Running alongside the 500 Reformations talks, a small research team is investigating public knowledge about “the Reformation”. 

It is often argued that people today have more limited knowledge of religious topics than was once the case. Building on existing research about biblical literacy, the “Reformation and Public Knowledge” project is exploring people’s ideas about Martin Luther and the Reformation.

Some of this research involves talking with people who facilitate events around the Reformation anniversary. (This is optional for anyone who hosts an event with a 500 Reformations speaker.) Participation involves a short interview or online survey exploring questions like:

  • What do people know about an academic theme or topic? (Literacy)
  • Why do people want to know about an academic theme or topic? (Motivation)
  • How do people react to new information about an academic theme or topic? (Reception)

Another part of this research involves talking with researchers with varying specialisms that touch upon the Reformation. What do they imagine people know? What do they find people are curious about? What knowledge would they most like to share? Through interviews and written reflections, we will consider how researchers are influenced by public reaction to an academic theme or topic.

An additional field of enquiry concerns the discourse of public engagement: How do people speak about academic knowledge sharing?


The results of this research may inform future policy in literacy and life-long learning. It may also influence the way that academics at the University of Sheffield and other universities seek to engage with the general public when sharing research findings.

More information about this research will be made available to potential participants. We expect to publish (anonymised) findings after the completion of 500 Reformations at least in summary form.