NERC Impact Awards 2023

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Impact Awards champion the impact of research from the NERC-funded environmental science community on our everyday lives, including our society, economy and environment.

People are at the heart of the science we fund, and the competition has been designed to recognise and celebrate the wide range of people and roles in the environmental science research community who contribute to impactful research.

We will make the following awards:

  • an overall impact award (£20,000)
  • 3 thematic awards across the areas of economic, societal, and environmental impact. These awards will each be named according to the main area of impact delivered, which may be 1 or several of the impact areas as appropriate. At least 1 of these awards will recognise impact achieved through public engagement with research (£12,000 each)
  • an early career impact award (£12,000)
  • 4 runner-up awards across economic, societal, and environmental impact named according to the main area of impact delivered. At least 1 runner-up award will recognise impact achieved through public engagement with research (£7,000 each)
  • an early career impact runner-up award (£7,000)

The judging panels will also be invited to select additional entries for special commendation.

Awards and commendations will be presented at a high-profile ceremony showcasing the shortlisted entries and demonstrating the impact of NERC-funded research to champions of environmental science from business and industry, government and the academic communities.

Applications for the 2023 Impact Awards must be submitted by midday on 21 April 2023. The awards ceremony will be held in London on the evening of Wednesday 29 November 2023.

The case study template for applicants is similar to the template for the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF) and Evaluation of NERC Centres 2020 impact case studies.

Who can enter

Entries must meet the following criteria:

  1. The lead applicant is currently employed within an eligible research organisation. This criterion is slightly different for impact achieved mostly through public engagement, where there can be different delivery mechanisms. For these entries at least 1 of the team members must be currently employed in an eligible research organisation.
  2. The entry describes impact that has already been delivered.
  3. The NERC-funded activity made a clear and significant contribution to the delivered impact. NERC-funded activity means anything funded by NERC, including for example research, innovation, training and public engagement. There is no time constraint on when the NERC funding was received or when the impact was realised.
  4. NERC-funded applicants and team members have met all conditions of their funding to date.

Entries can be from individuals or teams from 1 or more institutions (apart from the early career entries which must be individual: see ‘Early Career Impact Award applications’ below). You can submit, or be part of a team, for more than 1 entry provided that the impact topics are separate.

NERC is committed to creating and sustaining a positive, fair and inclusive environment for our research community to ensure that all candidates feel welcomed, included and valued. We therefore encourage applications from all individuals who meet the eligibility criteria from all backgrounds regardless of:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • ethnicity (which includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins)
  • religion or belief
  • sex or sexual orientation
  • neurodiversity
  • socioeconomic background
  • any other protected characteristic

We particularly encourage applications from groups that are currently underrepresented in the UK research community, and team applications that recognise the diversity of roles and contributions involved in delivering research and impact.

Submitting impacts entered in previous NERC Impact Awards

You may enter an impact topic that was entered into a previous NERC Impact Awards if you can clearly demonstrate that significant further impact has been realised or has come to light since the previous entry. The NERC team will check whether the identified new developments are significant against the assessment criteria. Once this has been confirmed, these entries will be assessed in their entirety in the same way as other entries.

Previous winners and runners up may submit new entries, as long as these are substantially different from the previous successful entry.

Checking eligibility

The NERC team will check entries against the criteria outlined above in this section. Entries not meeting 1 or more of the criteria will be disqualified. Please do get in touch if you have any queries about eligibility.

Early Career Impact Award applications

Recognising that impact can take time to accrue, there will be a separate category for early career researchers. Entries will be judged using the same process and criteria. Only individual entries will be accepted for this category. You must have received significant NERC funding, for example a PhD studentship or postdoctoral employment, and be starting your research career or transitioning to, or establishing an independent research career.

Should you wish to be considered for this category, we will ask you to briefly explain why you meet the criteria. We recognise that individuals have different circumstances including career breaks, secondments, volunteering, part-time work and time spent in different sectors that might affect progression as a researcher, and welcome such applications. Do contact the NERC team if you would like to discuss eligibility for this category.

The explanations will be considered by the NERC team in consultation with the chair of the selection panels if there are any issues. Entries deemed not eligible according to the above definition will be put forward for the main awards.

What we’re looking for

What is impact?

We will use the Research Excellence Framework (REF) definition of impact:

“An effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia. Impact may include cost savings, for example reduction or prevention of negative effects, or benefits resulting from a decision not to undertake a particular course of action. Impact may have been realised in the UK, other locations or both. Benefits may have been delivered directly, or indirectly for example by informing policy or regulation.”

