UCL Communication and Culture Awards 2015
By Siobhan Pipa, on 13 May 2015
Last Thursday saw staff from across UCL gather together to await one of the most hotly anticipated announcements of the year. No not the General Election results – I am, of course, referring to the winners of this year’s UCL Communication and Culture Awards.
Organised by UCL Public & Cultural Engagement and UCL Communications & Marketing, the awards, now in their second year, recognise the fantastic work done throughout the UCL community in spreading awareness of research and teaching through the media and cultural platforms.
This can include working on television, radio, blogging, festivals, public events, arts projects and exhibitions.
So why is this work so vital?
As part of his opening speech, Mark Sudbury (Director of UCL Communications & Marketing) drew upon the importance of engaging effectively with the world – it’s one of the key enablers in the UCL 2034 strategy.
As Media Relations Assistant in UCL Communications & Marketing, I’m in the pretty unique position of seeing most of UCL’s media coverage. Each year there are hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of coverage based on the UCL community’s research and expertise.
Some of these you might expect – such as the phenomenal coverage of Professor John O’Keefe’s (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) Nobel Prize in Medicine. The global pick up was incredible – trust me, I put together that list – and helped to propel UCL’s reputation worldwide.
And some is a bit less conventional – this year we’ve had four separate appearances from UCL academics on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, most recently Professor Robert Hazell’s (UCL Constitution Unit) wonderfully deadpan take on democracy in the election special.
Professor Michael Arthur (UCL President & Provost) quite succinctly summed up why awards like this are so vital: it is incredibly important to celebrate excellence and to celebrate success.
And on to what we were all waiting for…
Among the obligatory election jokes and swingometer references, Professor Arthur revealed the winners of each category, with citations read out from various members of the UCL community.
UCL News Story of the Year – Dr Christophe McGlade and Professor Paul Ekins (UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources)
Christophe and Paul were nominated for a news story that developed phenomenal international reach. Their paper, published in Nature, proposed that a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policymakers.
Paul and Christophe worked tirelessly over the following weeks, fielding media requests from across the world. These activities resulted in exceptional UK and international coverage; the story was the subject of more than 600 articles and has been one of the biggest stories of the year so far.
The story also had impact beyond media coverage: a number of governing bodies got in touch, including US senators and those from the Canadian Parliament; it was discussed by UK parliamentary select committees; and the findings were cited by the Washington Post as a scientific reason for Barack Obama vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline.
UCL Online Communicator of the Year – Dr Nathaniel Coleman (UCL Philosophy)
Nathaniel was nominated for his work in inspiring a community of students and staff, both nationally and internationally, to come together online to engage critically with, and speak out on, issues of race in higher education.
Crucial to the success of this remarkable achievement has been UCL Dismantling the Master’s House – a website that acts as a focus for the newly-established community and a repository for its activities and their associated materials, including blog posts, photographs and videos.
Among the numerous events that Nathaniel has been instrumental in organising was “Why isn’t my professor black?”, a sell-out public panel debate chaired by President & Provost Michael Arthur, which addressed the fact that only 85 of 18,510 professors in the UK are racialised as black.
The event had a global impact; it was featured in numerous national and international online environments, and a follow-up project titled “Why is my curriculum white?” has seen the accompanying student video reach more than 20,000 views on YouTube.
UCL Broadcaster of the Year – Dr Adam Smith (UCL History)
Adam was nominated for his many contributions to broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4.
In one documentary titled “How do Children Learn History?”, Adam investigated the history that primary school children should study and how it should be taught. The programme achieved a high level of engagement on social media and it was also discussed at a conference led by Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for Education.
Adam is an outstanding communicator who is making a major contribution to UCL’s mission to have an impact beyond the scholarly community. With this in mind, it would be difficult to imagine a more successful broadcaster of historical knowledge and understanding.
UCL Events and Festivals Communicator of the Year – Soazig Clifton (UCL Centre for Sexual Health & HIV Research)
Soazig undertakes statistical analyses of Britain’s National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) and contributes to the team’s writing of papers for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Soazig was nominated for her work, not just on one event, but for numerous ones over the course of the year. She has been hugely proactive and effective in seeking out opportunities to share the findings from Natsal as broadly as possible to maximise the study’s impact beyond the scientific community.
Among these many events was The Songwriting Experiment, which involved training a group of 16-19 year olds to carry out their own research, after which they then worked with songwriters to translate their findings into songs.
UCL Public Event of the Year – UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at Walking on Water (Dr Ed Manley, Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick, Helen Griffiths, Dr Andrew Hudson-Smith, Sonja Curtis and all staff and students)
Last year, a team made up of academics, researchers, administrators and students from across CASA came together to represent UCL at Walking on Water – an exhibition at the Grand Designs Live event. It explored the vibrancy of the Lower Lea Valley and its potential as a ‘technology hub’, as envisaged by Lord Mawson.
At the event, CASA showcased interactive technologies and visualisations exploring the future of cities and the impact of technologies on urban life. Their engaging exhibits encouraged conversation, curiosity and discussion among a large and diverse group of visitors, including children.
As well as requiring collaboration with colleagues across the university, the project involved almost every staff member and student in CASA, bringing everyone together to share UCL’s research with a new audience and to explain its role as an institution.
UCL Cultural Project of the Year – The Equiano Centre (Dr Caroline Bressey and Dr Gemma Romain), UCL Geography
Caroline and Gemma make up the Equiano Centre team, which fosters research on and facilitates public engagement with, the Black presence in London.
Caroline and Gemma were nominated for their work on the Spaces of Black Modernism exhibition, a collaboration between UCL and the Tate. The exhibition is housed at Tate Britain and uses a combination of art, archive material and biography to explore a neglected area of the Black presence in London in the interwar period and share this research with a wide public audience.
The exhibition served as a springboard for further events and the team also commissioned comic book creator Rudy Loewe to create a comic on the life of Claude McKay in London. This unique format attracted a different type of audience and is being used to engage with young people in east London.
Watch a slideshow of the event: