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Public Engagement Awards celebrate Birkbeck research achievements

The awards ceremony honoured research work from Birkbeck academics and PhD researchers that is finding a wider audience.

Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon from the Department of accepts her award for Transforming Culture or Public Life.
Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon accepts her award for Transforming Culture or Public Life

The inaugural Public Engagement Awards were staged 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.

With 25 projects in the running for an award, in excess of 60 guests attended the ceremony and reception at the historic Mary Ward House, where the winners were announced for each of the five categories, while a further 10 projects were highly commended.

Professor David Latchman CBE, Master of Birkbeck praised the high quality of candidates for the first year of the awards.

He said: “I believe this is a very important occasion, where we celebrate Birkbeck’s contribution to public engagement with our research and I’m delighted that we’ve had such a range of excellent applicants from across the College – the judges have had a very difficult task in deciding who should win.”

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 five categories.

Communicating Research

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

Winner: Dr Louisa Preston (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences)

Dr Preston explores the question, ‘Is there life on Mars?’, in talks and demonstrations at public festivals, in her own show on BBC Radio 4 and through working with schools to inspire the next generation of STEM students.

Highly Commended: Dr Grace Halden, Dr Caroline Edwards, Dr Sanjib Bhakta


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

Winner: Dr Jessica Reinisch (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology)

The project group collaborated with award-winning children’s author Francesca Sanna to explore how best to encourage children to think critically about current international problems such as the refugee crisis, the outbreak of global epidemics and the limitations of international organisations.

Highly Commended: Dr Iroise Dumontheil, Dr Isabel Davis

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: Dr Luciana Martins (Department of Culture and Languages)

Dr Martins’ project reconnects indigenous communities with a 19th century collection of artefacts and botanical specimens from the Amazon and the Andes, using workshops and film to enable participants to recover their histories.

Highly Commended: Dr Tim J Smith, Professor Jean-Marc Dewaele

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: Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon (Department of Psychological Sciences)

Dr Brooks-Gordon has worked extensively with the sex-work community, stakeholders and co-researchers to understand the changing nature of prostitution in the UK, to empower marginalised groups and to drive policy development.

Highly Commended: Professor Daniel Monk

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: Dr Mark Panton (Sport Business Centre, Department of Management)

Dr Panton recently received his PhD for his thesis, ‘How do Stakeholders Influence Stadium-led Regeneration? The Story from East Manchester and Tottenham'. The report focused on understanding local communities’ and stakeholders’ perspectives on stadium-led regeneration.

Highly Commended: Flore Janssen, Guy Beckett


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 RCUK SEE-PER grant.

Details for the 2018/2019 awards will be announced in autumn 2018. 

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