Within this broad definition we have identified 3 main areas of impact. Note that these areas are not intended to be exclusive: we encourage, and will assess on an equal basis, any impact that meets the REF definition above.

Economic impact

Impacts that are mainly economic, which may have benefitted for example businesses, governments, third sector organisations, communities or members of the public.

Examples of economic impact include (but are not limited to):

  • growth in income
  • growth in market share
  • cost savings
  • increased efficiency
  • reduced risks
  • improved livelihoods
  • more resilient communities

We particularly encourage entries that demonstrate economic benefits that are supportive of national and international climate change and development targets, for example the UK Net Zero Target and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Societal impact

Benefits to society that are not mainly economic. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • improved human health
  • improved quality of life
  • cultural, equality and diversity or community benefits
  • behaviour change
  • improved public services

Environmental impact

Impacts that are mainly of benefit to the environment. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • improving or reducing pressures on species, habitats, ecosystem functions and landscapes
  • addressing major environmental challenges such as climate change and pollution

Impact from public engagement

Reflecting our growing investment in public engagement, delivering against our Public engagement with research and innovation strategy, we are keen to celebrate economic, societal or environmental impact that was achieved through engaging the public in and with research. This may include for example consultation, co-design, citizen science, exhibitions and events. We encourage entries of this type, and intend to recognise impact that was achieved through public engagement with research through 1 or more of the awards.

How to enter

Entries should be submitted through SurveyMonkey by midday on 21 April. We will acknowledge receipt of your entry. Any entries received after the deadline will not be considered.

To enter we will ask you to complete 2 forms:

1. SurveyMonkey entry form

An entry form on SurveyMonkey requesting:

  • the information needed to administer and evaluate the competition
  • information about diversity characteristics, which will be anonymised and summarised for evaluation purposes only

For team applications the lead applicant will complete the full form, and each team member will need to provide their personal information via a shorter version of the form. If you are part of more than 1 entry you will only need to complete the form once.

You can leave the survey and return to finish it at a later date before it is submitted, just close the survey and reopen the survey link (from the same device) when you are ready to continue. Responses are automatically saved page by page as you progress through the survey (each time you click ‘next’ on each page of the survey, the previous page saves). Once you have clicked ‘done – submit survey’ on the final page, you will no longer be able to return to edit.

2. Impact case study document

An impact case study Word document, to be uploaded into the lead applicant’s SurveyMonkey form. The case study will be shared with the Impact Awards panels for assessment. The template is very similar to the REF2021 and Evaluation of NERC Centres 2020 impact case study templates.

The ‘Data protection for applicants’ section below describes in more detail how this information will be stored and used in accordance with the UKRI privacy notice.

Applicant declaration

In the SurveyMonkey form applicants will be invited to agree to the following declaration:

I declare that:

  • my (or my team’s) entry has been completed in full and is correct at the time of submission
  • I will accept the panel decisions on shortlisting and award recipients
  • the evidence in the impact case study section may be used by NERC for other purposes not related to the Impact Awards, as described under ‘Data protection for applicants’
  • If I or my team is shortlisted for an award:
    • I (or members of my team) will work with NERC or third parties to develop publicity material to promote the impact case study and the awards, including a short video, for use during the award ceremony and subsequently
    • where appropriate I (or members of my team) will assist NERC to invite some of the beneficiaries of the impact described in the case study to get involved with the ceremony
    • NERC and UKRI has the right to use images from my (or my team’s) application, and images, video and quotes from the event in literature or promotional activities
    • to the best of my ability, I will keep NERC informed of any changes in contact details and of any press releases that are issued related to the impact
    • I (or members of my team) will make all reasonable efforts to attend an online interview in October 2023, the award ceremony on 29 November 2023, and potential related NERC events to promote impact in the 2 months before and 6 months after the award ceremony (see the ‘If you are shortlisted’ section for information about support for costs for attending events)
    • I will abide by the terms and conditions for using the award money, which will include me (or my team) submitting a brief report to NERC 12 months after receiving the award (see ‘If you are shortlisted’ for more detail)

Do get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspect of this declaration. Contact details can be found below.

How we will assess your entry

Entries will be assessed in 3 stages:

  1. The NERC team will check eligibility against the criteria listed under ‘Who can enter’.
  2. A shortlisting panel will assess the entries against the assessment criteria listed below and shortlist 10 entries.
  3. A judging panel will interview shortlisted candidates and select the award recipients using the assessment criteria

The panels will bring a variety of expertise and experience in assessing the impact of environmental science. They will include a diverse set of representatives from:

  • research user organisations including government and business
  • the research community
  • public engagement professionals
  • NERC

In accordance with UKRI policy on conflicts of interest, panel members will be asked to declare potential conflicts of interest beforehand, and to leave the room during discussion of any entry in which they have a conflict of interest.

Assessment criteria

Entries will be judged using the REF impact criteria, namely the reach and significance of the impact achieved.

Reach means the extent and diversity of the beneficiaries of the impact. It will be assessed in terms of the extent to which the potential constituencies, number or groups of beneficiaries have been reached. It will not be assessed in purely geographic terms, nor in terms of absolute numbers of beneficiaries.

Significance means the degree to which the impact has enabled, enriched, influenced, informed or changed the beneficiaries.

Panel assessment

The panels will form an overall view about the reach and significance of each entry, rather than assessing reach and significance separately.

The panels will assess all areas of impact in each entry. The thematic awards and runners-up will be named according to the area of impact delivered, which may be 1 or several of the impact areas as appropriate.

You may submit case studies describing impacts at any stage of development or maturity. However, in line with the definition of impact outlined in ‘What we’re looking for’, the panels will only assess impact already achieved (benefits already delivered). No account will be taken of anticipated or future potential impact, the research process or the effort put into delivering the impact.

If you are shortlisted

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend a virtual interview with the judging panel in October 2023. You will also be expected to make all reasonable efforts to attend the awards ceremony in London on the evening of 29 November 2023.

For both the interview and the awards ceremony we will invite you to discuss with us how we can accommodate any additional requirements. We can refund travel and subsistence for the ceremony and any related events that falls within UKRI’s travel and subsistence policy.

Where attendance falls outside your usual working hours as set out by your employer, we may be able to cover reasonable costs related to caring commitments where this presents a barrier to engagement.

Award funds will be transferred to the lead applicant’s institution of employment. For team entries the award funds shall be distributed proportionately, and we will liaise with the lead applicant to agree the most appropriate way to do so within our statutory obligations and funding requirements.

The award funds must be used within 12 months of receipt to further enhance the impacts from the NERC-funded activity. Award recipients will be required to comply with the funding terms and conditions, and to submit a brief report to NERC 12 months after receiving the award.

The report should explain how the award money was used to further the impact, and how you considered diversity and inclusion and environmental sustainability in planning and delivering the work, in line with the NERC diversity and inclusion living action plan and UKRI environmental sustainability strategy.

The report will be reviewed by the impact team and may be used for wider NERC impact evidence activity (see more details under ‘Data protection for applicants’ below).

Timetable

  • deadline for entries: midday on 21 April 2023
  • results of shortlisting stage: June 2023
  • shortlisted applicants and teams participate in communications and media activities: June-November 2023
  • online (remote) interviews of shortlisted applicants and teams: October 2023
  • awards ceremony: London, 29 November 2023

Data protection for applicants

All personal data provided in connection to the Impact Awards 2023 will be processed in accordance with UK data protection legislation. The information will be stored and used as follows:

The information needed to administer and evaluate the competition will be stored in a secure site only accessible to the NERC competition team.

Information about the diversity characteristics of the lead applicant and each team member will be stored in a secure site only accessible to the NERC team. Individual information will only be viewed by the NERC team. Summary statistics will be included in the evaluation report which will be used to report performance, inform strategy, and inform the design of future similar exercises. Any counts that are fewer than 5 will be withheld to protect individual identities.

The impact case studies will be stored in a secure site only accessible to the NERC Impact Awards team, and will be shared with the NERC Impact Awards panels for assessment via a secure site.

The case studies will also be saved, with all information marked confidential removed, in a shared site open across the NERC office. These versions may be used by NERC for other purposes not related to the Impact Awards, for example in impact case studies published on the UKRI website or shared within UKRI and government departments (such as the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) for briefing, reporting and analysis purposes.

Your personal information will be retained in line with the UKRI retention policy.

The lawful basis for this processing is Article 6 (1) (e) of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): “processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller”.

Further information on how we use personal data, and how you can exercise your rights as a data subject, can be found in the UKRI privacy notice.

Guidance for filling out the impact case study template

This guidance will help you to fill in the impact case study which should be uploaded as an attachment to the SurveyMonkey application form.

