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Research areas

Trombone link to test equipment in the acoustics laboratory


The Open University Acoustics Research Group has been in existence for over forty years, carrying out internationally leading research in the fields of environmental acoustics, musical acoustics and the development of acoustical measurement techniques.

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Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP)

Our research has application in a wide range of complex situations where it is difficult to act because of uncertainty. We undertake research on systems ideas and their application in real-world settings particularly useful in addressing complex, highly interdependent situations with high levels of uncertainty requiring help in developing appropriate interventions to bring about improvements.



We have international programmes of observational, theoretical, laboratory based and mission based astronomy research, focusing on the origin and evolution of stars, galaxies and planets.

Diagram of molecular structure

Biomedical Science

Our research focuses on the design of novel therapeutic agents and diagnostic tools, the molecular and cellular processes underlying diseases with significant impact in society, and the fundamentals of neurobiology and behaviour.

Test tube and pipette

Chemistry and Analytical Science

A vibrant area of research that brings together organic, medicinal, inorganic and materials chemistry. We are developing, characterising and understanding the mechanism of action of therapeutics and researching topics including catalysis, condensed matter theory , green chemistry and resource efficiency, nanomaterials and nanocomposites , organosilicon research, polymer chemistry and supramolecular chemistry. 

Data displayed on a touch screen device

Computing and Communications

Research in Computing and Communications is committed to Integrating technology effectively into our lives. We address real problems that matter to a society where computing is increasingly ubiquitous. 

Connections being made

Computing Research

Computing research across The Open University is people-centred. Our research integrates technology into human activities, supporting human needs through technology and augmenting human capabilities to shape and influence the development of technology in our daily lives.

Chair prototypes


Design at the Open University is distinctive in being devoted to the subject of design generally, and not confined to any one professional area of application. Instead we focus on the creative, technical and social dimensions of design and innovation, which are generic across domains.

Mountain range viewed across lake

Dynamic Earth

Our research focuses on quantifying the mechanisms and rates of key processes in the solid Earth system. We are at the forefront of developing analytical techniques to categorise the redistribution of economically important elements during crustal recycling. We use high-precision geochronometry to investigate the continental crust during collision, and use evidence from active volcanoes to help forecast eruptions and evaluate volcano-ecosystem interactions, from a societal perspective.

Oxeye daisies at Yarnton meadow, Michael Dodds, OU


Our research integrates projects from the tropics to the high arctic, investigating the diversity of life and its interactions with the physical environment, its responses to change and its stewardship. We investigate microbial communities to whole catchment ecosystems as a means of improving conservation biology to landscape ecology, and gaining a better understanding of how elemental cycles, water balances and energy budgets respond to natural and human-induced change.

Energy rating label on touch screen


We carry out research on a wide range of important environmental issues facing society. Including energy production and use, sustainable resource management (including waste and water), transport, systems and sustainable development.  Our research is firmly embedded in an understanding of technologies and processes and how people use and interact with technology. The focus is on the role that technology can play in creating a more sustainable future.

Detailed view of X-ray facility at The Open University

Materials Engineering

Materials Engineering research is concentrated in five focus areas of Advanced Materials Processing, Stress Engineering, High Temperature Performance, Smart Materials and Atomic and Molecular Matter.  The group has a thriving research student community, with access to excellent research facilities and internationally leading expertise.

Tiles illustrating aperiodic order

Mathematics and Statistics

We have an active research programme covering a wide range of topics in the mathematical sciences, with weekly seminars, and several workshops and conferences throughout the year.

Sierra Nevada Landscape by Marie-Laure Bagard

Palaeoenvironmental change

We take an integrated approach involving palaeontology, sedimentology, oceanography, geochemistry and system modelling to solve fundamental problems relating to Earth surface processes. We investigate short-term and long-term processes, with specialisms in the development and application of elemental, isotopic and microfossil proxies to assess palaeoenvironmental change, understanding the biological consequences of ocean acidification and de-oxygenation, and investigating ecological, biogeographic and evolutionary processes in past and present oceanic and terrestrial environments.

Close up of  plasma lamp, - abzee


Our research in physics includes theoretical, experimental and applied investigations into  quantum correlations in atomic, molecular and condensed matter systems; applied plasma research; and biomedical physics, seeking to understand the physical phenomena involved in conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases and their treatment.

Moons of Mars

Planetary and Space Science

Our high profile involvement in space missions together with our advanced analytical, simulation and modelling capabilities enables us to pursue a wide range of planetary science research, from the earliest stages of solar system formation, through the evolution of the planetary bodies to the environments and processes that sculpt them today.

Smart Materials logo

Smart Materials

The Smart and Functional Materials Group is responsible for expanding scientific knowledge in the fields of Energy, Nanotechnology, Diagnostics and Material Analysis.

Space instrumentation

Space Instrumentation and Imaging

We perform world-leading research into Space Science and Instrumentation. Our activities span basic research into Space Science, and the investigation and development of new technologies for use in space, to Space Projects, in which we develop flight hardware and provide support for many space missions both in development and operation.

Woman using iPad to access learning materials

STEM Education and Engagement

Our innovation and research includes all relevant aspects of pedagogy with a strong emphasis on e-learning and we are leaders in the use of electronic media in teaching STEM Subjects.

Meet our Academics

Head and shoulders of male OU academic

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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