Researchers whose work has made a real difference to society or the economy were celebrated at the ESRC's annual Impact Prize awards ceremony at the Royal Society on 20 June.

The Economic and Social Research Council’s Celebrating Impact Prize is now in its sixth year, recognising and rewarding ESRC-funded researchers who have achieved impact through outstanding research, knowledge exchange activities, collaborative partnerships and engagement with different communities. Each 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. 

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 are five different categories, as well as a prize for the Impact Champion - awarded to an individual with a significant track record in supporting and enabling others to achieve impact. The winners were chosen from a shortlist of submissions that was selected by a panel of experts. The panel also awarded £1,000 to the winner of the Future Promise prize.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair and Impact Prize panel chair said: "We were impressed with the sheer quality and diversity of the research by the winners of the Impact Prize this year. Their work is having real influence on some very important societal issues."

The winners of the 2018 Celebrating Impact Prize are:

Outstanding Early Career Impact (in partnership with SAGE publishing)

Winner: Dr Abigail Dymond, University of Exeter

Research prompts public data on police use of force 

Dr Dymond's research led to a new national reporting system on the use of force for all 43 police forces in England and Wales, resulting in more transparent and safer policing. She was invited to work on the police Use of Force Reporting Review in England and Wales after her PhD research into Taser use in England and Wales. Nine of Dr Dymond's 10 recommendations were accepted in part or in full. She has also been working alongside the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture on the production of a Practical Manual for detention monitors to assist them in monitoring the use of weapons and restraints in places of detention.

Finalist: Mr Brett Heasman, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Outstanding Impact in Business and Enterprise

Winner: Dr Denise Baden, University of Southampton

Cutting carbon footprints in the service sector

Dr Baden's work in introducing sustainable practices in the service sector has led to a reduction in hair care salons' carbon footprint and running costs. As part of the project, Dr Baden developed a virtual salon training programme and associated sustainable stylist/salon certification. By adopting sustainable practices, a salon can save an average of 286,000 litres of water, 24,150 kWh of energy and £5,300 a year. Dr Baden has shaped the sustainability component of the national occupational standards that form the basis of training for the UK's 14,000 hairdressing apprentices. Internationally Dr Baden's work has also had an impact, as global eco-hair company Davines has developed a training scheme based on her certification for salons in the 85 countries that stock its products.

Outstanding International Impact

Winner: Professor Kevin Bales, University of Nottingham

Revealing the true numbers of modern slavery

Professor Bales' research has advanced a new tool for estimating the true extent of modern slavery and trafficking across the world. His adaptation of the Multiple Systems Estimation (MSE) technique, first pioneered for slavery with Sir Bernard Silverman in 2014 for the UK, is helping to provide the first reliable estimates of modern slavery. National and global slavery estimates, including Walk Free's Global Slavery Index on which Professor Bales collaborates, are the baseline against which the United Nations can measure progress towards its Sustainable Development Goal of ending slavery by 2030. His ESRC/AHRC-funded work has enabled him to carry out further applications of MSE, particularly in a regional US context.

Outstanding Impact in Public Policy

Winner: Dr Abigail Adams, University of Oxford

Research led to Supreme Court ruling on removal of employment tribunal fees 

Research by Dr Adams was instrumental in advocates’ cases for the Supreme Court's removal of employment tribunal fees. Through a novel analysis based on economic and legal expertise, Dr Adams showed that the cost of bringing a claim outweighed the potential benefit in many cases. The research findings were published in Modern Law Review and the article was highlighted as a contribution to the Supreme Court verdict in a House of Commons research briefing. Dr Adams has collaborated with the United Nations' International Labour Organization to look at using the model to evaluate the impact of similar reforms worldwide, starting in Brazil.

Finalists: Dr John Drury, University of Sussex, and Dr Toby James, University of East Anglia

Outstanding Impact in Society

Winner: Professor Emma Renold, Cardiff University

Transforming relationships and sexuality education Relationships and sexuality education in Wales has been transformed thanks to Professor Renold's work. Her pioneering participatory research enables children and young people to speak out about gender and sexual violence. Professor Renold's toolkit AGENDA aims to help young people raise awareness of gender and sexual violence in schools, online and in communities. Since its launch, AGENDA has been endorsed and embedded into practice by key organisations that deliver Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) across Wales, reaching more than 3,000 people including young people, practitioners, youth workers, police liaison officers, teachers and academics. Findings from Professor Renold's research were also extensively cited by the Welsh Government in the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Act, passed in 2015. Professor Renold was Chair of the Cabinet Secretary for Education's expert panel on the future of SRE in Wales. Following findings and recommendations the Welsh Government is overhauling the SRE curriculum. 

Finalist: Professor Penny Green, International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University London

Impact Champion

Winner: Professor Matthew Flinders, University of Sheffield

Building capacity, impact and innovation

Over the past decade, Professor Flinders' mission has been to help UK social science researchers to reach out beyond academia. He has created not only new platforms for impact, but also helped social scientists to think differently about what they do and why they do it. Professor Flinders founded the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics in 2013 and has developed professional training courses, including the Crick Centre training course that has equipped more than 200 academics to engage more effectively with politicians and Parliament. Working with the Political Studies Association, Professor Flinders established the annual Total Exposure competition in 2015 to enable social and political scientists to pitch ideas for new TV and radio documentaries. He also established the first undergraduate module in the world to be accredited and co-taught by the Houses of Parliament, which has been rolled out to 20 UK universities.

Future Promise prize

This year the panel made the decision to award a further 'Future Promise' prize to a finalist who showed great promise for impactful research and whose work has much potential but which could be expected to reach its full impact in future. This was awarded to Brett Heasman from the LSE for his work on autism and society.

Professor Jennifer Rubin said: "The calibre of the candidates was very high, and the panel agreed to award this prize to Mr Heasman for the originality of his work and clear transformative potential."

She added: "Mr Heasman’s insights into autistic people’s perspectives have challenged public perceptions of autism, and developed tools to help people with autism and their family members understand each other better."