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Community Grant Reopens

Does your school have a science question they would like answered? Does your community group need help to crack a problem or chase a new opportunity? The Otago Participatory Science Platform can fund up to $20,000 to help you!

What can archaeological evidence tell us about how Māori lived at Moeraki? How can we best manage concussion in high school students? How is the population of red-billed gulls in Otago changing over time?

These are all questions being answered through the Otago Participatory Science Platform (PSP), which aims to provide support for community-based groups to shape their research ideas into projects, and turn their projects into reality. All schools, community groups, marae and rūnaka can apply for up to $20,000 to help answer their research question.

“The Participatory Science Platform supports communities to answer the questions that matter to them with scientifically robust research” says Sophie Sparrow, the Otago PSP coordinator.

“If you want to evaluate the impact of ecosystem restoration on your local environment, investigate the air quality in your community, or use citizen science to measure local biodiversity – we can help to connect your community group with a scientist or science team to undertake the research together.”

To be successful in their application, a project must address a research question that matters to the local public; researchers and the community should work side-by-side to develop and run the project; and the project should actively share their research results as widely as possible. Either the community group, or their science partners, can apply for the funding.

The Otago PSP is managed by Otago Science Into Action – a collaborative partnership involving the Otago Museum, University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the NZ International Science Festival – with funding provided by the Ministry for Business, Innovation & Employment under the Curious Minds initiative to engage more New Zealanders in science.

One project, Soil Your Undies Otago, began in 2020 and was successful once again in securing funding from our 2021 round to continue their research, doubling the numbers of schools they are working with. This research uses the cotton strip test (in the form of underpants) to measure soil health. “Kids love the idea of burying underwear in the earth for two months before digging it up to see what’s happened to it” says Bridget McNully, North Otago Sustainable Land Management engagement officer. “The more broken down and threadbare it is the better the health of the soil. This will allow us to build a local map of our soils.”

Along with funding for research projects, Otago PSP also has seed funding of up to $2,000 available, to assist with turning ideas into ‘project ready’ plans. Seed funding can be applied for at any time of the year.

So far, the Otago PSP has provided funding for 52 research projects and 25 seed projects since it first began in 2015. The next funding round will open on 22 November 2021 and close on 9 March 2022.

Interested groups should visit to view and download the application pack or email Sophie Sparrow, Otago PSP coordinator on for more information.


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