Application status: Open
The Global Food Security programme (GFS) is calling on all UKRI council-funded early-career researchers (ECRs) to take part in our annual research storytelling competition ‘Speak Up for Food Security’. 12 successful applicants will attend an immersive, 2-day research storytelling masterclass in central London (26-27 February 2020), where they will receive communication training tailored to creating food system change.
Besides providing an introduction to the theory and practice of research storytelling, this unique masterclass is also an opportunity for ECRs to network with other passionate and charismatic researchers working in research that has implications for food security, and to gain a deeper understanding of the global food system.
After the masterclass, five participants will be invited to present their stories in the competition’s final “Once Upon a Food System”, which will take place at Cambridge Science Festival on 10 March 2020. The finalists will compete for the GFS Speak Up for Food Security Award in front of a non-expert audience and a panel of judges, including bestselling author and broadcaster Dr Adam Rutherford.
PhD students and early stage post-docs who are currently funded by any UKRI council (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, Innovate UK, MRC, NERC, Research England and STFC) are invited to apply, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria (see below). We are keen to invite ECRs from a wide range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) the arts, biology, chemistry, economics, education, engineering, environmental sciences, history, law, medicine, physics, philosophy, political sciences and psychology.
The overarching aim of ‘Speak Up for Food Security’ is to equip the next generation of UKRI researchers with the necessary tools and knowledge to facilitate the transformation of our food system for people and the planet.
In a time of escalating climate crisis, dwindling natural resources, a burgeoning global population, rising obesity levels, and the rapid loss of biodiversity, the global food security challenge has never been greater. Providing universal access to enough healthy, safe food in a sustainable way that allows the planet to regenerate requires the radical transformation of our global food system. Thankfully, research has provided a wide range of disruptive tools and strategies to manage this transition. Yet business-as-usual continues, highlighting that food system change goes beyond generating high quality evidence, and requires inspiring those with the power to effect change.
The global food system is driven by a wide range of factors, including farming practices, economic models, weather and climate, political changes, cultural norms, education, natural resources, human psychology, geographical location, technological innovation and many more. These drivers also impact each other, producing a complex web of interactions that is rife with natural uncertainty. A common response to this uncertainty has been to delay decision-making in favour of researchers collecting more evidence. But delaying action is no longer an option.
In order to transform the food system on a meaningful scale within a meaningful time frame, action is required now. This competition calls for a new generation of researchers who can inspire the systemic changes needed in the presence of uncertainty. How? By talking about the potential real-world implications of their research in mankind’s oldest mode of knowledge exchange: storytelling.
The 2-day research communication masterclass and competition will take place on the 26-27 February 2020 in London, and will challenge early career researchers to develop engaging 3-minute stories around their research with the aim to inspire food system change.
The first day will focus on stepping away from traditional academic presentations, invoking creativity, getting comfortable with communicating their research with feeling in the context of uncertainty, and introducing narrative techniques. The participants will then be encouraged to apply their learning to create a skeleton of a 3-minute story around their research.
The second day will focus on fleshing out the stories, as well as covering practical public speaking skills. Each participant will receive expert feedback on their final talks, as well as a video recording. The hope is that the participants will use their learning to continue the development of their stories for future public engagement activities.
Accommodation and meals will be provided for participants, and all travel costs will be reimbursed following the masterclass (unfortunately we are not able to book travel for participants in advance). We are also able to reimburse reasonable costs of childcare or other caring responsibilities to enable your participation during the masterclass.
The masterclass is a fantastic prize in itself. However, in the week following the masterclass, GFS will invite five finalists to present their stories at its public engagement event “Once Upon a Food System” at Cambridge Science Festival on 10 March 2020. There, the finalists will compete for the prestigious GFS Speak Up for Food Security prize in front of a panel of judges, including bestselling author and broadcaster Dr Adam Rutherford.
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 your research without alienating non-experts?
Big picture-thinking: Have you thought systemically about the potential real-world impacts of your research (positive and negative)? Have you communicated the wider challenge that your research aims to address? Are you comfortable hypothesising beyond your field of research?
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 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:
- Either PhD students, or postdoctoral researchers with less than 5 years experience in postdoctoral research.
- Currently undertaking a UKRI council-funded* PhD or post-doc at a UK Higher Education Institute, Research Institute, or Independent Research Organisation. Early career researchers based outside of the UK will not be eligible.
- Available to attend the masterclass in London on 26-27 February 2020.
- Available to attend Cambridge Science Festival on 10 March 2020.
*UKRI councils: AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, Innovate UK, MRC, NERC, Research England and STFC
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 26-27 February 2020
b) Cambridge Science Festival on 10 March 2020
- In easily accessible language, describe the link between your research and the global food security challenge. (150 words)
- How might it change society if the aims of your research were met? (150 words)
- Why should we pick you to attend the scientific storytelling masterclass? (150 words)
Please send your completed application to SpeakUp@foodsecurity.ac.uk. The deadline for applications is Sunday 26 January 2020. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by Wednesday 5 February 2020.
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.