Winners of the O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021 announced

Congratulations to Professor Melinda Mills, Dr Jennifer Beam Dowd and their team from the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, who along with Dr Gemma Briggs (The Open University), Dr Jamie Lachman and Professor Lucie Cluver, Dr Sarah Spencer and Dr Nicola Delvino (University of Oxford) were announced today as the winners of the O²RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021. 

The Excellence in Impact Awards, supported by the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, recognise and reward social scientists whose research has achieved excellent economic and social impact. This year’s winners have collaborated with policymakers, industry partners, academics and NGOs around the globe to impact a wide range of complex and urgent societal challenges; from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on rates of parenting stress and child abuse, to European cities’ policies and practices towards irregular migrants, and the imperative to educate drivers on the dangers of hands-free phone use. 

Professor Melinda Mills, Dr Jennifer Beam Dowd and their team received their award in recognition of their data driven policy interventions during COVID19. 

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, led by Professor Melinda Mills, has been at the forefront of COVID-19-related research into patterns of COVID-19 mortality and excess mortality, ‘hotspots’ of infection, support bubbles, face coverings, and the deployment of vaccines – influencing both national and international policy. 

In her role as a member of SAGE SPI-B (behavioural insights) and on the Royal Society’s Science in Emergencies Tasking COVID-19 (SET-C) group, Professor Mills led a number of high-profile studies, including on the effectiveness of face coverings (leading directly to the adoption of mandatory face coverings in indoor public spaces in England from July 2020) and on the social-behavioural factors underpinning vaccine deployment (informing government communication initiatives regarding vaccine deployment). 

The LCDS’s research on social bubbles not only shifted public discourse on COVID-19 policies, action and protective measures, but also influenced both domestic policy and international practice in this field. The interdisciplinary team’s widely-cited research has also included the importance of demographic science and population composition on COVID mortality, the extent of children’s learning losses through school closures, and the forecasting and mapping of hospital ‘deserts’ by local authority early in the pandemic. 

Reacting to their award, Professor Mills said, ‘Having a team of researchers in our Centre coming from multiple disciplines and countries allowed us to be agile, outward looking and to approach pandemic emergencies in a unique way. Working directly in a feedback loop with policy makers in the UK and around the world meant that our interdisciplinary data driven scientific approach was relevant and quickly translated into concrete policy suggestions.’ 

To hear all the winners’ inspirational stories, register to watch the Awards ceremony livestreamed from Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History on 19th October 2021, from 6pm.