Martin Ince is a science journalist and president of the Association of British Science Writers. Among his many books are Conversations with Manuel Castells, and the Rough Guide to the Earth. He is a frequent contributor to the ESRC’s own publications.
Martin will be among the judges of Making Sense of Society, the ESRC writing competition 2016-17, in partnership with SAGE Publishing. Here he writes a piece on the kind of content the judges will be looking for as a winner.
The days are long gone when the only people who had to like a thesis were the examiners who could approve or reject it. Academics now need to be able to talk about their research to broad audiences, and in a way that makes its importance and relevance clear to anyone. That’s why ESRC and SAGE, one of the world’s top social science publishers, are encouraging you to do just that, with a competition which will get current and recent ESRC-funded students writing about the significance of their work.
This will be the second ESRC writing competition in partnership with SAGE Publishing. Inaugurated in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of both organisations, it gave entrants a remit to write about the world in a further five decades. Standards were high as you can see be reading City Inc, the winning entry.
This year, we want a fascinating article of up to 800 words about your research, why it interests you, and more to the point, why it should interest other people and why it matters.
Called “Making Sense of Society” the competition wants you to answer one big question: how does the research I have carried out allow the world to understand its social and economic structure and activities better?
This question is firmly in line with the ESRC’s aims: helping society within and beyond the UK to make sense of itself.
How you do this is up to you. As a member of the judging panel, I’d be delighted to see a short story, a report from the future like City Inc, or something more like a straight news story. You could even use examples of real individuals to beef up the narrative, or make up fictional characters to illustrate your point.
Don’t be put off by the idea that your research is too limited in scope to be of interest. ESRC funds work that can help us understand the big issues of today such as the implications of Brexit, the US election, or the future of renewable energy. But it also supports work that enhances our understanding of some highly specific group, place or business. You may have worked closely with an outside organisation, maybe commercial or in the public sector, gaining a deep insight into how research can generate new approaches to serious problems.
Whatever your insight into society, we do hope you’ll enter. Explaining the importance of your research is a growing expectation for anyone wanting a career in academe. So a compelling entry for Making Sense of Society is a positive career move. Oh, and there’s £1,000 in it for the winner, as well as two runner up prizes of £500 which might also be of interest.