritage-led regeneration

The first successful project entitled, Copperopolis: Place-making, engagement and heritage-led regeneration falls under the Enhancing Place-Based Partnerships in Public Engagement category.

Led by Dr Alex Langlands of the College of Arts and Humanities, the project is set to bring researchers from Swansea University together with diverse parts of the community. Visitors will be asked to use their creativity and digital technology to help bring alive Swansea’s rich industrial heritage and to share their thoughts for the social, economic and cultural regeneration of the region in the future.

To launch the project, students from Swansea University and pupils from Hafod Primary School and Pentrehafod Comprehensive School used VR technologies, drone surveying and drawing archaeological finds to test whether digital immersive environments can engage people from a diverse range of backgrounds with their local history and heritage research.

Dr Langlands commented: “It was a fantastic event and great to see so many age groups coming together to explore how we can all connect to explore and celebrate Swansea’s rich industrial heritage and the way it can feed in to how we think about the future of this wonderful region.”

“This project continues and extends Swansea University’s long-commitment to social, economic and cultural regeneration in the Lower Swansea Valley and is set to map a framework for research, partnerships and engagements for the next exciting phase of development proposed for the region.”

Oriel Science

The second project, Oriel Science falls under the Citizen Science Exploration Grant category. It focuses on citizen science and will see diverse groups of people helping research teams to crowdsource and analyse data and collaborate with researchers to develop research questions.

Oriel Science will be taking three extraordinary research projects and placing them in a pioneering city centre science exhibition centre.

Professor Chris Allton of the College of Science said: “People are welcome to join us at Oriel Science where they will be able to collect and analyse ‘star dust’ from micrometeorites, understand biodiversity by categorising insect species and connect with Swansea’s scientific and industrial history using sections of an illegally felled redwood.”

In addition, visitors will be helping design Oriel Science’s future long-term venue to maximise its impact in the community.

UK Research and Innovation’s Head of Public Engagement, Tom Saunders said:

“As part of UKRI’s new vision for public engagement we launched two new funding calls last year, one aimed at encouraging researchers to explore citizen methods, and another aimed at supporting researchers and universities to engage with communities and places and communities who have fewer opportunities to participate in research and innovation.

“The 53 pilot projects that we have funded represent an exciting range of ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work, from games to citizens’ juries, storytelling to data crowdsourcing.

“In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.”

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