ESRC Recognizes Researchers Who Make a Difference


ESRC Celebrating Impact logoA professor of politics who reached millions with his and his team’s analysis of the Scottish independence referendum, a psychologist who helped shape fairness policies for Britain’s incarcerated population, and a criminologist who has improved the nation’s response to forced marriages and ‘honour’ crimes are among the government-funded social science researchers honored Wednesday night for their impact on society.

For a third year – and this year celebrating its own 50th birthday – the Economic and Social Research Council has recognized ESRC-funded researchers “who have achieved, or are currently achieving, outstanding economic and societal impacts” with the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize. The prize includes several categories, including Impact Champion, Public Policy, Society, Business, International and Early Career.

“From changing the way dementia is treated to improving living standards, economic and social science has made a huge difference to the health and wellbeing of our society over the last 50 years,” the awards ceremony program quotes Member of Parliament Jo Johnson, the minister for universities and science. “The ESRC’s Celebrating Impact Prize rightly awards some of the greatest contributors to this field.”

The ESRC itself is an independent organization funded mainly by the government and established by Royal Charter in 1965. It is the United Kingdom’s biggest funder of research into social and economic questions and also supports the development and training of future social scientists.

Its Impact honor is palpable: First prize winners in the each category receive £10,000, and if the judges award a second prize, that researcher receives £5,000. The money is expected to be spent on getting the researcher’s scholarship and its impact deeper into the academic or public conversation.

Videos and case studies of all the winners can be viewed at www.esrc.ac.uk/impactprize Applications for the 2016 ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize will open in the autumn.

Winners of this year’s Impact prizes are as follows (the descriptions are provided by the ESRC):

Charlie Jeffery
Charlie Jeffery
Impact Champion | Charlie Jeffery, University of Edinburgh

He has, by personal example and through his leadership of successive ESRC initiatives, been responsible for deep social science impact on the UK’s devolution reforms over a sustained period from their initial implementation in the early 2000s through to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 and beyond. He has built both the collective capacities for large groups of researchers to achieve high impact, but also engineered the opportunities for them to maximize that impact: by establishing relationships of confidence and trust with key research users (often amid challenging political sensitivities); and by developing effective communication methods, including more recently highly innovative and interactive forms of online communication. This work has enabled researchers – including many at a formative stage in their careers – to impact directly on the substance of policy, but also to shape wider public and media debate with an unprecedented reach.

Jennifer Doyle
Jennifer Doyle
Outstanding Early Career Impact | Jennifer Doyle, Trafford Housing Trust (formerly of University of Manchester)

Her PhD research provided evidence that changes to the physical environment alone are insufficient for creating social benefits for local communities. She found that community development investment is required alongside physical development if social outcomes are to be realized. Her research has influenced changes in policy, in particular within the social housing sector. This has motivated organizations, such as the Trafford Housing Trust, to measure and monitor the social impacts generated by their activities and to consider social outcomes from the design stage of future programs. This enabled these organizations to understand and demonstrate their impact and to refine project design and create greater impact in future.

Oliver Owen
Oliver Owen
| Oliver Owen, University of Oxford

He has used the core findings of his doctoral ethnographic research on the Nigeria Police Force to pursue reform and policy conversations with three partners – Nigerian civil society groups working on policing policy, the UK government-funded Justice for All police support project, and the national leadership of the Nigeria Police Force. Workshop events and a working paper promoted the findings in four major policy-relevant areas – recruitment procedures, police training, management and working practices, and governance of the force. Senior leadership of the Nigeria Police Force are now using the report as a basis for internal review and mandating heads of department to make written responses on its recommendations, while the author has been invited to take part in continuing conversations on implementation.

Colin Mason
Colin Mason
Richard Harrison
Richard Harrison
Outstanding Impact in Business | Colin Mason, University of Glasgow and Richard Harrison, University of Edinburgh

Their research established the importance of business angels as a key source of finance for entrepreneurial businesses in the UK. This has influenced successive governments and economic development agencies in the UK and elsewhere to see business angels as a major focus for SME finance policy. The impact of this research has been three-fold. Firstly, it provided a structure to the hitherto unorganized and invisible angel market through the establishment of business angel networks to enable angels and entrepreneurs to find one another more easily. Secondly, it influenced the introduction tax incentive for business angels and the introduction of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme to increase the supply of angel finance. Thirdly, it identified the need to stimulate the demand for angel finance through investment readiness programs. Today, angel investment contributes an estimated £750m annually to support the entrepreneurial economy. This research has been instrumental in the development of this market.

Jane Dyson
Jane Dyson
Outstanding International Impact | Jane Dyson, University of Oxford

As part of her research with north Indian youth, she collaborated with the community of Bemni, a village in the Indian Himalayas, to produce a documentary film on the lives of educated unemployed young people. Lifelines has been a transformative tool for education, answering a need identified by teaching colleagues for strong, visual material on contemporary Indian social change. It has had a major impact on school and university curricula in the UK, North America, and India, and now features on the Welsh National Curriculum. The film has been downloaded 11,900 times by people living in 127 countries, informing society about a section of the world’s population that is poorly understood and countering negative stereotypes of youth. Lifelines has also had a major impact on community development in Bemni, where the film was shot. It has attracted the interest of a major donor who is now founding an educational NGO in the region.

Ian Scoones
Ian Scoones
| Ian Scoones, University of Sussex

Over the past 15 years, he and a team of Zimbabwean researchers, has been examining the impacts of land reform on rural livelihoods. Zimbabwe’s land reform has been intensely controversial, but the debate has often been ill informed, and ideologically driven. This is why solid, empirically-grounded field research was so essential. His research has radically changed understandings and challenged media portrayals. It has had wide international impact in southern Africa, and across donor countries globally. Through a combination of books, journal articles, blogs, talks, informal briefings, media articles and more, the research has helped reframe the issue, providing solid empirical evidence for informed policy debate. The Zimbabweland blog has over 30,000 visits per year, and the book, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform, has had nearly 150 citations since 2011. Internationally, the Zimbabwe experience has been controversial, but the research findings have helped inform discussion, and shift policy within the region and internationally.

Aisha K Gill
Aisha K Gill
Outstanding Impact in Public Policy | Aisha K. Gill, University of Roehampton

She is a researcher on violence against women, in particular ‘honor’ based violence and forced marriage in the UK, Iraqi Kurdistan and India. She has had direct impact on local, national and international policy-making and professional practice through various channels, including working alongside the police to better serve victims and persecute perpetrators. She is a highly-sought expert witness for the Crown Prosecution Service on these cases, and in 2012 her work helped lead to the conviction of two parents for committing an honor-killing against their child, Shafilea Ahmed. Her research has also been used by the NHS, the Department of Education and a range of third sector organizations to produce good practice guidelines for supporting victims. In addition, she has worked with the media, the British Government and international NGOs to raise awareness of these issues.

Victoria Lavis
Victoria Lavis
| Victoria Lavis, University of Bradford

Her work has directly and indirectly influenced how the 124 prisons in England and Wales respond to issues of diversity and equalities; consequently impacting the lived experience of those working and held in the custody of prisons. The research has contributed to: the development of a national equalities policy framework; new local policies and guidance for the care and management of transgender offenders; revisions to and widening of national mechanisms for prisoner reporting and investigation of discrimination and inequality; and the development of human capital through a more equalities literate workforce and prisoner population. One example of her work includes running a workshop focused on prisoner sexuality, in particular transgender. Learning arising from this workshop was incorporated into training materials for the management of transsexual prisoners as well as the development of a local policy. These provided clarity about respectful and decent treatment of transgender individuals in terms of access to facilities, personal searching techniques, and the rights and responsibilities of both staff and transgender offenders.

Jenny Kitziger
Jenny Kitziger
Celia Kitziger
Celia Kitziger
Outstanding Impact in Society | Jenny Kitzinger, Cardiff School of Journalism and Celia Kitzinger, University of York

These sisters’ research explores the support available for families of severely brain-injured patients, identifying gaps in the support as well as problems with decision-making about medical treatments and cultural (mis)representations of ‘coma’. She has subsequently developed ways to support family members with relatives in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, informed best interest discussions between clinicians and families and provided training to health care practitioners. In addition, they have reached thousands of people through theirHealthtalk module website and BBC Radio 3 program, which offered a more nuanced representation of ‘coma.’ The findings have also directly informed recommendations by the House of Lords Select Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Royal College of Physicians’ National Clinical Guidelines on Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness.

Hester Parr
Hester Parr
| Hester Parr, University of Glasgow

Her research focuses on missing people and has given valuable insights to families, police and the public about why, how and where people journey to when they are reported missing. It has allowed the experiences of those at the heart of ‘misper’ cases to inform the handling of those cases through the updating of online education and training modules to the UK National Police College, with a collective completion rate of approx. 100,000 since 2011, and through CPD to police search specialists. Police Scotland has incorporated project recommendations on good practice for family liaison and interviewing returned people into 2014 Standard Operating Procedures issued to 14,000 officers. Research findings were used by the Missing People charity to help secure Big Lottery funding to support a new ‘Missing People Aftercare’ service in Wales. The project was awarded the 2013 Scottish Government sponsored Scottish Policing Award for excellence in ‘Applied Policing Research.’

Judges for the awards were: Paul Grice, clerk and chief executive of the Scottish Parliament, and chair of the ESRC Methods and Infrastructure Committee; Adrian Alsop, former director of Research, Partnerships and International at the ESRC; Annette Boaz, professor in health care research at Kingston University and St. George’s University of London; Sophie Duncan, deputy director at the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement; Graeme Nicol, SME consultant and former ESRC Research Committee member; and Sarah O’Hara, pro-vice-chancellor (Academic Planning) and professor of geography at the University of Nottingham.

The awards were co-sponsored by SAGE, which is the parent of Social Science Space.


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