The winners of the annual Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize, now in its fifth year, have been announced at a special awards ceremony held on the evening of 21 June in Westminster, central London.

The prize recognises and rewards researchers whose work has made a real difference to society or the economy, be it through outstanding research, collaborative partnerships, engagement, or knowledge exchange activities. The winners of the six different categories have each been 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.

There are many different ways that social science can change our society for the better, for example by enhancing the economic competitiveness of the UK; improving public services; raising standards of living and health; contributing to the development of UK policy; driving innovation or improving management practices of businesses; helping a particular group in society; or helping societies in other countries. To reflect this diversity there were five different categories, as well as a prize for the Impact Champion - an individual who has a significant personal track record in supporting and enabling others to achieve impact.

The winners of the 2017 Celebrating Impact Prize are:

Outstanding Early Career Impact (in partnership with SAGE publishing)

Dr Harriet Thomson, University of Manchester

Bringing fuel poverty in from the cold: addressing the knowledge and policy gaps across Europe

Dr Thomson developed a new method for measuring household fuel poverty, and established the EU Fuel Poverty Network (EUFPN), a leading online platform for information about fuel poverty, with around 21,000 visitors since 2012. The research changed how policymakers across Europe view the issue of fuel poverty, and has directly led to changes in energy policy.

Outstanding Impact in Business and Enterprise

Professor Monder Ram (and Professor Kiran Trehan), University of Birmingham

Diversity, inclusion and facilitating change: The enterprise and diversity alliance

The researchers, who work at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at the University of Birmingham, set up the Enterprise and Diversity Alliance (EDA), a group of public and private sector organisations dedicated to promoting ethnic minority entrepreneurship and enterprise in the UK. The initiative has helped build relationships between small and medium minority businesses and large institutions such as banks. In doing so, it has improved their access to finance, market opportunities and their overall performance.

Outstanding Impact in Society

Ms Madeleine Sumption (and Carlos Vargas Silva), University of Oxford

Informing debates on international migration and public policy

The researchers set up the Migration Observatory in the spring of 2011, an independent organisation aiming at improving the accuracy and depth of the UK's public debate on migration. Over the years it has provided invaluable information to the public, government, media and third sector organisations, particularly in the run up to two general elections, the Scottish independence referendum and the EU membership referendum. Trusted by politicians and journalists across the political spectrum, the organisation has put high-quality, unbiased social science research at the heart of public debates on migration.

Outstanding International Impact

Professor Lucie Cluver, University of Oxford

Social science preventing adolescent HIV in Africa

Professor Cluver's research on adolescents infected with HIV and AIDS in Africa showed that young people's risk of contracting the illness could be vastly reduced by providing poor families with social welfare payments, and also increasing the support they are given by their parents. She coined the term 'cash plus care' to describe this combination prevention approach, which has since been adopted by national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa, and led to new health interventions being rolled out across Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Outstanding Impact in Public Policy

Professor Amina Memon, Royal Holloway, University of London

Achieving best evidence: Fair and effective criminal justice for all victims and witnesses

Professor Memon’s research evaluating the cognitive interview (CI) as a method of eliciting accurate recall in eyewitnesses led to the universal adoption of this technique by police forces across the UK. In particular, her research showed that CI interviews could be used with young children, the elderly, and people with autism without inducing false memories, giving police officers the confidence to gather testimony from these important but vulnerable witnesses for use in criminal trials.

Impact Champion

Professor Anand Menon, King’s College London

Professor Menon is Director of the UK in a Changing Europe, an ESRC-funded initiative launched in 2014 to support research on the relationship between the UK and the EU, and provide the public, government and media with independent and impartial information in the run up to the referendum and beyond. Throughout his time as leader, Professor Menon encouraged and motivated other researchers to engage with the public in novel and creative ways. As well as gaining extensive coverage in national media, and connecting policy makers with high quality research, his willingness to experiment and embrace new forms of engagement and encourage other researchers to participate in these allowed the initiative to reach an unprecedented number of people.

Jane Elliott, ESRC Chief Executive said:

"This year the standard and breadth of applications was excellent. Congratulations to each of our winners, all of whom have worked tirelessly, using a range of diverse approaches to make sure their research achieves maximum impact and changes our society for the better."

The shortlist was selected by a panel of experts from a wide range of submissions which included written evidence from organisations that have used the research to shape their policies and practice.
This year’s panel consisted of:

  • Professor Richard Breen, Professorial Fellow, Nuffield College, University of Oxford
  • Dr Abbi Hobbs, Senior Advisor in Social Science, UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
  • Dr Johannes Klumpers, Head of Scientific Advice Mechanism Unit, European Commission
  • Dr Claire McNulty, Director Science and Research, British Council
  • Professor Tony McEnery (Chair), Director of Research and International, ESRC
  • Matt Sansam, Programme Manager, Innovate UK
  • Dr Emma Weitkamp, Associate Professor in Science Communication, UWE Bristol