Ondata Research is led by Director, Laura Thomas:

  • Laura has worked with a range of organisations on the evaluation of a range of initiatives and programmes. This includes: developing evaluation frameworks, designing methods for data collection (including both qualitative and quantitative methods), data analysis and report writing. She enjoys collaborating with project teams throughout the course of a project and supports project teams in undertaking reflection as they progress. In terms of scale, she has experience evaluating programmes with a small number of participants to those engaging hundreds of thousands or involving large numbers of partners. She has extensive experience with a range of projects across primary, secondary and higher education, informal education and public engagement. In addition to her evaluation experience, she has also undertaken resource development, delivery and training for a variety of organisations such as schools, museums, education charities, universities and professional bodies. Her first degree is an MPhys in Astrophysics but she also holds an MRes in Education Research. Beginning in 2021 she is undertaking research relating to the professional development of teachers as part of a PhD with the University of Stirling.


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Collaborators and Colleagues

Laura regularly collaborates with colleagues in the fields of education research and evaluation and those with experience of both formal and informal education. Current and recent collaborators are:

  • Tania Johnston has been working in the field of science communication since 2002, and in particular in science centres with a focus on astronomy and space science, since 2006. She has experience developing and delivering hands-on workshops and talks on a variety of scientific topics, to a wide range of audiences. During her 9 years working as Public Engagement Manager for the Science & Technology Facilities Council, Tania developed curriculum related educational material and worked closely with the Physics teaching community in Scotland, to support the use of astronomy and space science as a context for teaching science at all levels. Since 2015, Tania has been working for the European Southern Observatory – the world’s most productive ground-based astronomy organisation – managing the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. Tania has supported Ondata’s work in relation to the Destination Space project for ASDC and will continue this contribution as part of the Our World From Space project in 2023 and 2024.
  • Heather Macrae has had an extensive career in education, careers and STEM engagement. She has an MBA and significant experience as Chief Executive of the Ideas Foundation, a charity aimed at supporting underrepresented communities and understands the challenges of governance, and managing programmes with multiple stakeholders in a dispersed geography. Heather has an MA in Careers Education and Guidance and an excellent understanding of how the Mission X programme can contribute to wider education initiatives. Heather has worked as a consultant to the UK Space Agency, developing two successful projects for Principia: the Principia Space Diaries and the Space to Earth Challenge. She regularly collaborates with multiple partners through her consultancy, Venture Thinking. Heather has worked as a technical expert for the EU for over five years, evaluating international space education initiatives. Heather has worked in the past with BBC Stargazing Live and Blue Peter/Newsround on promoting exploration education. Heather has contributed to the Mission X evaluation for STEM Learning.
  • Clare Meakin has worked in science engagement for national and local museums in London and across Scotland for the past 10 years. Working in both delivery and development, her museum-based projects have ranged from tinkering workshops for secondary students for the Science Museum, London, to science events for over 4,000 people at National Museums Scotland. Most recently as Science Engagement Manager, her work has focused on science engagement strategy development alongside evaluation of a wide range of funded STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects for funders such as Scottish Power Foundation, the Scottish Government and Children in Need. As a freelancer she has worked with regional museums such as Andrew Carnegie Birthplace museum on ASN and digital science engagement, and previously worked directly with primary schools for outreach, after school STEM clubs and teacher consultations. In 2019 she was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellowship to travel to North America, Japan and South Korea to study cultural factors affecting science engagement, with a focus on gender and science capital. Clare has worked on the multiple projects for the Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), Powering the Future for Glasgow Science Centre, the CONNECT project with Dundee Science Centre, Communities in Conversation for the IOP, the Physics Mentoring Project for Cardiff University and SHAPE for LSE.
  • Dr Lizzie Rushton: Lizzie has worked within education as a high school teacher, as Director of Evaluation for an education charity that supports school student participation in STEM research and is currently Head of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment at UCL’s Institute of Education. Her research considers young people’s experience of science in formal and informal settings and, teacher professional development through collaborations with researchers and mentoring school student research. Lizzie and Laura collaborated on the Physics Mentoring Project, MFL Student Mentoring Project and Language Horizons (all for Cardiff University) in 2019 and 2020 and Lizzie contributed to the early phases of the Dundee Science Centre CONNECT project in 2019 and 2020.
  • Dr Charlotte Thorley: Charlotte is a freelance consultant working on projects at local, national and international scales to support public engagement with research and responsible research and innovation, involving diverse publics in research. She specialises in supporting public engagement and outreach professionals to develop themselves and their work. Her work focusses on creating sustainable culture change, building pragmatic and accessible approaches to data collection and reporting, and ensuring inclusion in every process. Her working approaches are collaborative and co-productive, working with clients and their stakeholders to ensure that their needs, voices, and experiences are reflected throughout their work together. Charlotte and Laura are currently collaborating on the evaluation of the Ogden Trust Outreach Officer programme and this work will be completed in 2023.
  • Helen Winton: Helen is an experienced educator with 12 years classroom teaching and more than 20 years working at local authority/national level in STEM & Environmental Education. Most recently she held the position of Head of STEM Education at SSERC and continues to work with this organisation on special projects. Particular areas of expertise include school/business partnerships and effective educational leadership. Helen has worked on the evaluation of the SHAPE project with LSE and recently supported the evaluation of the Deep Space Diaries project for STFC.


