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Media-savvy academics win University's first Public Communications Prize

Dr Paul Williams

Dr Paul Williams received first prize

Four academics who helped put Reading firmly in the world press over the last year have been rewarded in the University's inaugural Public Communications Prize.

A climate scientist, a microbiologist, a medieval historian and a food chemist have all been honoured in the scheme, winning up to £1,000 each towards their individual staff training funds. The winners are:

  • First prize: Dr Paul Williams (Meteorology)
  • Second prize: Dr Rebecca Rist (History)
  • Third prize: Dr Ben Neuman (Biological Sciences) and Jane Parker (Food).

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell, who chaired the panel picking the winners, said: "I would like to offer my congratulations to Paul, Rebecca, Ben and Jane - but also my sincere thanks to everyone at the University who actively publicises their work, and that of the University, through the media.

"The University, and indeed the higher education sector more generally, is increasingly recognising the efforts of colleagues who take their research and knowledge beyond the academic stage. Excellent teaching and fundamental research will always form the cornerstone of our mission, but we must engage openly with the wider world if we are to grow in stature and relevance in the years ahead."

The selection panel said it made its selections by looking for those that had:

  • made a sustained contribution over the past 12 months to share their research and expertise in the media, both nationally and internationally; and/or
  • captured the public imagination with a compelling research story that has been widely seen and remarked upon across a broad range of audiences; and/or
  • worked in a collaborative and collegiate way with the University's Press Office; and/or
  • gone beyond the call of duty in making themselves available to the media.

Winner of the 2014 Public Communication Prize is Dr Paul Williams (pictured), principal research fellow with NCAS-Climate in the Department of Meteorology, whose research into the effects of climate change on aircraft turbulence attracted huge global attention on publication in April last year. He has also worked with TV documentaries, given radio interviews and spoken to print journalists on various topics around climate research.

Second prize went to Dr Rebecca Rist, from the Department of History, who used her expertise in papal history to become a frequent media commentator after the resignation of Pope Benedict and the selection of Pope Francis last year.

Dr Ben Neuman, from the School of Biological Sciences, shares third prize with Dr Jane Parker, director of the Flavour Centre within the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences. Dr Neuman is regularly quoted in national newspapers, BBC Online and media across the globe on virus outbreaks and has conducted interviews with numerous TV and radio stations, and gave the annual Children's Lecture on ‘Invisible Invaders' in December, while Dr Parker has participated in several high-profile TV documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4.

Charles Heymann, the University's Head of News, said: "Impact is the watchword of Higher Education - demonstrating both the impact of our research and impact of great teaching and a student experience. Our university is a goldmine of superb research; expert commentary and analysis; and human interest stories - all which can generate huge national and international exposure. The Press Office is here to help build our external profile and reputation. We work with scores of colleagues across the University and we're always hungry to hear of potential new story ideas."

To contact the Press Office:

  • call our 24/7 general enquiries number: 0118 378 5757 (internal x5757). For emergencies or urgent queries outside normal office hours, this number will automatically divert to the duty press officer's mobile
  • email our general enquiries pressoffice@reading.ac.uk
  • follow @UniRdg_News on Twitter for the latest research, news and expert comment. Follow @UniofReading for ‘on-campus' news, events, courses and goings on at the University.

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