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1in5 project on climate and biodiversity embraced by leading schools of psychology  

The 1in5 project is being backed by the schools of psychology at Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester universitiesUniversity of Bristol

Press release issued: 13 June 2023

Schools of psychology at Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester universities have embraced the 1in5 project on climate and biodiversity. 1in5 is a framework to allow the academic community to focus some of its collective brainpower on environmental change.

In the UK alone, every year approximately 500,000 university students complete an undergraduate degree.  In their final year almost all, in collaboration with expert academic supervisors, do a substantial piece of advanced work: a research project, a composition, a dissertation, or a show.  The ambition of the 1in5 project is for one in five of those pieces of work to focus on environmental change.  At such a scale, a significant cumulative impact would be expected ( 

“We’re in. We’re committed.” said Professor Michael Banissy, the Head of School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Bristol. Professor Anna Theakston, Head of Division of Psychology, and Professor Richard Brown, Head of Division of Psychology & Mental Health at the University of Manchester added: “We encourage colleagues in psychology and other disciplines to embrace this excellent initiative.” 

Dr Christopher Kent, the School Education Director in School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Bristol explained: “Being part of the 1in5 was a no-brainer, it required relatively little effort from staff and, because the model is fully open and run by academics, ideas can be shared and even supervisors with very little expertise in sustainability can run projects that students are excited about and find fulfilling. Critically, it’s not just a badge, but it directs a substantial resource in a joined-up way to build the evidence-base around action on the climate.”   

The value of participation in 1in5 for students was highlighted by Cardiff University's Head of School of Psychology, Professor Katherine Shelton. "We know that students care about environmental change and wish to cover it as part of their degree,” Prof Shelton said. 

Professor Greg Maio, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, added: “We can expand the reach of climate research into areas where it hasn’t previously existed, while helping students and staff to feel they are constructively joining an enormous community of peers and colleagues all working towards the same goal.”   

Underlining the broader impact on students, Dr Marc Williams, clinical psychologist and lecturer at Cardiff University said the 1in5 project is 'an opportunity for students to take the reins and transform their concerns into active contributions' and that the 1in5 project will 'cultivate a generation of professionals who are attuned to the realities of our world and equipped to shape it for the better'. 

Professor Chris Preist, Academic Director of Sustainability at the University of Bristol, said the 1in5 initiative had the potential to flourist in many disciplines including arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, health sciences and engineering. Professor Andrew Stewart, Head of Department of Computer Science at the University of Manchester added: "I’m pleased to see my colleagues in Psychology leading the way on this and I hope that other disciplines will join them."

Samantha Strong, Head of Year 1, School of Optometry at Aston University commented: "The 1in5 project is an initiative that's very easy to implement, and very important in the field of healthcare."   

Beyond universities, support was offered by Professor Isabelle Mareschal, the chair of the Applied Vision Association (AVA), meanwhile Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair-elect of the Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society, said: “The Psychonomic Society recognizes the seriousness of climate change and is therefore supportive of all initiatives that harness the power of the cognitive and behavioral sciences to work towards a more healthy and more sustainable future. The 1 in 5 initiative is one creative initiative that helps contribute to those goals.”  

Practical support for the initiative was offered by Professor Jon Peirce, founder of Open Science Tools Ltd, the makers of the globally used “Psychopy” program. “This is a tremendously exciting project. Students and staff care about the planet's problems, but don't know how to help," Professor Peirce said. "They also have to run projects, and are searching for topics to research. Solving both problems at the same time is genius, and shows us that everyone can make a difference. Hopefully staff and students alike will soon be sharing a range of behavioural #1in5 projects on to help others get started.” 

The potential of the initiative was summed up by Cardiff University's Professor Chris Chambers, co-founder of the UK Reproducibility Network: “For me, what makes the 1in5 project so exciting is that it takes the concerns and helplessness that so many people feel about climate and uses these anxieties to fuel one of the largest-scale research endeavours we’ve ever seen in UK higher education. Just imagine the positive impact we can make, and the knowledge we can gain, by running tens of thousands of high-quality climate projects every year across the country. This is how you change the world.” 

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