Application status: Closed


The Global Food Security (GFS) Programme is looking for UKRI council-funded early-stage researchers to take part in its new science communication competition ‘Speak Up for Food Security’. The winner will get the opportunity to speak on food security alongside GFS and BBC presenter Dr Adam Rutherford at Cheltenham Science Festival 2019 (6-9 June).  In addition, all shortlisted applicants will get to attend an immersive 2-day masterclass, where they will receive engaging and personalised training in communicating their research to non-specialist audiences, as well as a unique and interdisciplinary networking opportunity (travel, accommodation and meals will be provided). The 2-day masterclass will take place in Central London on 14-15 March 2019, and all applicants must be available to attend on these days.

PhD students and post-docs funded by any UKRI council (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, Innovate UK, MRC, NERC, Research England and STFC) may apply, provided their research has implications for food security and they meet the eligibility criteria (see below).

The overarching aim of this competition is to encourage the next generation of UKRI researchers to consider their research in the context of food security, and to equip them with the skills to effectively communicate how their research feeds into the global food security challenge to non-specialist audiences.


With just 11 years left to implement the necessary changes to avert climate change catastrophe, dwindling natural resources, more people now obese than underweight, and an estimated 10 billion mouths to feed by 2050, the global food security challenge has never been greater. Ensuring everyone has access to sufficient, healthy, safe food, now and in the future, will require a wide range of potentially disruptive interventions to transform our current food system, and a new generation of researchers to inspire and facilitate the integration of those changes. But how to effectively communicate these interventions, given the highly multifaceted and complex nature of the food system they operate within?

Global food security is affected by a wide range of factors, including agricultural practices, weather events, political changes, cultural factors, human behaviour, economic models, geographical location, technological innovation and many more. Many of these factors are also linked to each other, producing a complex network of interactions that greatly increase the probability of an intervention in one area of the food system having unintended knock-on effects elsewhere in the food system. Minimising or managing the unintended consequences of changes to our food system requires a systems approach to the food security challenge – and for that, researchers need to be able to effectively talk about the wider food system when communicating the implications of their research for global food security.

The competition

This competition will challenge early career researchers to develop engaging 3-minute talks about their research in the context of food security and the wider food system, using nothing but narrative and/or small props (cue cards are allowed). Successful applicants will be asked to prepare a draft of their talk in advance of the masterclass, where the talk will be refined over the course of the two days. The competition will take place on the second day, and will be judged by a panel of researchers and communicators based on the substance, story and style of the talks. The following questions are designed to help successful applicants develop their 3-minute talks prior to the competition:

  • Substance: How does your research address the global food security challenge? What intervention(s) does your research suggest we need to adopt? How might these changes affect other parts of the food system?
  • Story: Is the narrative well-structured? Does it keep your audience engaged? Are you able to make the audience feel something?
  • Style: Does your enthusiasm and personality shine through while you are presenting? Are your gestures and language appropriate for this audience?

After the competition the judges will announce the winner, who will be invited to present on food system solutions alongside the Global Food Security programme and Dr Adam Rutherford at Cheltenham Science Festival 2019 (6-9 June, exact date of talk TBC. Applicants should be available on all three days).


In order to be eligible, researchers should:

  • Be currently undertaking a UKRI-funded PhD or post-doc at a UK Higher Education Institute, Research Institute, or Independent Research Organisation. (Researchers based outside of the UK will not be eligible.)
  • Be available to attend the masterclass in London on 14-15 March 2019.
  • Be available to attend the Cheltenham Science Festival on 6-9 June (exact date TBC).

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.

How to apply

The 2-day research communication masterclass and competition will take place on the 14-15 March 2019 in London. Transport, accommodation and meals will be provided, and we are able to cover reasonable costs of childcare or other caring responsibilities to enable your participation during the masterclass.

To apply, please answer each of the following questions in a document entitled “GFS SpeakUp Application [Your name]”. Your answers will be used to assess your application and eligibility. Please note that your academic publication or research track record is not of primary interest here. Of greater interest is evidence of your ability to communicate your research clearly and concisely in lay terms, and your understanding of how your research feeds into the global food security challenge.

  1. Please provide:
    a) Your name and institution
    b) The UKRI council grant reference number of your PhD/post doc
    c) Your general research area (e.g. biological sciences, economics, engineering, environmental sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, etc.)
  2. Are you available to attend:
    a) The research communication masterclass on 14-15 March 2019?
    b) Cheltenham Science Festival on 6-9 June 2019 (exact date TBC)?
  3. Please provide a brief summary of your research in an easily accessible way. (150 words)
  4. How does your research feed into the broader global food security challenge? (150 words; see definition here)
  5. Why would you like to participate in the Speak Up for Food Security competition? (150 words)

Please send your completed application to The deadline for applications is Sunday 24 February 2019. Those invited to attend the masterclass will be notified by 28 February 2019.