Hatfield. P, Furnell. W, Shenoy. A, Fox. E, Parker. R and Thomas, L. (2018) The LUCID-Timepix spacecraft payload and the CERN@school educational programme. Journal of Instrumentation, Volume 13. doi.org/10.1088/1748-0221/13/10/C10004

Hatfield, P., Furnell, W., Shenoy, A., Fox, E., Parker, B., Thomas, L. & Rushton, E.A.C. (2019). IRIS opens pupils’ eyes to real space research. Astronomy and Geophysics 60(1) 1.22-1.24. doi: 10.1093/astrogeo/atz046

Meakin, C. & Thomas, L. (2022). Community in Conversations Pilot Evaluation Report 2021-2022. Unpublished.

Parker, B., Thomas, L. Rushton, E.A.C & Hatfield, P. (2019). Transforming Education with the Timepix detector – ten years of CERN@school. Radiation Measurements. doi.org/10.1016/j.radmeas.2019.03.008

Rushton, E.A.C. & Thomas, L. (2019). Interim Evaluation Report: Physics Mentoring Project. Available at: https://physicsmentoring.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/InterimReport_final_v2.pdf

Rushton, E.A.C. & Thomas, L. (2020). Interim Evaluation Report 2: Physics Mentoring Project. Available at: https://physicsmentoring.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Physics-Mentoring-January-2020-interim-report_v2.pdf

Rushton, E.A.C. & Thomas, L. (2020). Review of the MFL Student Mentoring Project 2015-2020. Available at: https://mflmentoring.co.uk/images/pdf/2015-2020ReviewOndataResearch.pdf

Thomas, L. (2021). Planet DIVOC-91 Evaluation Report. Available at: https://www.wearevocal.org/wlrs/listen-up/planet-divoc-91-makes-a-difference/

Thomas, L. (2021). Emerging Leaders Programme Evaluation Report. Unpublished.

Thomas, L. (2021). Physics Mentoring Programme Annual Evaluation Report 2021. Available at: https://physicsmentoring.co.uk/cycle-4-evaluation/

Thomas, L. (2021) Physics Mentoring Programme Impact Case Studies. Available at: https://physicsmentoring.co.uk/impact-case-studies/

Thomas, L. (2021). Subjects Matter for Scotland: An evidence paper. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/356459829_Subjects_Matter_for_Scotland_An_Evidence_Paper

Thomas, L. (2023) Destination Space Interim Project Evaluation. Unpublished.

Thomas, L. & Jenkins, L. (2022) Reading Mentoring Scoping Report. Unpublished.

Thomas, L. & Meakin, C. (2022). Physics Mentoring Project Annual Evaluation Report 2022. Available at: https://physicsmentoring.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Physics-Mentoring-Annual-Evaluation-Report-2021-2022.pdf

Thomas, L. & Meakin, C. (2022). Evaluation of Ogden Trust funded National Space Academy Masterclasses. Unpublished.

Thomas, L., Meakin, C. & Johnson, T. (2021). Destination Space Evaluation Report. Available: https://www.sciencecentres.org.uk/projects/destination-space/reports/

Thomas, L., Meakin, C. & Johnson, T. (2022). Destination Space Evaluation Report. Available: https://www.sciencecentres.org.uk/projects/destination-space/reports/

Thomas, L., Meakin, C. & MacRae, H. (2022). Mission X Evaluation Report. Available at: https://www.stem.org.uk/impact-and-evaluation/evaluation

Thomas, L., Meakin, C. & Winton, H. (2021). SHAPE Education Pilot Evaluation Report. Unpublished.

Thomas, L. & Rushton, E.A.C. (2020). Final Evaluation Report: Physics Mentoring Project. Available at: https://physicsmentoring.co.uk/final-evaluation-report/

Thomas, L. & Rushton, E.A.C. (2020). Language Horizons: Year 2 Final Report. Available at: http://mflmentoring.co.uk/evaluations/

Vocal (2023) Public Involvement Landscape Review. Available: https://www.ukri.org/publications/public-involvement-landscape-review/