Children and families get hands-on with Oxford research to explore their environments at the ESRC Festival of Social Science

In an exciting fortnight of activities held at the Pitt Rivers Museum and online during November 2021, over 300 people in Oxford and beyond engaged with social scientists and their research as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

The Festival, which is the UK’s largest annual celebration of the social sciences, provided an excellent opportunity for senior researchers and DPhil students alike to lead high-quality and creative communication of research, develop their skills in public engagement, and even test out new methodologies for future projects.

From creating artworks about coastal ecosystems and building miniature archaeological excavations, to testing Oxford’s air pollution and experiencing the tastes and textures of Mongolia, Oxford’s social scientists invited children, families and young people to explore the Festival theme of “our environment” in new and imaginative ways - all whilst learning more about the vital contribution that the social sciences make to our society.

Researchers from the fields of geography, sociology, archaeology, anthropology, and from partners at the Open University, supported by the University of Oxford’s Impact Acceleration Account, showcased the amazing breadth of their research in an exciting programme of interactive events:

Dr Liam Saddington, wearing a colourful island-themed tropical shirt, stands smiling in front of a table full of shell necklaces and paraphernalia from islands in the South Pacific

Dr Liam Saddington hosts 'Climate Change, Small Islands, and Me', exploring how climate change is affecting island communities in the South Pacific.

Dr Liam Saddington (School of Geography and the Environment) whose event Climate Change, Small Islands, and Me used film, writing and drawing to explore how global sea level rise caused by climate change is affecting island communities in the South Pacific, said, 'I really enjoyed taking part in the Festival of Social Sciences this year. It was a great opportunity to speak about my research with a wider audience, particularly with younger participants.'

'We had some fantastic contributions from the families that took part, with the young people so engaged on issues around climate change and ocean health. A big thank you to all of the staff that supported the event.'

Andrew McLellan, Head of Public Engagement and Programming at the Pitt Rivers Museum, which hosted many of the events, said, ‘The Festival of Social Sciences was a wonderful opportunity to showcase university research in a museum context.'

'The future of learning in university museums sits very firmly with the idea of public engagement with research, and that is done best through collaborative partnerships between the divisions and the museums, each bringing their expertise to the event to create something that is bigger and better than the museums or the divisions could create on their own.'

Two female researchers in high-vis jackets pose outside with a young girl and her father, who are holding air sensor equipment connected to the ipads being carried by the researchers. All four are smiling.

Sarah Tan and Kayla Schulte (Department of Sociology) lead a young participant and her father on a 'sensor-y walk' to explore air pollution in Oxford.

Two young girls mix colourful cornstarch and miniature toys in a small tub, building a miniature landscape for excavation

Two young girls build 'A Story in Sand' archaeological excavations, exploring the impact of humans on landscapes over time.

About the ESRC Festival of Social Science

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Festival of Social Science, now in its 19th year, is the largest celebration of social sciences research in the UK and included some 350 events nationwide.

For more information visit https://festivalofsocialscience.com/

Get involved in public engagement with research

If you’re interested in getting involved with public engagement with research, get in touch with our impact team at impact@socsci.ox.ac.uk

Further resources