Inspirational initiatives improving lives

Empowering people to create a more equitable world has seen the teams behind two pioneering projects honoured.

Research Culture and Engaged for Impact Awards winners profiles. September 2022

Winners of our inaugural Research Culture and Engaged for Impact Awards were announced during a special ceremony held on campus in July.

An impressive number of applications highlighted the broad spectrum of world-changing research at Leeds, together with the significant improvements being made to our research culture, which have been enabled by a wide range of colleagues. External peer reviewers commented on the high calibre of submissions across the board.

Among those projects celebrating success were the winners of the ‘Personal Development, Reward and Recognition’ and ‘Caring for the Future’ accolades.

Inspiring women

The ‘Personal Development, Reward and Recognition’ award recognises the importance of developing and rewarding others. The focus is on the often-unrecognised contributions people make in developing our culture, including those who support the development of others.

The winning project in this category was the water@leeds-funded Water Woman Award and associated career development initiatives.

Open to any person identifying as a woman involved in water research at the University, the Water Woman Award includes recognition for early career researchers and research support colleagues. It’s based on two equally weighted criteria – the nature of the achievements of nominees and their potential for empowering and inspiring other women. 

The award raises the profile of successful women and, importantly, shares the story of how success was achieved. As well as receiving prize money to develop their professional development, winners contribute to, and benefit from, inspirational career development initiatives for other women, to facilitate peer support.

Professor Clare Woulds, from the School of Geography, said: “As a team, we have great belief in the value of the work we do in running the Water Woman Award and other inspirational events, and it’s truly wonderful to have the positive impact recognised with a Research Culture award.”

Other team members included Professor Julia Martin-Ortega, Dr Gabriela Lopez Gonzalez, Ann Marie Boyle and Dr Susannah Hopson.

Research Culture and Engaged for Impact Awards winners profiles. September 2022

Professor Nick Plant, Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation (left), and Chancellor, Professor Dame Jane Francis (right), present the ‘Personal Development, Reward and Recognition’ accolade to Dr Gabriela Lopez Gonzalez, water@leeds Co-ordinator

Incredible work

The ‘Caring For the Future’ award recognises research impact that’s likely to build over time, leading to a fairer, safer and more equitable world and healthier environment. 

The winning project in this category involved understanding and improving the carbon footprint of school meals in Leeds.

Working with Leeds City Council, it changed the practice for designing climate-friendly school menus by co-creating a Carbon Footprint Calculator to assess food’s environmental impact. Using data from the tool, in combination with information about school meals popularity, the team created fun, educational materials for school-aged children, encouraging them to think about the planet’s future through their own food choices. 

The tool is currently live and being used by LCC and Catering Leeds to deliver knowledge and insights into the city’s food system, as part of the council’s net zero journey, feeding into its climate strategy. As a result of the project’s success and impact, LCC is now looking towards further applications of the tool across other council-run food venues.

Alex Dalton, a Data Science Intern in the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy, said: “This award is a testament to all the incredible work of the team and partners on the Carbon Footprint Calculator project, and what can be achieved when people come together with the same values and goals for making a positive difference in our community. 

“Our engagement work in schools and public events has allowed our research to reach schools, children and families in Leeds, educating them about the environmental impact of their food and introducing them to sustainable behaviours. 

“Receiving this award is a pleasing recognition of the way our outreach and educational materials have raised awareness, and in a time when our role in climate change can seem insignificant, we’ve been able to empower people around their food choices.” 

Other team members included Dr Emily Ennis, Dr Michelle Morris, Mel Green, Kevin Mackay, Polly Cook, Ellie Salvidge and Gillian Banks.

Research Culture and Engaged for Impact Awards winners profiles. September 2022

Professor Nick Plant, Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation (left), and Chancellor, Professor Dame Jane Francis (right), present the ‘Caring for the Future’ award to winning team members

Courageous initiatives

At the heart of the University’s 10-year strategy is the commitment to recognise the value of everyone involved in delivering research, focusing not only on individual academic achievement but also on teamwork. All members of our research community have a role to play in developing and promoting a positive and inclusive research culture, as well as contributing to the impact our research makes locally, nationally and internationally. 

Professor Cat Davies, Dean for Research Culture, said: “These awards celebrate colleagues who are working to make our research culture more collaborative, inclusive, open, supportive and sustainable. 

“The applications we received involved a total of 162 people, covering 16 schools/services, five faculties and nine centres and institutes, demonstrating some truly courageous initiatives to achieve better ways of working. 

“I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to engage in these projects, and for submitting applications at a time of significant workload. It’s also been a chance for us to share our activities with colleagues outside of the University, as our external reviewer panel lent their time and expertise in assessing an inspirational field of applications.”

Dr Alexa Ruppertsberg, Head of Public Engagement with Research, said: “Without the collaborative effort of our working group that developed these awards for almost a year, and without the generosity of our external reviewer panel, we would not be able to celebrate the fantastic engaged research for impact practice at the University. Everybody who submitted an application should be proud of their work!”

Wonderful community

As part of our Fairer future for all initiative, we promised to do more to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our wonderful community of colleagues. 

During the coming months, our new campaign – Further Together – will showcase the achievements of many of those involved in delivering our transformational, fundamental and challenge-led research. 

We hope Further Together will inspire our entire community to get involved in helping transform lives and make a real difference across the globe, and these awards signify the start of that campaign.

Further information

In-depth profiles of each of the Research Culture and Engaged for Impact Awards winners will appear on the For Staff website during the coming weeks. These will also be promoted via the weekly All Staff enewsletters and the Staff Twitter account. And watch out for the latest updates about Further Together across these channels.