Reading social sciences projects to safeguard against abuse by humanitarian aid workers and to improve language learning in the classroom have been recognised in this year’s O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards.

Professor Rosa Freedman (Law) and Professor Suzanne Graham (Institute of Education) were highly commended in this year’s O2RB Impact Awards.

The awards, which celebrate innovative social sciences projects that have made a social or economic difference to individuals, communities, and societies were presented at a ceremony attended by several Reading researchers at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History on 19 October. Panel members were impressed with the high standard of entries and the diversity of research and impacts they represented.

Safeguarding in conflict and crisis

© Pic by Ian McIlgorm

Professor Rosa Freedman’s work, in collaboration with the British NGO Keeping Children Safe (KCS), has led to the development and use of a toolkit for assessing risk and ensuring stronger safeguarding and protection of adults and children by international organisations contributing to peacekeeping or providing aid.

“Our careful work to consult and engage with different organisations including international peacekeeping forces, NGOs and the UN and its agencies has fostered a mutual understanding of the challenges faced on the ground,” Professor Freedman explained after receiving the award

“This ensured that the framework and toolkit we developed can be adapted for each context through co-development and collaboration to share best practice.”

The toolkit is now being used by leading organisations in many countries, and has changed global practice and policies on safeguarding against sexual exploitation and abuse. These organisations include the UN and its agencies, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), global regional organisations, national armed forces and humanitarian organisations operating globally.

Educational research highly commended

Professor Suzanne Graham’s work explores how to improve children’s motivation and persistence in language learning and has demonstrated how important authentic language examples are for improving comprehension. A longitudinal classroom intervention demonstrated how learners’ creativity and vocabulary increases when they study texts such as poems and when the teaching focuses on personal and emotional engagement. Her collaboration on an Erasmus+ project to develop a game-based assessment tool brought improvements to learning assessment throughout Europe and is now embedded as a core curriculum resource in Germany, Italy and Spain.

Speaking after the awards were announced, Professor Suzanne Graham said: “I’m thrilled that my work with language learners and teachers over the last decade or more has been recognised in this way. It will be a great boost for my current projects in modern languages classrooms, where colleagues and I are collaborating with amazing practitioners to bring about improved motivation for and attainment in learning another language.”

Recognising impact across the social sciences

O2RB is a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the University of Reading, The Open University, and Oxford Brookes University. The collaboration is designed to build and strengthen regional partnerships for research impact via Oxford’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA).

The projects rewarded by the panel demonstrate the novel and thriving ways in which social sciences research, and all of the staff who support it, make a difference both in the UK and globally. Recognising these achievements will inspire others to forge partnerships beyond academia to explore creative avenues to use social sciences research to its best potential: the award winners have done exactly that.

Chair of the O2RB Awards panel, Professor Heather Viles (Associate Head of Division (Research), Social Sciences) 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.”