Researchers from across the University have been recognised for the impact of their work on society, and engagement with research in the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Awards and Public Engagement with Research Awards.

On Monday 20 June, the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research presented two sets of inaugural awards; the Impact Awards run by the Research Strategy Office, and the Public Engagement with Research Awards run by the Public Engagement team in the Office of External Affairs and Communications.

Research at the University of Cambridge has had profound effects on society – it is a formal part of the University’s mission.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Awards have been established to recognise and reward those whose research has led to excellent impact beyond academia, whether on the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life.

In this, its inaugural year, there were 71 nominations across all Schools. Nominations were initially judged by School, with one overall best entry selected by external advisor Schlumberger. A prize of £1,000 was awarded to the best impact in each School, with the prize for the overall winner increased to £2,000.

The winners were announced at an award ceremony on 20 June 2016, hosted by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz. These winners, although very diverse, illustrate only a small part of the wide range of impact that Cambridge's research has had.

This year’s winners were:

  • Dr Mari Jones (Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages)

Norman French has been spoken in Jersey for over 1,000 years. Today, however, this language (Jèrriais to its speakers) is obsolescent: spoken by some 1% of the population. The research of Mari Jones has sought to preserve Jèrriais and has helped raise the profile of the language within Jersey and beyond, with impacts on local and national media, language policy and education, and cultural identity and development.

  • Dr Gilly Carr (Department of Archaeology and Anthropology)

The Channel Islands have long had great difficulty in coming to terms with the darker side of the German occupation. The aim of Gilly Carr’s research is to increase awareness of Channel Islander victims of Nazi persecution through creation of a plural ‘heritage landscape’ and via education. The creation of this heritage is a major achievement and will be of significant impact for the Channel Islands.

  • Professor Steve Jackson (Wellcome Trust/CRUK Gurdon Institute)

Olaparib is an innovative targeted therapy for cancer developed by Steve Jackson. In 2014 Olaparib was licensed for the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. The following year, NICE made the drug available on the NHS in England for specific ovarian cancer patients. 2015 saw promising findings from a clinical trial in prostate cancer and Olaparib received Breakthrough Therapy Designation earlier this year. Olaparib is currently in clinical trials for a wide range of other cancer types.

  • Professor John Clarkson and Dr Nathan Crilly (Department of Engineering)

It is normal to be different. The demographics of the world are changing, with longer life expectancies and a reduced birth rate resulting in an increased proportion of older people. Yet with increasing age comes a general decline in capability, challenging the way people are able to interact with the ‘designed’ world around them. The Cambridge Engineering Design Centre has worked with the Royal College of Art to address this ‘design challenge’. They developed a design toolkit and realised what was by now obvious, that inclusive design was simply better design.

  • Dr Nita Forouhi and Dr Fumiaki Imamura (MRC Epidemiology Unit)

Identifying modifiable risk factors is an important step in helping reduce the health burden of poor diet. Forouhi and Imamura have advanced our understanding of the health impacts of sugars, fats and foods, through both scale and depth of investigation of self-reported information and nutritional biomarkers. They have engaged at an international level with policy and guidance bodies, and have used the media to improve public understanding with the potential for a direct impact on people’s health.

 

In 2015, the University of Cambridge received a one-year £65k Catalyst Seed Fund grant from Research Councils UK to embed high quality public engagement with research and bring about culture change at an institutional level.

The Public Engagement with Research Awards were set up to recognise and reward those who undertake quality engagement with research. 69 nominations were received from across all Schools.

This year’s winners were:

  • Dr Becky Inkster (Department of Psychiatry)

Dr Inkster’s work work explores the intersection of art and science through the prism of mental health research. Dr Inkster has successfully collaborated with The Scarabeus Theatre in a performance called Depths of My Mind and founded the website HipHopPsych, showcasing the latest psychiatry research through hip hop lyrics. Her approach has allowed her to engage with hard-to-reach teenage audiences, encouraging them to reflect on their own mental health. Beyond this work she has explored the use of social media to diagnose mental illness, and has gathered patient perspectives on ethics, privacy and data sharing in preparation for research publication.

  • Dr Paolo Bombelli (Department of Biochemistry)

Dr Bombelli’s research looks to utilise the photosynthetic chemistry of plants to create biophotovoltaic devices, a sustainable source of solar power. For over five years, he has been taking his research out of the lab to science festivals, schools and design fairs; tailoring his approach to a wider variety of audiences. Through his engagement, he has reached thousands of people, in multiple countries, and is currently developing an educational toolkit to further engage school students with advances in biophotovoltaic technology. Dr Bombelli’s public engagement work has also advanced his research, namely through a transition from using algae to moss in live demonstrations.

  • Dr Ruth Armstrong and Dr Amy Ludlow (Institute of Criminology and Faculty of Law)

Dr Armstrong and Dr Ludlow have collaborated on a research project addressing the delivery of education in the prison sector. Their project, Learning Together, pioneered a new approach to prison education where the end-users, the prisoners, are directly engaged with the design, delivery and evaluation of the research intervention. Adopting this shared dialogue approach has yielded positive results in terms of prisoners’ learning outcomes and has gathered praise from prison staff and government policy makers. Through continued engagement and partnership working, Armstrong and Ludlow have managed to expand their initiative across a broad range of sites and institutional contexts.

  • Dr Hazel Wilkinson (Department of English)

Dr Wilkinson is investigating the history of reading and writing habits in the eighteenth century. In collaboration with Dr Will Bowers at the University of Oxford, she has developed an online public platform, journallists.org, which allows readers to engage with installments of periodicals, diaries, letters, and novels, on the anniversaries of the day on which they were originally published, written, or set. Her approach has allowed members of the public to actively participate in research. She has also inspired thousands of readers to engage with under-read eighteenth and nineteenth century texts, often for the very first time.

  • Dr Paul Coxon (Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy)

Over the last ten years Dr Coxon has endeavored to engage with audiences often overlooked by traditional public engagement channels. He has given talks in venues as varied as bingo halls, working men’s social clubs and steam fairs to showcase his passion for solar research, steering clear of the “flashes and bangs” approach often associated with Chemistry. He has also designed a Fruit Solar Cell Starter Kit, used in fifty low-income catchment schools across the UK.

  • Mr Ian Hosking and Mr Bill Nicholl (Department of Engineering and Faculty of Education)

Ian Hosking and Bill Nicholl are cofounders of Designing Our Tomorrow, a platform for transforming D&T education in schools. Their public engagement initiative began in 2009 and brought together research around inclusive design and creativity in education. Through production of their DOT box, Hosking and Nicholl have taken active research questions into the classroom and given students control of designing technological solutions. Engagement with teachers, students and policymakers is integral to the success of their initiative and has resulted in engineering design being included in the national curriculum and GCSE qualifications.


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