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Scottish communities to use Minecraft to learn about disease spread

A video-game based model of infectious disease spread will form the basis of a pilot public engagement project that aims to engage Scottish communities with public health research data.

Data in Biological Research is one of nine projects to receive funding from Research Data Scotland (RDS) to support public engagement in data research.

Receiving £2,880, this pilot project will focus on how health data is used to understand the spread of epidemics, and help governments and health officials to make decisions. 

Understanding Health Data

The funding will support School public engagement staff and researchers to inspire and engage Scottish communities - in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands – with public health data. 

Using the popular video game, Minecraft, the project will take a game-based approach to demonstrate infectious disease data and modelling in biology. 

The project invites secondary school students and community groups that work with young people to find out more and talk about data in public health research.

Encouraging two-way conversations between researchers and young people is a key aim, particularly at a time when there is increasing misinformation about how and why data is used in public health. 


School public engagement staff will also partner with Science Skills Academy (SSA), to bring their project to the Highlands. 

Science Skills Academy (SSA) is a project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise that aims to spark the interest of young people and ensure equal access to STEM provision for all Highland schools.

The funding comes from RDS’s Public Engagement Fund, which supports projects in Scotland that engage with people on data research, empowering them to discover how their data is used and to have a voice in data science.

Announced in January 2023, the Public Engagement fund aims to:

  • Promote the public understanding of data research in Scotland
  • Provide balanced information on data research
  • Widen participation by involving and engaging members of the public who may not usually interact with science to take an interest and have a voice in data science
  • Achieve clear and measurable impact


We are delighted to have been awarded an RDS Public Engagement fund to pilot a new game-based project that aims to encourage young people and their communities to explore how infectious disease spread, engage them with the use of data in biological research. We are excited to explore how video games can be used to talk about public health and empower people to make informed decisions about their data.

Maria FanourgiakiPublic Engagement Officer, School of Biological Sciences

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the power of data in tackling public health emergencies, as well as the potential for misinformation. Finding creative, accessible ways to engage young people with the data used in modelling the spread of diseases can help them to better understand how their data is used. We look forward to facilitating conversations about data in public health.

Kate DugganWellcome Trust PhD Student in Hosts, Pathogens and Global Health, Rambaut Lab, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences

We were delighted with the response to our Public Engagement Fund and are excited to be funding these nine projects. Innovative public engagement is key to empowering the public to have a voice in how their data is used, and each of these projects will reach audiences across Scotland and engage the public in varied and creative ways. After we initially announced £40,000 of available funding, we were overwhelmed with high quality applications and were pleased to be able to increase the total funding to just over £56,000. We received over 30 applications from organisations across Scotland and wish to thank everyone who applied to the fund.

Katie Oldfield, RDS Public Engagement Manager


Other recipients of RDS’s Public Engagement Fund at the University of Edinburgh include:

Cultural Probes into Mental Illness 

Focusing on the role of art and creativity in mental health, this project will engage people with lived experience of mental illness. Receiving funding of £7,655, the project will involve a series of creativity workshops designed to spark reflection and imagination, culminating in an exhibition of the participants’ work. 

University of Edinburgh: Generation Scotland 

Generation Scotland is Scotland’s largest family health and wellbeing study looking to improve the lives of people living in Scotland. This project will receive funding of £5,000 to create resources around data research which can be used at science festivals and other large-scale public events.

Related Links

RDS press release