Double triumph for Arts researchers at THE Awards

November 26th, 2021

The power of the arts to change society and improve lives was spotlighted last night as researchers from the University of Nottingham scooped two major awards at the Oscars of the university world – the Times Higher Education Awards 2021.

A project which uses the creative arts to raise awareness of eating disorders in men and boys, Hungry for Words, won Research Project of the Year (Arts). The award for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community went to a joint grass roots project with Nottingham Trent University on gender hate crime and the long-neglected issue of harassment, violence and abuse of women and girls in public spaces.

Professor Jeremy Gregory, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts said: “I am delighted to see the huge contribution of our researchers recognised by these awards this evening. These projects are a fantastic demonstration of the power of the arts and humanities to tackle contemporary challenges. Arts-led impact is often overlooked in favour of the STEM subjects, but these projects are both fine examples of the important role the arts can play in areas such as health and mental health, and women’s safety, which affect the lives of so many people.”

Professor Heike Bartel’s winning project, Hungry for Words, has generated new resources such as poetry, spoken word, video and animation, using creativity to start the conversation about eating disorders in men. The research has already had a direct impact on the medical front line. Dr Bartel’s animated training tool, ‘Consider Eating Disorders in Men’, was accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2020 and is now recommended to its 50,000-plus members. It has also been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Since its launch, it has dramatically increased awareness and knowledge among GPs, nurses, mental health professionals and healthcare students, leading to a direct improvement in the quality of care offered to males with eating disorders.

Professor Bartel said: “My team and I are absolutely delighted about the award for our research into creative ways to raise much needed awareness for eating disorders in men and boys. This is a topic we need to talk more about. I would like to dedicate the award to the boys and men who shared their experiences of eating disorders with us – with courage to overcome stigma, creativity, and trust in us.  This has allowed us to create training tools for doctors and others that make a real difference to how they treat this often-overlooked patient group.

“I am thrilled that the award recognises the power of arts & humanities to tell these stories that need to be heard urgently. Our collaborations with artists and translators are an important part of this, and I am grateful to the universtiy, the AHRC and Wellcome for giving me the opportunity, time, and funding to undertake this work. The beginnings were challenging, we really had to find our feet, and to be backed to undertake this interdisciplinary project so out of all our comfort zone was great. This is what universities and funders should do; take risks and put trust in researchers’ ideas when taking on challenging projects. We are determined to use the momentum of this award to drive our work further.”

The judges described Hungry for Words as “a strong, coherent project already enjoying considerable impact in terms of awareness, stigma challenge, therapeutic attention and organisational recognition and benefit”.

On winning the Outstanding Contribution to Local Community Award, sociolinguistics expert Professor Louise Mullany from the School of English, said:

“We are absolutely delighted. It was particularly poignant for us as the awards ceremony was held on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and there is still so much work that remains to be done in this area.  Our research on misogyny hate crime has been made possible by all of our fantastic collaborators and partners across Nottinghamshire and we share the award with them. It has been a real pleasure to work in partnership with Dr Loretta Trickett from Nottingham Law School at Nottingham Trent University and the award is testament to the power of collaboration when universities work together on public engagement and local and national government policy-based initiatives.”

This unique research project studied the impact of Nottinghamshire Police’s policy of treating misogyny as a hate crime – said to be the first of its kind in the world – on members of the public, victims, and police officers. This work has improved the safety of women and girls in public spaces in Nottinghamshire and in other communities across the UK and has empowered them to report such crimes.

A retired chief constable of Nottinghamshire police said other police forces have now implemented similar policies and “the evidence base that this research provides has been compelling in making the difference”. Having reached an audience of more than 90 million people worldwide via online media, radio and TV, the research struck a chord not just in Nottingham’s local community but far beyond.

The judges said this “timely and successful inter-university collaboration between a linguist and a criminologist” had not only “encouraged greater reporting by victims” but had also become “the ‘go‑to’ resource in law and policing”, been “rolled out across communities and educational institutions” and “led to the establishment from September 2021 of a national register of police records of gender/sex hate crimes”.

Further accolades went to the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science – runner up in the Outreach Initiative of the Year for its virtual work experience project, an open-to-all online course that has boosted applications from students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Runner up in the Outstanding Research Supervisor category was Dr Ravinder Anand-Ivell, Director of Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Research in the School of Biosciences.

THE Editor, John Gill, said: “The Times Higher Education Awards have been recognising outstanding achievements in UK higher education for the best part of two decades, but never before have they shone a light on the level of effort and creativity that was demanded of universities throughout the 2019-20 academic year.

“The response required, and delivered, in the face of a global pandemic was unique, and many of the awards submissions reflected those unprecedented circumstances. But universities’ great strength is not just that they respond to circumstances, but that they also provide a level of constancy at times of uncertainty and change.

“2019-20 was not just a year of pandemic disruption, it was also a year in which incredible achievements were made in all the areas you would hope and expect; world-changing research, brilliant learning and teaching, international and industrial engagement, and the full gamut of activities that run through universities like words through a stick of rock.”

Two of our colleagues involved in the THE Awards have written for Time Higher Education about their work. Arts faculty research impact officer Anna Walas offered advice for facilitating community engagement with research. Dr Ravinder Anand-Ivell explained how early investment of time and empathy can help international postgraduate research students adapt to a new environment.

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