2023 ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winners announced

A group shot of the 2023 ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winners.

Researchers whose work has made an outstanding societal and economic contribution were celebrated at the eleventh annual ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize awards.

The Celebrating Impact Prize is part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science. The event was live streamed from the Royal Society in London on 15 November.

The competition recognises and rewards ESRC-funded researchers who have achieved impact through exceptional research, knowledge exchange activities, collaborative partnerships and engagement with different communities.

Making an impact

Each category winner was awarded a prize of £10,000 to be spent on furthering knowledge exchange, public engagement, or other communications activities to promote the economic and social impact of their research.

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize awards ceremony 2023 was held during the 21st ESRC Festival of Social Science. This is a UK wide series of events to promote and increase awareness of the contribution social science makes to the wellbeing and the economy of society in the UK.

ESRC’s Executive Chair Stian Westlake said:

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize is our opportunity to recognise the remarkable achievements of outstanding social scientists, whose works has harnessed the power of social science to shape a fairer and more prosperous world.

It’s been fantastic to host the ceremony, and I commend the exemplary researchers that have harnessed their ESRC-funding to make contributions beyond academia that are of potentially long-lasting and life-changing benefit to society.

From using consumer data to encourage healthier behaviour among supermarket shoppers, to helping design a COVID-19 welfare response in South Africa and tackling a town’s long-term unemployment issues, these researchers have delivered real impacts that have benefitted people all over the world.

2023 Celebrating Impact Prize winners

The winners for the ESRC 2023 Celebrating Impact Prize are below. Find out more about their projects and watch their impact videos.

Outstanding Business and Enterprise Impact winner

Team application: Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team, Consumer Data Research Centre

Led by Professor Michelle Morris, University of Leeds

Enhancing retailer knowledge and building capacity using consumer data

Research by the ESRC-funded Consumer Data Research Centre is changing how supermarkets promote products to customers and how they deliver their services. This is helping shape buying behaviour and encouraging people to make healthier and more sustainable food choices in their supermarket shop.

Outstanding Early Career Impact winner

Lukas Lehner, University of Oxford

Designing a guaranteed job scheme to employ long-term unemployed people

ESRC-funded research by Lukas Lehner helped design a successful job-guarantee scheme in the Austrian town of Marienthal. The scheme brought more than 100 people who had been unemployed for a year or more back into work, eliminating long-term unemployment in the area. It made participants feel happier, more financially secure and more involved in their community.

Outstanding International Impact winner

Professor Rachel Murray, University of Bristol

Collaborative working to redress human rights violations for African peoples

ESRC-funded research led by Professor Rachel Murray focused on understanding how to enhance the delivery of reparations to victims of human rights violations. It has influenced strategy and decision-making in national courts and state authorities leading to significant impacts on communities and individuals and helping ensure the victims of wrongs are delivered due justice.

Outstanding Public Policy Impact winner

Dr Kate Orkin, University of Oxford

Redesigning social protection in South Africa: poverty relief, job search and youth employment during COVID-19

Dr Kate Orkin’s ESRC-funded research on ‘unconditional cash transfers’, where money is distributed without conditions directly to poor households. The research provided insights that helped the South African government design and implement a radical new welfare response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to 5.5 million fewer people facing poverty and hunger.

Outstanding Societal Impact winner

Team application: Waterproofing Data team

Led by Professor João Porto de Albuquerque, University of Glasgow

Democratising data: empowering communities at risk from flooding in Brazil

Professor João Porto de Albuquerque’s ESRC-funded project developed an innovative approach combining community-generated data and analytics to increase community resilience and enhance the capacity of residents of flood-prone areas in Brazil to take protective action. It has also informed the practice of humanitarian organisations and Brazil’s National Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning Centre.

Panel commendation: Early Career Impact finalist

Dr Philip Butler, Cardiff University

In command: the psychological skills of fire service incident commanders

Dr Philip Butler has used his ESRC-funded doctoral studentship to produce THe INcident Command Skills, a freely available assessment tool and training programme. It helps to support the development of fire and rescue service incident commanders command skills, leading to more effective incident command and shaping national policy and qualifications.

Outstanding Early Career Impact finalist

Dr Julia Ebner, University of Oxford

Understanding indicators of proneness to extreme violence among online users

The growing number of online violent threats makes it difficult to distinguish between empty words and credible threats. ESRC-funded doctoral researcher Dr Julia Ebner has developed a new framework that analyses online language. It predicts the likelihood that individuals will engage in real-world violence revealing patterns that can be used to better predict acts of terror and extremism.

Outstanding Public Policy Impact finalists

Team application: BeSupported

Led by Dr Emily Harrop, Cardiff University and Dr Lucy Selman, University of Bristol

Improving bereavement support: legacies of a COVID-19 innovation grant

An ESRC-funded study by Dr Emily Harrop and Dr Lucy Selman, investigated people’s experiences of grief and what support they needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the capacity of bereavement services to provide effective and appropriate support. The research highlighted the importance of ensuring equal, timely access to bereavement support and the findings have shaped the UK’s policies and services around bereavement.

Team application: The Countering Kleptocracy Project

Led by Professor John Heathershaw, University of Exeter

Tackling the UK’s kleptocracy problem

The flow of illicit wealth into the UK is costs the UK economy billions of pounds each year and can be a risk to national security. ESRC-funded research, led by Professor John Heathershaw, is looking into countering ‘kleptocracy’, corruption among elites within a political system, including laundering assets overseas. The research is increasing understanding of the impact this activity has on the UK, and what government and policymakers can do to control it.

Outstanding Societal Impact finalist

Professor Duncan Shaw, The University of Manchester

Recovery, renewal, resilience and spontaneous volunteers during COVID-19

ESRC-funded researcher Professor Duncan Shaw has identified the value of networks of local-community volunteers in responding to emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It shaped UK and international policies on mobilising spontaneous volunteers and how they can be effectively and safely used to assist public sector bodies and private sector organisations in local and national emergencies.

Top image:  Credit: 2023 ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winners. Credit: Earl Smith

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