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Does nature sound good to you? Huge new national experiment part of major collaboration with BBC

Could listening to nature improve your health? It’s widely acknowledged that spending time in natural environments boosts people’s mood, but little is known about what part sound plays.

Now, a new national experiment using The Open University’s nQuire platform is conducting one of the biggest investigations into the therapeutic effects of sound.  The nQuire platform is a major collaboration with the BBC, allowing anyone to set up and run surveys and investigations into wellbeing and the environment.

Launched alongside a new BBC Radio 4 Podcast, Forest 404, the survey into environmental sounds asks people to listen and react to several different sounds. The findings may form the basis for bringing the sounds of nature to people unable to physically access the natural environment such as hospital patients, those in long term care, or people who work in stressful situations.

Enabling citizen investigations

The Open University’s nQuire platform can be used by anyone for online science experiments. It combines citizen science with inquiry learning, so those using it learn how to design and run their own investigations.

Professor Mike Sharples is the academic lead for the nQuire project and says: “nQuire is an open platform for large-scale citizen investigations. Not only can adults take part in these studies, they can also create their own. We expect colleges, community groups and individuals to run projects on nQuire to explore themselves and their communities.”

New sci-fi thriller podcast

The BBC Forest 404 podcast is a sci-fi thriller by Timothy X Atack, set in the 24th century following a data crash called The Cataclysm. It follows Pan (Pearl Mackie), a sound archivist who uncovers some sound recordings from the early 21st century that haunt her. They are recordings of rainforests, places which no longer exist, and Pan feels compelled to hunt down the truth about how the forests of the old world died. Each episode of the thriller is accompanied by a factual talk which guides listeners through different themes of the drama and an experimental soundscape.

The natural sounds experiment is being run in collaboration with the University of Exeter and University of Bristol, funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council.

BBC Radio 4’s Forest 404 will be available as a podcast box set on BBC Sounds from Thursday 4 April. Download BBC Sounds to listen and subscribe.  

To take part in the Forest 404 Experiment, complete the online survey here

Find out more

Read more about the nQuire website 



About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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