Cambridge commended for communication of research

"Creative, resourceful and innovative" approaches to communicating research have been recognised with four international CASE Circle of Excellence awards.

Multicolour flowing lines

A dynamic map that explores how research is having a positive impact around the world; a video that showcases one of Cambridge's radical thinkers; a multimedia story that traces the journey of discovery of pulsars by a PhD student; and a powerful news feature on the plight of a vulnerable group of Chinese citizens and the brave activists trying to help them.

These four approaches to communicating research have been recognised internationally by the 2022 CASE Circle of Excellence Awards.

CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, is a global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement professionals who share the goal of championing education to transform lives and society. CASE awards celebrate the creative, resourceful and innovative ways that communicators around the globe champion their institutions’ success.

This year, a total of 4,510 entries were submitted from 636 institutions in nearly 30 countries.

"Now more than ever, it’s crucially important that we communicate our researchers’ findings and world-changing discoveries to the broadest possible global audiences. I’m thrilled that these creative and resourceful examples of best practice in research communications have been recognised internationally."

Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

Explore Cambridge's award-winning entries:

Gold Award
Global impact map

Category:  Marketing | Micro-sites (Other)

From the Judges:
"What an impressive undertaking and a compelling and accessible way to draw together many different research impact stories. The user interface is engaging and unique in its ability to customize results by geographic area and area of impact."

Explore the map

Global impact map

In October 2021, the University of Cambridge launched a campaign to highlight the impact of its research. As part of this, a Global Impact Map was created for exploring the impact of research from the Arctic to Zambia. The map comprises a growing library of 165 case studies covering 110 countries or regions worldwide.

The microsite features a dynamic map to represent examples of impact across the world. Built with a simple and clear design, the map allows users to select case studies by hovering over dots, or to use the drop-down intuitive navigation system to select by country or by type of impact.

Information for the map was drawn from an extensive process of gathering evidence of impact that had been ongoing across the University as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a major UK exercise to assess the quality of research at universities. Recent publication of the REF results rated 93% of Cambridge's submissions as 'world-leading' or 'internationally-excellent'.

A social media campaign highlighted the map to a defined audience of policymakers, potential research partners, funders and philanthropists.

GOLD Award
The Vaccine for Fake News

Category: Video | News and Research

From the Judges:
"The Cambridge team produced a dynamic and captivating style on a topical subject. The video was thoughtful and well-done. The judges appreciated the seriousness of the topic and the way the expert clearly and compellingly explained an important subject, particularly at this moment."

Watch the film

Sander van der Linden

The Radical Thinkers film series was launched to showcase some of the brilliant innovative thinkers at our institution as part of a campaign to highlight the impact of research. First in the series was The Vaccine for Fake News featuring Dr Sander van der Linden, professor of social psychology and an expert in countering disinformation and misinformation.

Dr Sander van der Linden's research has used games to teach people how to identify fake news and has been dubbed 'a vaccine' by the media.

Appropriately for the vision of the series, the style of this film is a radical departure from usual 'talking head' approaches to film. It has a propulsive pace and style (supported by a wealth of archive footage), uses wit and intelligence, and includes stark, black and white interviews with Dr van der Linden, a dynamic and engaging speaker.  

The film has been very widely viewed and has led to Dr van der Linden being featured on a BBC podcast and the BBC website, and being invited to write an op-ed for the Guardian newspaper, which linked back to the film.

Journeys of Discovery: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Category: Communications | Storytelling

From the Judges:
"Well executed. Good link of experience to achievement to philanthropy, bringing the story full circle. The panel was particularly complimentary of the use of Dr Burnell's voice in the story and the incorporation of multiple points of view into the narrative."

Read the story

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s Journey of Discovery is a multimedia piece that tells the story of a PhD student who, in 1967, discovered pulsars, previously unknown, using the radio telescope antennae she built in a muddy field in Cambridgeshire.

Told in her own voice and with original images, the article takes the reader back to the thrilling moment of her discovery. Using new film footage, the story returns to present day as Professor Bell Burnell describes what led her to donate all of a recent £2.3 million prize to help under-represented groups become physicists.   

The aim was to celebrate the heart and mind of our University – the curiosity, imagination, passion and dedication of our young researchers – as well as the fundamental contributions the University's research makes to society. The multimedia content provides a fascinating insight into one of Cambridge's most celebrated scientists, marking the moments when her work resulted in a Nobel Prize (but controversially not to her) and inspired the artwork of an iconic album cover.   

The accompanying social media strategy drew on several angles to reach different audiences, promoting research impact on the anniversary of the discovery, celebrating women in science, and encouraging gender and diversity equality in physics.

China's Forgotten Heroes

Category: Writing | News/Feature (1,000+ words)

From the Judges:
"Another great history lesson that required a lot of work and a lot of effort. The institution did a great job telling the story and taking the reader on a historical journey."

Read the news feature

KMT veteran Zeng Defa in 2019

The story China's Forgotten Heroes was based on a recently examined PhD thesis and a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Memory Studies, and made use of global interest in the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary. It leveraged the anniversary to draw attention to the plight of a vulnerable group of Chinese citizens and the activists helping them at considerable personal risk. 

This story was prepared in parallel with discussions with the Economist, which planned to publish an exclusive until restrictions in China made it impossible to conduct interviews with the activists. This made it even more important for the University of Cambridge to publish the story. 

Writing this feature required regular, in-depth discussion with the researcher to incorporate details from her fieldwork and personal interactions with both the veterans and the activists to: (1) ensure the story reflected current events in China; (2) source previously unpublished photographs; and (3) crucially, to ensure the anonymity of the activists and the safety of the researcher.   

A key challenge for this project was the need to explain, succinctly and engagingly, a complex period of history – China’s resistance against Japan in the Second World War and the resumption of China’s Civil War – that would be unfamiliar to most readers. At the same time, the writer needed to zoom in from these big historical events to give voice to China’s forgotten heroes – a rapidly diminishing group of elderly veterans who fought against their victorious communist compatriots – and the activists striving to honour them.

With thanks to the University of Cambridge's REF team for their contributions to the Global Impact Map.

The text in this work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Image credits
Main image: John M Lund Photography Inc
Jocelyn Bell Burnell working at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO) in Cambridge in 1967 (credit: MRAO)
China's Forgotten heroes: KMT veteran Zeng Defa in 2019 (credit: Xue Gang)