The Future of Our Seas – looking back and planning forwards

The Future of Our Seas (FOOS) project brought together nine major UK marine research, engagement, advocacy and environmental arts organisations (the Marine Biological Association, King’s College London, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, University of Plymouth Marine Institute, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Association of Marine Science, Incredible Oceans and Invisible Dust).

By combining scientists, facilitators, creatives and science communicators, Future of Our Seas aimed to equip marine researchers with capacity and skills to engage people in vibrant, two-way conversations about the future of our seas.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 23.50.42The project consisted of two “interventions” which offered marine scientists the opportunity to take part in an in-depth public engagement training, mentoring and practice programme. The first intervention took place in April and May 2018 in Plymouth, culminating in a two-day public engagement event as part of Plymouth Pirate Weekend. The second intervention happened in June and July 2018 in Oban, leading to a two-day public event during West Highland Yachting Week. Special attention given to evaluation and learning during and after the interventions allowed the team to make continuous improvements and establish a repeatable consortium-building blueprint for engaging the public with environmental science.

EE poster

This blueprint has been incorporated into an application for Stage 2 of NERC Engaging Environments, which includes the FOOS team and partners from other Stage 1 consortia.

Growing Future of Our Seas

Following successful Public Engagement events in Plymouth and Oban, and requests for future engagement, we have now created a LinkedIn group called “Future of our Seas” This group will serve as a place to bring together communities involved (or want to be involved) in Future of Our Seas projects, 2) to serve as a central location place for our reports, 3) as a place to discuss marine related public engagement, and 4) to plan future activities.

Opportunity for Public Engagement Training and Practice


Human well-being is directly affected by the health of our seas, yet public awareness of many of the challenges facing the marine environment remains low. For decades, researchers have investigated issues such as non-native species, climate change, pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification, but these topics are only recently gathering interest from outside the academic community.

So how do we make our seas and oceans relevant to us all? By bringing together scientists and creative professionals to share expertise, training and innovation to spark a vibrant, nationwide conversation about the future of our seas.

This year, we are offering the opportunity to work with public engagement professionals, artists and creatives to train and to inspire you, and to help you to generate powerful stories and media friendly conversation prompts from your work. We will work together to develop your skills and confidence to plan and carry out a successful public engagement activity based on a marine science topic of your interest. You will have the opportunity to work with community organisations to co-create exciting activities which will be showcased at public events in Plymouth or Oban.

In a three-day training programme, we will explore the different roles scientists can adopt in engagement and policy-making and discuss the psychology of opinion formation and values. We will also provide hands-on training in developing ‘story arcs’ for engagement activities and strategies for working with different community organisations to develop outreach activities.

What you will get:

  • Three days of expert public engagement training
  • Support for preparation of public engagement activities
  • An opportunity to deliver your activities at a public event in Plymouth or Oban
  • Connections with community organisations interested in collaborating with scientists
  • Where appropriate, opportunities to showcase your public engagement work in the media


What we expect from you:

  • Attendance to three full days of training either in Plymouth or Oban
  • Continued preparation of engagement activities: an estimated 1-3 days in the 6 weeks following the training session and before the outreach event.
  • Participation in outreach events in Plymouth or in Oban: 1-2 days, but not full days
  • Participation in post-event debriefing sessions: 1-2 afternoons for Skype call / round table
  • Optional attendance of the closing 2-day event with the Blueprint team in September 2018


How to apply:

We require that participants commit to attending all days of both the training and public engagement events. If you are not able to commit to these days, please do not apply, so that we can allow someone else to take up the opportunity.

To apply, please send an email to the appropriate contact below containing:

  1. Your research area and/or topics of interest.
  2. Why you wish to take part in Blueprint: The Future of Our Seas training (200 words max).
  3. Confirmation that you are able to attend all training and public engagement event days.
  4. Confirmation that you have the support to attend these events from your project supervisor or line manager.


For the Plymouth training, please email your application to Jennifer Skinner, by 5pm on Friday 16th March.

For Oban, please email your application to Raeanne Miller, by 5pm on Friday 1st June.

Training and Public Engagement Event Dates

Plymouth Training 26 – 28 March, 2018

Marine Biological Association, Plymouth

Public Engagement Event 12-13 May, 2018

Plymouth Pirate Days Weekend, Plymouth

Oban Training 12-14 June, 2018

Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban

Public Engagement Event 30-31 July, 2018

West Highland Yachting Week, Oban


Accommodation, Meals, Travel

Meals and refreshments  will be provided and we are also able to offer financial support for travel and accommodation to those wishing to attend the course who do not live in the local area.

Further training details:

During the 3 day training, we will cover the following:

Day 1: What to expect when trying to engage the public on the future of our seas? What are the opportunities? What are the challenges? What are the roles of scientists in society? How do people form opinions? How to understand what different audiences value in life and connect with that?

Day 2: What makes for successful engagement projects and productive collaborations between scientists and creatives?  Hands-on exercises of translating your scientific research into engaging and media-friendly language. Radio interview practice. Opportunity to meet local community organisations, artists and creatives.

Day 3: Develop engagement activities around your scientific research. How to bring an engaging ‘story arc’ into your engagement activity. Preparation of next steps (public engagement delivery).


About Blueprint – The Future of Our Seas:

Funded by NERC and supported by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), Blueprint brings together nine major UK-leading marine research, engagement, advocacy and environmental arts organisations (Marine Biological Association, King’s College London, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, University of Plymouth Marine Institute, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Association of Marine Science, Incredible Oceans and Invisible Dust). By combining scientists, facilitators, creatives and media communicators, we aim to equip researchers with capacity and skills to engage people in a nation-wide conversation on the future of our seas, and through media coverage amplify their work.


BLUEPrint Funded!

Selected by NERC, the “BLUEPrint” consortium has been chosen to build capacity in public engagement with environmental research across the UK.

NERC has awarded a total of £500,000 to six projects to equip the environmental research sector to deliver effective, national-scale public engagement with contemporary issues of environmental science.

BLUEPRINT consists of nine institutions and organisations who will consolidate their learning, expertise and training into a ‘blueprint’ for how to build consortia, build capacity, and how to create innovative activities in public engagement.

By combining scientists, facilitators, creatives and skilled media communicators, the aim is to equip researchers with the capacity and skills to engage people in a nation-wide conversation on the future of our seas.

BLUEPRINT consists of: Marine Biological Association; King’s College London; Joint Nature Conservation Committee; Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science; University of Plymouth Marine Institute; University of Edinburgh; Scottish Association for Marine Science; Incredible Oceans; and Invisible Dust. 

These projects have been funded through NERC’s Engaging Environments programme which follows a pilot funding call that was held late 2016.The programme aims to build a long-term, effective and innovative public engagement community. Full details are available on Grants on the Web.

NERC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Alison Robinson, said:

“‘Engaging Environments’ is a huge step towards achieving NERC’s ambitious, long-term goals for public engagement with environmental research. We are delighted to be funding such a range of innovative programmes and look forward to seeing these build bigger, better and more meaningful engagement in the enormous range of environmental topics that affect our daily lives.”

Starting in October 2017, these Stage 1 projects will last 12-months and will be invited to bid in Stage 2 to lead one longer-term project. This will deliver a much larger scale of public engagement than NERC has supported previously, achieving demonstrable impact across the UK and national recognition.