Their research findings have hit the headlines, been cited by policymakers and politicians, and been used by practitioners to help improve society.
Now, CLS researchers, Professor Alice Sullivan, Professor Emla Fitzsimons and Dr Praveetha Patalay, have been recognised by a panel of academics, and engagement and knowledge exchange experts, for the outstanding impact their research has had on public policy and practice.
They are finalists for the ESRC’s Celebrating Impact Prize 2020. Currently in its eighth year, the awards are an opportunity to celebrate the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from excellent research.
Professor Sullivan is shortlisted for her 1970 British Cohort Study research which revealed the benefits of reading for pleasure for children’s English and maths skills. The findings, which were first published in 2013, have had a powerful and lasting impact on government policy and education practice in the UK and around the globe.
The research has struck a chord with parents, teachers, libraries, literacy organisations and policymakers, providing vital scientific ballast for advocates of reading for pleasure. The study was used to justify recommendations for government funding to support book clubs and resources for reading in a 2015 Department for Education report. In addition, the findings have been cited in campaigning and programme materials by a host of literacy organisations in the UK and abroad. For example, the research has been cited many times by schools and state government officials in Australia in order to support the Premier’s Reading Challenge, a long-running literacy initiative which reaches around 125,000 children annually.
Professor Fitzsimons and Dr Patalay are finalists for a series of studies highlighting the mental health challenges faced by young people in the UK. Their Millennium Cohort Study research has helped to enhance the understanding of child and adolescent mental health among policymakers and practitioners.
Their 2016 study, which outlined the differences between mental ill-health and mental wellbeing, underscored the fact that good mental wellbeing and absence of mental illness do not necessarily go hand in hand. This was important for Public Health England (PHE) in developing methods for measuring child and adolescent mental health, and resulted in mental wellbeing also being considered in interventions and public policy. Their subsequent 2017 research, which revealed high rates of depressive symptoms among 14-year-olds, has informed conversations about future health policy in relevant government departments including PHE, the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care.
All finalists will have a film professionally made about their work and its impact, and winners are awarded £10,000 to spend on further knowledge exchange, public engagement or other communications activities.
The winners will be announced at an online awards ceremony on 12 November.
Speaking about the Celebrating Impact Prize, Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s Executive Chair, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the UK’s world-leading economists and social scientists to be recognised for how their work improves lives for a wide range of people both in the UK and in other countries, from how children are taught to read, to innovative tools helping insure Ugandan farmers, or how victims of gender-based violence can experience justice.
“Their impacts are impressive and far-reaching and I’m proud that the Economic and Social Research Council has funded this work, and that it can be fully recognised through our prestigious Celebrating Impact Prize.”