ESRC Festival of Social Science

The 2021 Festival of Social Science is nearly here!

The ESRC Festival of Social Science is a national celebration of social science research. The 2021 Festival will take place from 1–30 November, with over 350 events from 34 partners happening across the country and online.  

"Our environment" is a key theme for the 2021 Festival – linking in with the UN COP26 conference running 31 October–12 November. However, a huge range of other social science topics are also covered.

To see the full Festival programme, please visit You can also follow or contribute to the conversation on Twitter by using #ESRCFestival.

See the full programme of fascinating, free, family-friendly events being run by the University of Oxford and its partners during FoSS 2021, below.

Most of the events are happening in the Pitt Rivers Museum on the weekend of 6-7 November. Entrance to the Pitt Rivers Museum is via the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW. Once inside the Museum of Natural History, walk straight past the dinosaurs and take a left at the statue of Darwin - that's where you will find the Pitt Rivers' arched door. Come down the steps and you'll see our welcome desk, where you'll find directions to the various activities. We hope to see you there!

Note: many of the events are drop-in, so you can come and go as you please! For bookable events, registration will open Monday 18th October. See individual programme items for online booking links. 

Our programme

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 Artwork of microbes. Credit Elena Mozhvilo

Saturday 6th November 10:00-14:00, Lecture Theatre, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford 

Come and join us to explore your child’s microbiome! How do microbes get into and out of your body? Which bits of your body provide the best habitat for microbes? Are these microbes good for you, bad for you, or completely indifferent to you?  How can we encourage the ‘good’ germs and discourage or get rid of the ‘bad’ ones? Create a body map of your child and explore your understanding of how microbes in our internal environment play a key role in our health, in this fascinating, hands-on activity. The activity takes 20-30 minutes to complete.

Suitable for families with children 4-10 (older siblings are welcome to participate). This is a drop-in activity - just turn up!

This event will be led by Dr Beth Greenhough, Dr Maaret Jokela-Pansini and Professor Jamie Lorimer, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

Birdseye view of a small tropical island with very little vegetation and land mass, surrounded by white sand and huge, dark blue ocean

Saturday 6th November 10:00-16:00, Clore Balcony, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Can a country disappear? This might sound like something from science fiction but climate change is causing global sea levels to rise and could cause some entire low-lying island countries to be underwater by the end of this century. We will be asking what a country is and thinking about how climate change is affecting island communities in the South Pacific. Through film, writing and drawing – and talking to our researchers - you’ll learn more about climate change, island communities, and think about what we can do to bring about change both locally and nationally.

Suitable for everyone. This is a drop-in activity - just turn up!


This event will be run by Liam Saddington and Daniel Hall, School of Geography and Environment, Steffan Williams, St Catherine's College, University of Oxford

View half-below and half-above sea level, showing abundant green vegetation on the sea bed, and the above-ground coastline in the distance

Saturday 6th November 10:00-16:00, Old Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Coastal ecosystems such as seagrasses and wetlands are diverse and underappreciated habitats that play a crucial role in the health of the planet, including as carbon stores. See behind the scenes of how scientists have teamed up with artists to produce creative interpretations of blue carbon habitats. Explore their series of video shorts and artworks, take part in ‘blue’ craft activities, and chat with the artists themselves. Scientists from the Oxford Seascape Ecology Lab will also be on hand to talk about why these areas of the ocean are so essential in helping to deal with the effects of climate change. 

Suitable for everyone. This is a drop-in activity - just turn up!


This event will be led by Dr Lisa Wedding, School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford, with artists Jenny Lines and Alejandra Mora Soto and members of the Oxford Seascape Ecology Lab

Three paper cut-outs of hands of different skin colour, each holding a paper cut out of a leaf or a heart

Saturday 6th November 14:30-15:30, Lecture Theatre, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

How is economic inequality in the UK related to climate change? Just how unequal are we? How does this inequality compare to other countries in Europe or the world? Does it really matter much; or is it ok if we just pretend it matters to us and that we are going to do something about it? Come and discover the evidence in this interactive session, and maybe even share your views. Please pre-book as places are limited.

Suitable for everyone but most suitable for people aged 15+


This event will be led by Professor Danny Dorling, School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford




Four people walk down the street and a woman rides a bicycle past a parked van. There are shops and parking signs on both sides of the street.

Sunday 7th November, 10:30 / 12:30 / 14:30, departing from the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

A guided 20 minute walk, using air sensors to see how pollution varies in locations across the city centre. During this event we will share personal experiences of air pollution and, together, test out different types of air sensors, exploring air quality in real-time as we walk through the city. Afterwards, stay for a discussion back at the Museum about what we've discovered and what we can do to help tackle air pollution. 

Event lasts around 50 minutes in total. Accessible route. Event will still run if it rains, though not if it pours! 

Open to everyone. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult. Please pre-book as spaces are limited.


This event will be led by Kayla Schulte, Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, University of Oxford






Shows a child's hands and feet as they crouch to dig a hole in the sand

Sunday 7th November, 11:00 / 14:00, Old Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

In this 45 minute, story-guided session you will create your own excavation and explore the hidden items our characters left behind. With the aid of real archaeologists, together you’ll build a story of how people occupied your landscape through time. Did they experience drought or flooding? How did they fare during times of war? See how your landscape layers build-up, and what they can tell us about being sustainable and human impact through time. Afterward, you will take home your excavation and can uncover your hidden treasures.

Suitable for children aged 8+. Must be accompanied by an adult.

Please pre-book as spaces are limited. 


This event will be led by Ruby-Anne Birin, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford.





Flock of goats grazing in a yellow steppe with an adult Mongolian herdsman on horseback

Sunday 7th November, 10:00-16:00, Old Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Join our sensory introduction to modern Mongolia! This thriving democracy, sandwiched between Russia and China, is home to extensive grasslands called steppes. Steppes are cared for by nomadic farming communities, who also look after herds of horses, camels, goats, sheep and yak. The area is also one of the biggest suppliers of cashmere in the world, as well as valuable minerals such as gold and copper. Immerse yourself in contemporary Mongolian art, and traditional Mongolian games, food and drink, as we think about the link between everyday items in our homes, and the people looking after the steppes. 

This is a drop-in activity - just turn up!

Suitable for all ages


This event will be led by Keiko Kanno, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography; Dr Ariell Ahearn Ligham, School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford.

A homemade protest placard reads in bright-coloured paint "Earth is more valuable than money", including a painting of a plant, a sun, and the earth

Thursday 25th November, 17:00-18:30, online via Zoom

Culture has a vital role in framing our understanding of the climate crisis and addressing how society can start to tackle it. Participants will join discussions about what Climate Creativity looks like, how creative writing and language play a role and how we can use our own creativity to bring about change. This 90 minute online workshop will give participants a chance to engage with cultural attitudes to climate change through discussion, reflection and creative writing.

Open to those aged 15-18. No writing experience is required. Pre-booking is essential.


This event will be led by Dr Philip Seargeant, Nessa O'Mahony and Anne Caldwell, The Open University.


Booking details TBC – watch this space!