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STEM Research

The Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is The Open University’s (OU) largest research faculty, helping to cement its position as one of the UK’s top research institutions. Our researchers enjoy state-of-the-art facilities to support their subject interests, including specialist laboratories and world-leading analytical facilities.

Our specialist research centres and groups undertake research in fields, such as:


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 recognises the OU's commitment to research and societal impact, with 82% of its research impact assessed to be 'world-leading' (4*) or 'internationally excellent' (3*). STEM researchers contributed to 11 Units of Assessment (UoA). The faculty led on five Units of Assessment (UoA):

  • B7: Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences
  • B9: Physics
  • B10: Mathematical Sciences
  • B11: Computer Science & Informatics
  • B12: Engineering

STEM also co-chaired two further UoAs:

  • A3: Allied Health Professions (with WELS)
  • D32: Art and Design (with FASS)

And contributed staff to several further UoAs:

  • C14: Geography
  • C22: Anthropology and Development Studies
  • C23: Education
  • D33: Music


We focus on innovation in the real world - developing scientific and technological solutions to some of society's most pressing and complex challenges, leading behavioural transformation, influencing policy and practice, and addressing STEM skills shortages across the UK.

Our strong commitment to interdisciplinary research is grounded in outward-looking, sustainable academic communities that engage fully with impactful teaching and scholarship, maintaining strong links with professional bodies and industry.

We engage with relevant user communities including professional groups, enterprise partners, and the general public in order to raise visibility of our research and promote impact from that research.

Our research is widely disseminated to the public, through courses on our free learning platform OpenLearn and through our partnership with FutureLearn. For over 50 years, the OU has produced programmes with the BBC, starting with late night lectures (before the days of video and online learning) and evolving into today's prime time TV and radio programmes - designed to engage millions of viewers and listeners with entertaining, informative and educational content. OU academics are consultants on these programmes, providing expert insight and research-based contributions.

Impact highlights

Transforming attitudes about the health of our oceans

Research scientists in our School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences helped shape the content and direction of the landmark BBC series Blue Planet II, which prompted unprecedented public and government action to protect our oceans.

Co-designing better communities

Disenfranchised civic groups, empowered by knowledge and approaches developed though design research at the OU, have become co-designers and effective agents of change.

Capturing the secrets of the Universe

Our Centre for Electronic Imaging’s pioneering work on technologies allows us to explore even the darkest corners of the cosmos and is making the UK a leader in space research.

From space science and submarines to Scotch Whisky

How can understanding the secrets of the universe help make submarines safer, ensure Scotch Whisky's provenance and 'sniff out' new fragrances?

Why language matters in diabetes care

Professor Cathy Lloyd’s research supports healthcare professionals worldwide to help people live better with diabetes, ensuring they feel heard, not judged.

Consigning the mathematics gender gap to history

During the past twenty years, Professor of History of Mathematics, June Barrow-Green, has used her research to challenge cultural and historical stereotypes about mathematics and inspire the next generation of women to get into the subject.

The centuries-old solution to today's sustainability challenges

Professor David Gowing and colleagues are using their research to unlock the potential of an ancient nature-based agricultural solution to tackle today’s sustainability challenges.

Autism: promoting understanding and action

Our research has helped to challenge common stereotypes of autism and promote action for autistic people worldwide.

Solving global challenges through open access

The Open University hosts the world’s largest collection of open access full texts - CORE, which facilitates free and easy access to research knowledge.



eSTEeM logo The OU Centre for STEM Pedagogy

Bringing together academics in the STEM subjects to promote innovation, scholarship and enterprise in open and distance learning.

Meet our Academics

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In addition to teaching on Open University modules our academics are engaged in ground breaking research that benefits individuals and society.

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