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Palmyra Arch reconstruction

The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards are awarded in three categories – Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome.

Winning entries receive recognition for their achievements at the Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards Ceremony, which took place on 28 June 2017.The Vice-Chancellor's prize was also be announced at the ceremony and received a cash prize of £1,500.

You can read about awards from across the University at the University PER Hub.

- Penguin Watch
- Turning Lion Killers into Lion Conservationists

- Alexy Karenowska
- Chico Camargo

- Dept of Earth Science - "Borrow the Moon"

Project Awards

Penguin Watch – citizen science to monitor the Southern Ocean: Dr Tom Hart, Department of Zoology and Professor Chris Lintott, Department of Zoology

To help conserve the declining number of Penguins, we have developed innovative ways to collect and analyse large data sets through Citizen Science; and raised awareness of the research and the need to conserve seabirds to people around the world.

About the Project
Penguin Watch collects time-lapse imagery of penguin colonies to monitor the timing and success rate of breeding pairs. Public volunteers then process the data on via the Zooniverse platform. Since its launch in September 2014 over 865,000 people from 214 separate countries visited the website, with 44,000 going on to become registered users, many of whom visit the site every day.

The project continuously seeks to engage new publics with the research taking place and to encourage more volunteers by generating media interest including appearances on the BBC 10 O'clock news.

Outcomes & Impacts
Penguin Watch has processed 5.3 million images to date, generating an outstanding data legacy. The data is being used by DPhil students and to inform bodies such as the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

The Zooniverse platform is made available so that any researcher can build similar projects, seeding projects worldwide from monitoring Red-footed boobies to seals.

In terms of public benefits, nearly a million people have participated and increased their understanding about penguin ecology and conservation, valued being part of a research project and many more have been engaged via the media, events and schools' activities.

" [Tom and his team] engage with our tourists and staff in a two-way process that benefits all parties and the environment. His work deserves this recognition; it is a very impressive thing he's achieved." Karl Kannastader, Quark Expeditions

Project team: Ms Fiona Jones, Dr Catilin Black & Dr Grant Miller, University of Oxford and other members of the Zooniverse team; Falklands Conservation

Funded & Supported by: Darwin Initiative Challenge Fund & Darwin Plus; University's Development Office; Quark Expeditions; Google; Science & Technology Facilities Council & others.

Website and videos: 


Transforming Lion Killers into Lion Conservationists: Dr Amy Dickman, WildCRU, Department of Zoology

Lion numbers have halved in 20 years, and there are now as few lions in Africa as rhinos. Tanzania's Ruaha landscape holds the world's second largest lion population, but also had extremely high rates of lion killing by local people. Our research showed that lions were killed in retaliation for livestock attacks, by young warriors to gain status, and because people were unaware of the benefits of their presence and reasons for conservation.

About the Project

Ruaha is East Africa's biggest National Park, but under-resourced local people are unable to visit it. They therefore only experience wildlife when it is posing a danger to them, and are antagonistic towards the Park and its wildlife. We have conducted
educational Park visits for villagers to learn first-hand about wildlife conservation. To date over 1000 people from 16 villages have participated and over 95% report improved attitudes towards wildlife.

We also organise educational DVD nights and have engaged over 30,000 local villagers, communicating information about wildlife conservation and the status of lions. We trained officers in 10 villages about best-practice livestock protection methods, who in turn, can train thousands of other villagers. We also train and employ young warriors to track lions, prevent lion hunts and protect communities and livestock from lions.

We have provided over 30 secondary school scholarships, provide vital equipment for local clinics and schools, and provide over 350 children daily with free school lunches. We currently employ over 60 people, who indirectly support over 600 people.

Outcomes & Impacts

This engagement has increased awareness of conservation, equipped villagers with skills to coexist more safely with carnivores, engaged warriors directly in conservation, improved local education and healthcare, and improved household economic security. Lion killing has reduced by over 90% in the core study area, and we are now training other projects in these approaches.

Funded by: Donors include African Wildlife Foundation, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Lion Guardians, National Geographic, the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, Panthera, Peoples' Trust for Endangered Species, St Louis Zoo and Tusk.

Early Career Researcher Awards

Dr Alexy Karenowska, Department of Physics

Alexy was also awarded the overall award, chosen by the Vice Chancellor.

Public Engagement with Research Activities
Since 2015, I have directed a public science project focused on the documentation, preservation, and restoration of at-risk cultural heritage sites across the world.

