At a time when misinformation and disinformation continue shaking people’s trust in science, interacting with the public to communicate new discoveries and technologies has become more important than ever. In order to acknowledge researchers who have gone the extra mile to reach out to audiences beyond the scientific community, the ERC has honoured three of its grantees with the Public Engagement with Research Award. As explained in a press release on the ERC website, Prof. Anna Davies from Trinity College Dublin, Associate Prof. Erik van Sebille from Utrecht University and Prof. Konstantinos Nikolopoulos from the University of Birmingham are the winners of the ERC Public Engagement with Research Awards 2020. The winners of this first edition were announced during an online ceremony on 7 July 2020, which can be viewed in a YouTube video. In the video, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel comments: “We would like really to improve trust between science and society as well as the uptake of scientific, evidence-based public policies and innovative solutions.” The 2020 Award had three categories: Public Outreach, Press and Media Relations, and Online and Social Media. The competition was launched in September 2019 and there were 138 submissions across all categories from 20 countries.
The winner in the online and social media category is Prof. Davies with SHARECITY (SHARECITY: Assessing the practice and sustainability potential of city-based food sharing economies). The ERC press release states: “The project developed a comprehensive online and social media communication and engagement strategy, the central pillar of which is an interactive website, a blog and social media accounts.” It adds that the team’s engagement with a range of online and social media platforms, networks and initiatives “visibly enriched their research and was particularly important when crowdsourcing data for the first publicly accessible and searchable empirical database about food sharing activities within cities.” The SHARECITY project, which will run until July 2021, was set up to review key concepts, existing theoretical approaches and research methodologies related to urban food-sharing practices. The winner in the public outreach category is Prof. Nikolopoulos with the EU-funded project ExclusiveHiggs (Search for New Physics in First and Second Generation Quark Yukawa Couplings through Rare Exclusive Decays of the Observed Higgs Boson). “The ExclusiveHiggs project experimentally explores the interactions of elementary matter particles with the Higgs boson at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator,” as explained in the ERC press release. For its public outreach activities, the project “explored the interface between science and art to inform, educate and inspire the public … One very distinct feature of the activities was that the artists did not make art ‘inspired’ by science, but art that communicated scientific concepts.” In the press and media relations category the winner is Dr van Sebille, with the TOPIOS (Tracking Of Plastic In Our Seas) project, which runs until March 2022. The ERC press release states: “The centrepiece of this public outreach effort was the creation of a website that provides concise answers to the seven common misconceptions about plastic pollution in oceans … The main aim of the TOPIOS project is to create the first three-dimensional map of all the plastic in our oceans.” For more information, please see: SHARECITY project website TOPIOS project website ExclusiveHiggs project
SHARECITY, TOPIOS, ExclusiveHiggs, ERC Public Engagement with Research Award, European Research Council