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Celebrating the best of Public Engagement at Birkbeck

Birkbeck scholars and collaborators were recognised for the ways in which they work with the public and non-academic communities to make their research accessible and to include non-academic expertise in their research practice.

The second Public Engagement Awards were held last night to recognise and celebrate the myriad ways that Birkbeck scholars work with the public and communities to make their research accessible and to include non-academic expertise.

Dozens of guests joined the ceremony and reception at the historic Mary Ward House, where the winners were announced for each of the six categories.

Mary-Clare Hallsworth, Public Engagement Manager for Birkbeck, introduced the awards. Introducing the evening, she said: “In the last year alone, we’ve been able to support 150 researchers with their public engagement activities, providing support and advice from everything from idea generation, to funding applications, to delivery and evaluation.

“All this work, and the people and projects that we celebrate here, showcases the really brilliant research that we have here at Birkbeck, and which contributes to our impact outside the university, and our civic place as London’s evening university.”

The evening, officiated by Birkbeck's Pro-Vice Master for Research Professor Julian Swann, showcased outstanding work across all of Birkbeck’s academic schools in the six categories.

Communicating Research

This award recognises excellence in communicating research projects and ideas through stimulating or innovative activities.

Winner: Professor Sanjib Bhakta and team (Department of Biological Sciences), Tb Or Not Tb? A Dynamic Approach in Tackling Antibiotic Resistance in Superbug

Professor Bhakta and his team engaged with local school students to investigate how to tackle the global health emergency of tuberculosis. The school acquired over-the-counter medicines which the students then investigated for their antibiotic action.

Highly commended: Professor Nazanin Derakhshan (Department of Psychological Sciences), Empowering Resilience in Women Affected by Breast Cancer

Community Engagement

This award recognises projects that engage and empower communities and wider society, celebrating how local, national and international communities shape our work.

Winner: Dr Julia Laite and team (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology), North Kensington Archive and Heritage Project

Responding to the longer-term aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Dr Laite and her team are seeking to engage and empower the local community to preserve their history and develop their own narrative. They are working with the Bishopsgate Institute to create an archive of the community’s response to the fire that also reflects their vibrancy and resilience.

Collaboration

This award recognises outstanding engagement work based on an active collaboration and a two-way working relationship with an external partner or partners.

Winner: Professor Daniel Pick, Dr Sarah Marks, (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology) and team, Open Minds: Exploring Hidden Persuasion in Modern Society

The project team ran a series of assemblies and workshops enabling 16-17 year old students to learn about the team’s research into Cold-War-era ideas about ‘brainwashing’ and mind control. The teenagers were supported to produce their own films on social media, peer pressure, gangs, advertising and body image.

Highly commended: Dr Benedetta Crisafulli and team (Department of Management), Care Experiences Within a Hospital: How Patients and their Supporting Network Perceive Health Service Experiences, and the Implications for Patients’ Well-being

Engaged Practice

This award recognises high-quality research that uses participation and involvement of the public as a core approach to the creation of research. These projects were built on a foundation of dialogue and deliberation with public participants, which consequently empowered or improved the lives of those involved.

Winner: Professor Lisa Baraitser (Department of Psychosocial Studies), Dr Michel Flexer (University of Exeter) and team, Waiting Times: Messages in Bottles

The Waiting Times project is a multi-stranded research project into the temporarilites of healthcare. The project itself has four core strands, one of which, ‘Speaking of Waiting,’ is a piece of publicly engaged research creating and sharing stories of waiting and time in relation to healthcare.

Transforming Culture or Public Life

This award recognises exemplary research engagement activities which have aimed to stimulate change within our culture or society. Projects in this category tackled a range of societal challenges, often working with organisations and policy makers to highlight the voices of those their research affects.

Winner: Professor Daniel Monk and Dr Jan Macvarish (Department of Law), Siblings, Contact and the Law: An Overlooked Relationship?

Siblings are routinely separated in the public care system, resulting in an absence or lack of contact between them. Professor Monk and Dr Macvarish, with members of the Family Justice Young People’s Board, sought to learn more about this emerging area of concern and to enhance engagement with key stakeholders working in family justice.

PhD/Early Career

This award recognises the inspiring public engagement work undertaken by researchers in the early stages of their research career. The commitment this group of early-career scholars has shown to undertaking engagement work alongside their research is particularly of note.

Winner: Jessica Massonnié (Department of Psychological Sciences), Noise Annoyance in Schools: is it a Fatality?

Teachers in elementary schools often complain about noise levels. However, very little is known about children’s perception of classroom noise: how annoyed are they? Working in close collaboration with artists and elementary school teachers, Jessica designed child-friendly interventions with the potential to improve children’s well-being while also aiding data gathering on noise in the classroom.

Highly commended:

  • Ajitesh Ghose (Centre for Cognition, Computation and Modelling), Unearthing Gender Stereotypes in Visual Artificial Intelligence Models
  • Katie Stone (Department of English and Humanities), Utopian Acts

The development of the awards is part of a wider plan to enhance the College’s support for public engagement and is supported by a Wellcome Trust ISSF grant and  a UKRI SEE-PER grant.

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