Working with the likes of UNESCO and the Government of the United Arab Emirates, I developed the means to study, document and preserve heritage materials through optical, radio-frequency and X-ray based approaches and the application of 3D printing and machining technologies.

In 2016 I led a team to create a 13 tonne replica of the Triumphal Arch from Syria's Palmyra site using a combination of photogrammetry-based 3D computer modelling and state-of-the-art 3D machining in stone. I managed the installation of this structure on Trafalgar Square which was unveiled to the public by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Since then I have overseen the installation of the same arch in New York, Dubai and Florence.

Outcomes & Impacts
Approximately 2.1 Million people of all ages have visited the public installations and taken part in the supporting series of workshops and scientific educational programming.

My work has also been featured on the front page of The Times, BBC Newsnight and been covered by print, radio and TV all over the world, reaching tens of millions.

Public responses show that the installations made visitors think differently about the relationship between science and culture; increased interest in science in young people and increased motivation among governments and other organisations in the use of cultural initiatives in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconciliation.

"The IDA's Arch of Triumph of Palmyra serves as a model for how, together, we will bring life back to Palmyra and restore the site as a message of peace against terrorism." Professor Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director-General of Antiquities and Museums, Syria

Funded by: Institute for Digital Archaeology [IDA] and the Dubai Future Foundation.

Chico Camargo, Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics 

My research is in the field of complex systems and complexity science. Most of my public engagement work involves creating videos about complex systems concepts. My aim is to not only focus on what researchers work on but also inspire people in the ways that we study such phenomena and increase understanding of the world around us.

Public Engagement with Research Activities

I first became interested in public engagement by taking part in Famelab, 3 Minute Thesis, Science Cabaret and Bright Club, many of which were organised by Science Oxford.

Since June 2016, I have been part of a Portuguese-speaking YouTube scientific outreach channel called BláBláLogia, with daily videos on topics from space travel to ecology.

I am also the host and writer of a fortnightly show, Top Models, where I engage people with the mathematical models we use in science, and how they connect the natural and the social sciences. We have produced over twenty films to date to a mostly young adult (18-30 years old) audience in Brazil.

Outcomes & Impacts

Today, BláBláLogia has almost 100,000 subscribers, over 5 million views, with some of my videos reaching tens of thousands of views. Members of BláBláLogia have also been invited to many seminars, debates and panels as a result, helping to raise their research profile.

The channel also won the 2016 YouTube 'NextUp' prize, awarded to the most promising channels with under 100k subscribers, which together with some modest advertising revenue, has enabled us to purchase a new camera for future filming.

The public engagement work has fed back into my research, as having to explain elaborate concepts in a more fundamental way, without relying on university-level mathematics, has led me to a more thorough understanding of the tools I use every day.

"An incredible video. The information is light, trustworthy and transmitted in a very charismatic way. Just like many others here, I'm looking forward to the next video."
YouTube viewer

Building Capacity Awards

Department of Earth Sciences for "Borrow the Moon"

Borrow the Moon invited Oxford primary school groups with very low levels of participation in Higher Education to visit the Department of Earth Sciences. There they joined researchers in investigating samples of real lunar material brought to earth by the Apollo missions in the 1970s, which are rarely seen and held, even by researchers of lunar science.

Building capacity for Public Engagement with Research

The project's goals were to: introduce researchers to the joys and challenges of public engagement with younger children from diverse backgrounds, including those from lower socioeconomic and educational attainment households or with a disability, working alongside Oxford's Widening Participation and Access (WAP) team to identify the schools; and to introduce children to the excitement of Earth Sciences research.

On these visits, the children interacted with researchers working on palaeobiology, planetary formation, and volcanology and explored the topic of space exploration through hands-on activities.

This activity allowed researchers to trial working with outer-space materials to create enrichment activities. It also provided early-career researchers with a pre-structured activity that introduced many of them to the challenges and rewards of working with children for the first time.

Outcomes & Impacts

Over 180 children from three primary schools attended the sessions, and six research students and researchers participated as presenters and facilitators.

Since the project two research students have undertaken additional engagements at two further schools. The activity has also enabled the WAP team to build capacity by creating new and strengthening existing links with participating schools.

"I found that being able to break down complex science into a story fully understandable to school children was a really good exercise in adapting material to different audiences. Working with school children is also really fun because their questions and comments keep you on your toes!" DPhil student

Funded by: Resourced by the Department of Earth Sciences and WAP. Lunar samples loaned by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.


See more about the winners from the 2016 awards: