Intrepid Explorers Leader Takes Top ESRC Impact Award

Briony Turner
Briony Turner
A Ph.D. geography student from King’s College London whose efforts to share with the public stories of social science work and research in the field were both effective and inspiring has been named the 2016 Impact Champion by Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council. Briony Turner received the honor from the ESRC Wednesday night at a ceremony in Central London that also honored researchers working on impactful projects ranging from Ebola prevention to bicycle policy to mapping public toilets.

The ESRC has been handing out the annual Celebrating Impact Prizes, which honors those who have demonstrated that social science is important and worth investing in and using, since 2013. In addition to the Impact Champion award, the prizes honor an outstanding early career research, work that has had outstanding impact globally, in public policy, and on society. (A business impact prize was not awarded this year.)

Each winner receives a prize of £10,000.

Turner, along with fellow Ph.D. geography students Faith Taylor and Kate Baker, founded the Intrepid Explorers program at King’s College London. It began as an informal seminar series and subsequently linked up with the Royal Geographical Society and in turn branched out into schools, “engag[ing] students and inspire[ing] them to think about the world through travel and exploration,” according to the ESRC. This has helped narrow the separation between researchers and the public.

Alex Waddington, the editorial and engagement manager at the University of Manchester of the University of Manchester, was the finalist for the Impact Champion award. In addition to co-founding the acclaimed Manchester Policy Blogs, he has launched initiatives such as policy@manchester, Policy Week, and engaged directly with select committees.

Kath Murray
Kath Murray
The Outstanding Early Career Impact award went to Kath Murray of the University of Edinburgh, whose doctoral research on police-public encounters revealed very high levels of stop and search in Scotland sparking a wide debate and has resulted in new legislation, major changes in police practice and a 93 percent drop in stop searches and seizures. The Early Career award is sponsored by SAGE Publishing, which is the parent of Social Science Space.

The finalist for the Early Career award was Martin Hearson of the London School of Economics and Political Science, whose research has highlights how tax treaties reduce the tax that some of the world’s poorest countries collect from multinational companies.

Melissa Leach
Melissa Leach
The award for Outstanding International Impact went to a team composed of Melissa Leach of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and other anthropologists who created the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform to provide real-time advice and guidelines to policymakers and practitioners during the Ebola crisis, which increased the effectiveness of medical and humanitarian responses.

Finalists in this category were Sonia Livingstone of the LSE and Cathy Zimmerman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Livingstone’s research on the benefits and risks of children’s internet use has strengthened European Union internet safety guidelines, changed service providers’ privacy practices and highlighted children’s digital rights worldwide. (Livingstone discussed some of her work during a Social Science Bites podcast in 2012.) Zimmerman has, over the last two decades, produced hugely influential evidence and policy guidance addressing the health needs of millions of human trafficking victims – shaping international response and developing training materials which are now used in over 155 countries.

Rachel Aldred
Rachel Aldred
The Outstanding Impact in Public Policy award went to Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster, whose work on barriers to cycling shifted policy to increase investment in cycling infrastructure and a new approach to increasing cycling participation throughout the United Kingdom.

Two finalists were named in this category, Rachel Condry of the University of Oxford and Nick Gill of the University of Exeter. Condry’s large-scale study of adolescent-to-parent violence highlighted the hidden plight of many thousands of families across the UK, leading to new policy guidance and improved responses by statutory and voluntary agencies. Gill’s work, meanwhile, helped secure a High Court judgement that ruled the Detained Fast Track process for asylum seekers was unfair – ceasing the practice and securing more reasonable preparation time for asylum cases.

Theresa Gannon
Theresa Gannon
The Outstanding Impact in Society prize went to a team represented by Theresa Gannon of the University of Kent. That team’s groundbreaking work with firesetters has resulted in the first comprehensive theory of deliberate firesetters and the first effective treatment program for offenders, which is being adopted across Australia, North America and Europe.

Finalists for the Society award were two pairs of researchers, Jo-Anne Bichard and Gail Ramster of the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, and  Jane Oakhill or the University of Sussex and Kate Cain of Lancaster University.

Bichard and Ramster created an online resource of more than 10,000 public toilets – the Great British Public Toilet Map – helping the elderly, pregnant women and people with medical conditions, and changing open data policy in the process. Oakhill and Cain’s research into primary school children’s comprehension difficulties has had a direct impact on educational practice, shaping national policy and improving the way reading comprehension is taught both in the UK and throughout South America.

Winners were chosen by a panel — chaired by Vanessa Cuthill, ESRC’s deputy director for evidence, impact and strategic partnerships — that included Annette Boaz of the Centre for Health and Social Care Research at Kingston University; Martin Coleman, global head of antitrust, competition and regulatory practice at Norton Rose LLP and an ESRC Council member; Tim Dafforn, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and professor of biotechnology at the University of Birmingham; Graeme Nicol, SME consultant; Andrew Shaw, evaluation advisor, Department for International Development; and Jane Tinkler, who was head of social science, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology at the time of judging and is now senior prize manager for the Nine Dots prize.

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