The case study is the material that will be shared with and assessed by the panels. Panel members will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, and to refrain from sharing the information with anyone else.

The information in the case study may also be used by NERC for other activities not related to the Impact Awards, for example in impact case studies published on the NERC website or shared within UKRI and government. Please mark any material not suitable for the public domain with ‘START CONFIDENTIAL’ and ‘END CONFIDENTIAL’.

You may also wish to read How to write the best impact case studies: feedback from the NERC Impact Awards panels, a blog by the panel chair for the 2018 NERC Impact Awards.

Main case study

The main case study should not exceed 4 pages in total and should be completed in Arial 11 point.

Title

Short title summarising the impact

Summary of the impact

A plain English summary of the impact, maximum 100 words. Summarise what the benefits were, who benefitted, and the contribution of the NERC-funded activity.

Underpinning activity

Briefly summarise:

  • the key insights, findings, breakthroughs or achievements that led to the impact
  • the role of the NERC funding in enabling the impact

References

Up to 6 references to key outputs from the underpinning activity described. Please number the references and refer to them in the appropriate sections of the underpinning activity section. Please link to a digital object identifier (DOI) where appropriate.

Details of the impact

Describe the impacts that have already been realised, specifying clearly what the benefits were and who or what has benefitted. Provide supporting evidence, including:

  • key points of wider context to illustrate the significance of the impact
  • the magnitude and significance of the impacts. Evidence may be quantitative data or qualitative information, for instance feedback or testimonials from impact beneficiaries
  • who or what benefitted from the impact
  • how the NERC-funded activity made a clear and significant contribution to the impact. Where the NERC-funded activity was part of a wider set of work that contributed to the impact (such as funding from other sources, or collaboration with other institutions), specify the particular contribution of the NERC-funded activity and acknowledge other key contributions
  • approximate dates when the impacts occurred

For continued case studies, show clearly which impacts have materialised or come to light since the entry to a previous NERC Impact Awards competition (for more details see ‘Submitting impacts entered in previous NERC Impact Awards’ in the ‘Who can enter’ section).

Remember that:

  • entries will be judged on the reach and significance of the impact achieved (see ‘How we will assess your entry’)
  • in line with the definition of impact (see ‘What we’re looking for’), the panels will only assess impact already achieved (benefits already delivered). No account will be taken of anticipated or future potential impact, how the work was conducted or the effort put into delivering the impact

Sources to corroborate the impact

List up to 10 external sources that could provide additional corroboration of specific claims made in the case study. Where not already publicly available, this should be sources that could be made available if requested by a panel. Sources could include for example:

  • reports, reviews, web links or other documented sources of information in the public domain
  • confidential reports or documents
  • factual statements from key users or beneficiaries that corroborate claims made in the case study

Annex: supplementary information

There is no page limit for this section. This information will be shared with the panels as supplementary information that they may refer to when assessing the impact case study. The information may also be used by NERC for other purposes not related to the Impact Awards, for example in impact case studies published on the NERC website or shared within UKRI and government.

Applicant names

Title, name and organisation of the lead applicant and any team members.

NERC funding received

Please provide grant references for funding received from NERC relevant to this work, as far back as possible. Where grant references are not available please provide title, principal investigator name and year.

Beyond the Impact Awards, this information will help us to make the case for funding for NERC and environmental science by enhancing our understanding of impact pathways, for instance the role of different funding mechanisms and funders, or the time from funding to impact.

Use of NERC infrastructure and resources

Where applicable, brief information about the use of any NERC research infrastructure or resources, such as ships, aircraft, polar bases, capital equipment, services and facilities, and data centres.

Beyond the Impact Awards, this information will help us to report and evaluate performance, and to make the case for future investments in research infrastructure and resources.

Funding from other sources

Where applicable, a brief summary of funding received from other funders (funder name and total amount) and other UKRI councils (grant references).

Beyond the Impact Awards, this information will help us to make the case for funding for NERC and environmental science by enhancing our understanding of impact pathways and the role of NERC funding.

Diversity and inclusion

NERC is committed to creating and sustaining a positive, fair and inclusive environment for our research community, as described in our diversity and inclusion living action plan. Where applicable, please briefly explain how the impacts described in the case study contributed to, or could contribute to, diversity and inclusion.

Beyond the Impact Awards, this information will help us to develop diversity and inclusion strategy, report performance and celebrate success.

Contact us

Please feel free to contact the NERC team if you have any queries, at:

Email: impact@nerc.ukri.org

Last updated: 23 January 2023

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