What makes a good application for an Impact Award? Q&A with Fiona Goff

The deadline for the NERC 2018 Impact Awards is fast approaching (noon on 21 May 2018) so we spoke to NERC’s Head of Evidence Fiona Goff to find out what makes a great application. 

What are the impact awards?

The impact awards are about celebrating NERC-funded researchers and their colleagues in research user organisations whose work has had substantial impact on the economy and society either in the UK or abroad.

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Building informal city centre science spaces to reach the hard-to-reach

There are many reasons why academics, funders and universities want to find better ways to  involve the public in research. Underpinning most are common concepts; social equity, inclusivity and responsible use of tax payer’s money. ‘Science for all’ has been a policy driver for decades, and yet students from poorer families are still less likely to study science post 16, and less likely to do well when they do. As such, many of us working on public engagement with research do so with an eye to targeting ‘hard to reach’ audiences. These are generally those publics from cultural and socio economic demographics with traditionally low level of participation in science and, more broadly, in higher education. Despite inclusivity-facing public engagement, however, hard to reach audiences remain just that. Many of us will have participated in science festivals, workshops and outreach events where it is all too clear we are ‘preaching to the converted’; targeting the same already-engaged audiences again and again.

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Increasing science capital with citizen science

It is far too tempting to be dismissive of emerging buzzwords or sparkly new concepts as merely the re-emergence of established wisdom dressed in the latest fashionable ‘new-speak’. Occasionally however, a term will come along that helps us re-evaluate the place science has in society. The term ‘science capital’, a measure of an individual’s relationship with science, is just such a word, and to pluck another buzzy phrase out of the zeitgeist, it offers a chance to ‘check your privilege’ (perhaps a topic for another post!).

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How to write about science

You live and breathe science. You spend your days trying to understand the inner secrets of nature. You dream of your next paper and your science making a real difference to the world. But you have forgotten that the people that matter do not read dusty journals or obscure monographs. They don’t even read Nature or Science despite what your boss says. But instead they catch up on the latest finds through blogs and articles that distill the excitement of new finds into small manageable and understandable chunks. No more 20-page method section but instead a whole new style of writing that us twenty first century scientists must master.

So take a deep breath and plan your first popular science article.

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