Winners of the O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021 announced

Congratulations to the winners of the O²RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021, announced today as Dr Gemma Briggs (The Open University), Dr Jamie Lachman and Professor Lucie Cluver, Professor Melinda Mills, Dr Jennifer Beam Dowd and team, and Dr Sarah Spencer and Mr Nicola Delvino (University of Oxford).

The Excellence in Impact Awards, supported by the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, recognise and reward social scientists whose research has achieved excellent economic and social impact. This year’s winners have collaborated with policymakers, industry partners, academics and NGOs around the globe to impact a wide range of complex and urgent societal challenges; from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on rates of parenting stress and child abuse, to European cities’ policies and practices towards irregular migrants, and the imperative to educate drivers on the dangers of hands-free phone use.

The Chair of the Awards panel, Professor Heather Viles (Associate Head of Division (Research) for the Social Sciences Division, University of Oxford) said, ‘I am delighted to announce the winners of the O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021. We received an exceptionally strong set of applications this year, demonstrating the incredible breadth of impact that social sciences researchers are having across society. I am looking forward to the Awards ceremony on 19th October and the opportunity to hear our winners speak live about their collaboration and impact journeys.’

The winners:

Dr Gemma Briggs (School of Psychology and Counselling, The Open University)

Awarded for: Advising the national campaign to educate drivers on the dangers of hands-free phone use

Dr Gemma Briggs

Dr Gemma Briggs

Dr Gemma Briggs’ collaborative applied research into the effects of distracted driving has significantly influenced national policy, police campaigns, and public attitudes towards the dangers of phone use at the wheel – a danger that contributes to an average of five deaths per day on UK roads. 

Her findings that phone conversations draw on the same critical cognitive resources that a driver needs for visual perception have revealed that phone-using drivers have severely-reduced hazard detection abilities and situation awareness, significantly increasing the risk of collisions.

She has provided evidence to the Transport Select Committee, leading to their recommendation to change legislation, worked closely with the National Police Chief’s Council to provide evidence-based education for their national enforcement campaign, and – crucially – helped to shift public attitudes on the risks of distracted driving through extensive media coverage of her work. Further details of this work can be found on the Driving Change project website.

Reacting to her award, Dr Briggs said, ‘I’m delighted to have been given this award, which recognises the work that I’ve carried out alongside several colleagues and partner organisations. It’s great that our research has achieved impact in this way, and that there is an appetite in both the public and private sector to engage with this work in the hope of achieving evidence-based practice. It’s equally fantastic that public awareness of the dangers of handsfree phone use while driving is increasing, and the opportunity to help the police and road safety charities to share research in this area has been valuable.

Dr Jamie Lachman and Professor Lucie Cluver (Department of Social Policy & Intervention, University of Oxford),

Awarded for: Scale-up of evidence-based parenting programmes for more than 196 million people during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr Jamie Lachman

Dr Jamie Lachman

Dr Jamie Lachman and Professor Lucie Cluver’s COVID-19 Playful Parenting Resources have reached more than 196 million people around the world since March 2020, helping to reduce violence against children and improving child wellbeing during the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered unprecedented stress for families around the world, with the pressures of lockdowns, economic crises, and mental health distress corresponding to a significant increase in violence against children. With school closure leaving some 1.8 billion children out of school, Dr Lachman and Professor Cluver pivoted rapidly to form an interagency emergency response: in collaboration with international partners, they adapted their evidence-based Parenting for Lifelong Health programmes into easily accessible ‘playful parenting resources’, which were swiftly endorsed by multinational agencies including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNODC, USAID, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Early Childhood Development Action Network, and the Global Partnership to End Violence. 

Professor Lucie Cluver

Professor Lucie Cluver

Soon translated into over 100 languages, disseminated in 192 countries and territories, and adopted by 33 governments as part of their national COVID response, the resources have been shown to have significantly reduced child abuse and parenting stress, as well as improving parent-child relationships and coping strategies amongst families around the world.

Reacting to their award, Dr Lachman and Professor Cluver said, ‘We are delighted to receive this recognition for the impact of our research that was made possible by an unprecedented global collaboration across sectors in such a time of crisis. The impacts of COVID-19 will continue to affect the lives of children and families for many years. Our research teams continue to work together with partners to make sure that every parent, everywhere has access to evidence-based parenting support that is accessible, informative, and useful.’

Professor Melinda Mills, Dr Jennifer Beam Dowd, and team (Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford)

Awarded for: The Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science data driven policy interventions during COVID-19

melinda mills

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, led by Professor Melinda Mills, has been at the forefront of COVID-19-related research into patterns of COVID-19 mortality and excess mortality, ‘hotspots’ of infection, support bubbles, face coverings, and the deployment of vaccines – influencing both national and international policy.

In her role as a member of SAGE SPI-B (behavioural insights) and on the Royal Society’s Science in Emergencies Tasking COVID-19 (SET-C) group, Professor Mills led a number of high-profile studies, including on the effectiveness of face coverings (leading directly to the adoption of mandatory face coverings in indoor public spaces in England from July 2020) and on the social-behavioural factors underpinning vaccine deployment (informing government communication initiatives regarding vaccine deployment). 

Dr Jenn Dowd

Dr Jenn Dowd

The LCDS’s research on social bubbles not only shifted public discourse on COVID-19 policies, action and protective measures, but also influenced both domestic policy and international practice in this field. The interdisciplinary team’s widely-cited research has also included the importance of demographic science and population composition on COVID mortality, the extent of children’s learning losses through school closures, and the forecasting and mapping of hospital ‘deserts’ by local authority early in the pandemic.

Reacting to their award, Professor Mills said, ‘Having a team of researchers in our Centre coming from multiple disciplines and countries allowed us to be agile, outward looking and to approach pandemic emergencies in a unique way. Working directly in a feedback loop with policy makers in the UK and around the world meant that our interdisciplinary data driven scientific approach was relevant and quickly translated into concrete policy suggestions.’

Dr Sarah Spencer and Mr Nicola Delvino (Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS), School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford)

Awarded for: Partnership with European cities to change policy and practice on irregular and destitute migrants

Dr Sarah Spencer

Dr Sarah Spencer

Dr Sarah Spencer and Mr Nicola Delvino’s research into policy responses to ‘undocumented’ migrants has led to the creation of a unique knowledge-exchange network that has so far engaged 52 cities from across 19 countries in ground-breaking dialogue on the sensitive issue of municipal service provision to these populations.

The City Initiative on Migrants with Irregular Status in Europe (C-MISE) was established to build a body of evidence, share learning on different cities’ practices with regards to irregular migrants, disseminate guidance, and to inform EU policy reform. C-MISE has provided guidance to 47 countries via the Council of Europe and 140 cities through the Intercultural Cities network, leading to significant policy reforms, including such initiatives as a ‘Bed, Bath and Bread’ service and legal advice for destitute irregular migrants. Such schemes have not only impacted vulnerable migrant groups but also the wider communities – as well as influencing similar initiatives in other countries. 

Dr Nicola Delvino

Mr Nicola Delvino

The team’s research also led to their development of an award-winning online tool to help UK local authorities, advice agencies and migrants to assess eligibility for local authority support.

Reacting to their award, Dr Spencer and Mr Delvino said, ‘It has been a great privilege to work closely with European cities as they develop their responses to migrants with precarious status, and see our research and dialogue deliver tangible changes in policy and practice. A hugely rewarding experience. We hope recognition, through this wonderful award, of the impact that can be achieved will encourage other researchers to work with city partners who are so keen to engage.’

Hear all our winners reflect on their impact journey at the Awards ceremony