Application status: CLOSED
This year, UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) cross-council Global Food Security programme (GFS) will focus its annual research storytelling competition ‘Speak Up for Food Security’ on how we can tackle the climate crisis through the food system.
12 successful UKRI-funded early career researchers (ECRs) will be invited to attend a two-day virtual storytelling masterclass (Monday 27th Sep and Friday 1st October), where they will receive training in communicating their research through narrative, inspiring action, and presenting live on camera.
Besides providing an introduction to the theory and practice of storytelling, this unique masterclass is also an opportunity for ECRs to network with other passionate and charismatic researchers working in food security/climate-related research, and to gain a deeper understanding of the role our food system plays in addressing the climate emergency.
After the masterclass, five finalists will be selected to present their 3-to-5-minute stories live to the public in GFS’s competition final – being held at UKRI’s virtual COP26 programme on 28th October 2021. The public will have the opportunity to ask the finalists questions about their stories and research, before voting for their favourite story.
PhD students and early career post-docs currently funded by any UKRI council (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, Innovate UK, MRC, NERC, Research England and STFC) are invited to apply, as long as they can link their research (directly or indirectly) to the climate crisis and the food security challenge (other eligibility criteria below).
The overarching aim of the ‘Speak Up for Food Security’ competition is to equip the next generation of UKRI researchers with the narrative theory and tools to support the transformation of our food systems for people and the planet.
In a time of climate crisis, rising sea levels, dwindling natural resources, and the rapid loss of biodiversity, the global food security challenge has never been greater. It is clear that providing universal access to enough healthy, safe, sustainable food requires the rapid and radical transformation of our global food system.
Thankfully, the research community is providing a wide range of disruptive tools and strategies that are capable of supporting the transition to a climate-friendly food system. These approaches can vary greatly, including adapting farming practices, shifting economic models, challenging cultural norms, rethinking education and city planning, managing resources differently, nudging human behaviour, understanding geographical drivers, harnessing technological innovation, and many, many more.
However, the fact that business-as-usual continues is evidence that sparking this transformation requires more than just high-quality research. It requires inspiring food system stakeholders to take bold action.
To this end, the Speak Up for Food Security competition encourages and trains ECRs to harness the universal and persuasive language of storytelling to not only inform climate action in the food system, but to inspire it as well.
The virtual 2-day research communication masterclass, led by professional storyteller Clare Murphy, will take place on Monday 27 September and Friday 1 October 2021. During the masterclass, 12 multi-disciplinary early career researchers will be challenged to develop engaging 3-to-5-minute stories around their research with the aim of inspiring climate action in the food system.
The first day of the masterclass will focus on stepping away from traditional scientific presentations, introducing narrative techniques such as framing, invoking creativity, and getting comfortable with communicating feeling and uncertainty. The semi-finalists will then have a few days to apply their learning to craft a short, engaging story around their research.
On the second day, the semi-finalists will receive constructive group feedback on their research-inspired stories and training in storytelling technique, voice, presence, confidence and presenting on camera. The hope is that the researchers will use their learning to continue to develop their stories for future public engagement activities.
The masterclass is a fantastic prize in itself. However, in the week following the masterclass, the 12 semi-finalists will be asked to submit a recording of their 3-5min short story, from which GFS will select five finalists. The finalists will be given two weeks to perfect their research-inspired stories before presenting them live at GFS’s public engagement event “Food vs Climate: Five Stories for Change”, taking place as part of UKRI’s virtual pre-COP26 programme on 28 October 2021. The finalists will compete for the prestigious GFS Speak Up for Food Security award in front of a panel of judges and a live audience, who will vote for their favourite stories.
The applicants will be judged on five different criteria at various stages of the competition:
Language: Is your word choice appropriate for a non-expert audience? Are you able to communicate their research in an inclusive and accessible way?
Big picture-thinking: Have you thought systemically about the potential real-world climate and food security impacts of your research (positive and negative)? Have you communicated the wider climate and food security challenges that your research could address?
Creativity: Is your communication of the information novel and interesting? (Please note: this criterion focuses on your communication of the information, not the information itself)
Storytelling: Does your story hook your audience from the start? Are the audience able to follow your story with ease? Does your story communicate a clear message? Are you able to inspire your listeners?
Presentation: Does your body language and facial expressions support your story? Does your passion shine through when you present? Are you able to deliver your story with confidence?
In order to be eligible, early career researchers should be:
- Currently undertaking a UKRI council-funded PhD or post-doc*. UKRI-funded early career researchers based outside of the UK are eligible to apply.
- Available to attend the two virtual online masterclass days (Monday 27 September and Friday 1 October 2021)**.
- Available to attend the virtual competition final as part of UKRI’s pre-COP26 programme on Thursday 28 October 2021.
*UKRI councils: AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, Innovate UK, MRC, NERC, Research England and STFC
** Please note that we are able to reimburse reasonable costs of care in order to allow you to fully participate in the masterclass and the competition final
How to apply
To apply, please answer each of the following questions in a document saved as “GFS Speak Up Application [Your name]”.
- a) Your name and institution
b) The UKRI council grant reference number of your PhD/post doc
c) Your main research area (e.g. the arts, biology, chemistry, economics, education, engineering, environmental sciences, history, law, medicine, physics, philosophy, political sciences, psychology, etc.)
- Please confirm that you are available to attend (if selected):
a) The masterclass on Monday 27 September (9:30-4:30) and Friday 1 October (9:30-4:30)
b) The competition final on Thursday 28 October 2021 (19:00-21:00)
- In easily accessible language, please describe how your research could help combat climate emergency and food insecurity. (150 words max)
- How might it change society if the aims of your research were met? (150 words max)
- Why should we pick you to attend the scientific storytelling masterclass? (150 words max)
Please send your completed application to SpeakUp@foodsecurity.ac.uk. The deadline for applications is Sunday 5 September 2021. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by Monday 13 September 2021.
Note: In accordance with The Concordat (ref 17), researchers are encouraged to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, which can be beneficial for both the researcher and institution. We therefore encourage applicants to seek permission from their supervisor to participate in the research communication masterclass prior to applying.