Social Sciences Research Impact & Engagement Team and Pitt Rivers Museum shortlisted for Vice-Chancellor’s Professional Services collaboration award

A dynamic collaboration between the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Social Sciences Division’s Research Impact & Engagement Team has been shortlisted for a prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Professional Services Award for Collaboration.

The Festival of Social Science is an annual celebration of creative, engaging and impactful work that social science researchers do to help us understand and influence the world around us, and in 2022 it was back with a bang to celebrate its 20th anniversary!

Two adults, dressed as mutli-coloured, cheering butterflies, and three smiling children, pose  as “superpillars” in front of a forest backdrop.

Superpillars Assemble treated visitors to mask-making, an interactive dance workshop, and adventure trail around the museum’s exhibits.

Across an exciting weekend of activities held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in November 2022, hundreds of members of the public engaged with social scientists and their research.

Curious minds of all ages got involved in hands-on activities - with topics ranging from health and the environment to heritage and communities - and discovered how social science research is helping to make the world a better place.

The Festival, supported by the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, 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 dance workshops demonstrating the wonderful world of butterflies, and games to discover the use of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare, to examining museum artefacts alongside expert anthropologists, and using microscopes and smartphones to reveal surprising things about the materials around us, visitors were invited to take a deep- dive into the world of social sciences research.

Researchers from the fields of geography, archaeology, anthropology, law, business, primary care health sciences, and partners from Oxford Brookes University, the Open University and University of Reading showcased the amazing breadth of their research in an exciting programme of interactive events:

Katrin Wilhelm, (School of Geography and the Environment) whose activity ‘Smartphones for Science’ saw visitors use mini microscopes and iPhones to investigate natural and man-made materials from the museum’s collections, said 'the location at the Pitt Rivers Museum was fantastic as it allowed us to connect a diverse group of visitors to ancient artifacts with our modern Lab-In-Your-Pocket approach. An opportunity like this is extremely valuable for us researchers to communicate our processes and findings with the public as well as hear their feedback and potentially find common interests or even inspiration for new ideas for research.’

Dr Ashley Coutu, Deputy Head of Research at the Pitt Rivers Museum, explains, ‘the Festival provides much added value to the experience of visiting the museum, and also reinforces the idea that we are a museum that is for and all about current research in the social sciences’.

Becky Launchbury, ESRC Impact Acceleration Manger adds, “From the outset, the driver for working together with the Museum had always been delivering an inclusive, enjoyable and educational experience for both our public audiences and our researchers. The rich, enthusiastic and creative collaboration, has ensured that the Festival we deliver together is rooted in our shared interests in supporting and showcasing social science research.”

The nominated team:

  • Dr Ashley Coutu; Deputy Head of Research, Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Elizabeth Crawford, Research Communications Officer, Social Sciences Division
  • Jozie Kettle, Public Engagement with Research Officer, Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Rebecca Launchbury, ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Manager, Social Sciences Division
  • Andrew McLellan, Head of Public Engagement, Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Dr Francesca Richards, Research Impact Facilitator, Social Sciences Division

About the ESRC Festival of Social Science

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)’s Festival of Social Science is the largest celebration of social sciences research in the UK and includes hundreds of online and in-person events nationwide each autumn. For more information visit 

About the Vice-Chancellor’s Professional Services Awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Professional Services Awards recognise the extraordinary contribution that colleagues in administrative, professional and support roles make to the University, and to furthering Oxford’s academic mission. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 21st March 2023. For more information visit: 

Get involved in public engagement with research

If you’re interested in getting involved with public engagement with research, contact our the SSD Research Impact & Engagement Team at