Where does outreach funding go?

Over the past 17 years I've been based in Manchester and Cardiff. During my time in those places I was involved with a few public engagement grants from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). These grants are called "Small Awards" (there has also been a "Large Awards Scheme" in the past) and are open to anyone who wants to promote the science areas covered by STFC. They are awarded in two rounds each year. For instance, I was on a team that got three STFC Small Awards to create and improve the Jodcast.

I've benefited from the STFC Small Awards but something has niggled at me over the years. After each round is complete I look at the list of funded projects and I've noticed that very few were from the area I grew up in - Yorkshire. I've been meaning to check if this was just my perception or was actually a thing and I've finally gotten around to it. I have converted all the PDFs listing previous award winners between 1999-2014 into a simple data table, written some code, and started to visualise the data. Here is a heat map of UK funding scaled by the population in each region.

UK map of STFC funding
Map showing STFC Small Award funding between 1999-2014 scaled by population in each UK region. The scaling is linear with the North East at 0.09 pence/person/year and Wales on 0.56 pence/person/year. For the numbers see the table.

These data show that the North East and Yorkshire don't get an equal share of physics outreach funding. It is a little surprising that Leeds - the UK's 3rd largest city - only got 2 outreach grants over a 15 year period. Those were both for a theatre company that did national tours - none involved the university. So is this a bias in STFC? Given the make-up of the Small Award panel I really don't think so. I suspect that the bias is at the application stage with few people from the North East and Yorkshire applying.

If you are from Yorkshire or the North East and want to communicate physics, please consider applying for a Small Award. The next round closes on 9th October 2014 at 4pm BST. Go apply.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 27th Aug 2014 (16:40 BST) | 1 Comment | Permalink

Comments: Where does outreach funding go?

This is really interesting - can you break it down by city, as I suspect there will be an even tighter focus on a few places. Do the large awards show any sort of "bias" like this?

Posted by Paul Roche on Friday 29th Aug 2014 (20:55 UTC)

Paul, really interesting and as far as I know your analysis is correct that it's in the application stage. We do still offer the Large Awards -- next round is open, closing date 6 November. http://www.stfc.ac.uk/1839.aspx

Posted by Terry O'Connor on Saturday 30th Aug 2014 (12:49 UTC)


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