Last week, on Monday 9th September, I participated at the Royal Society of Edinburgh‘s (RSE) Annual Awards Reception. Each year this event provides a snapshot of the creative and innovative projects that are supported by the RSE and its partners: the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, BBSRC, STFC, BP, IBioIC and Fullbright.
My main ‘official’ role at the event was to present a poster about our RSE-funded project Research, Impact, Value and Library and Information Science (RIVAL). I also took advantage of the opportunity at the reception to find about other RSE-funded projects represented in the poster display, hear about some excellent work-in-progress from speakers in the main auditorium at the start of the evening, catch up with colleagues and other RSE Fellows, and make some new connections.
The formal part of the evening began with a warm welcome from RSE President Professor Dame Anne Glover. Then RSE Chief Executive Dr Rebekah Widdowfield introduced the wide range of awards managed by the RSE, drawing attention to some impressive statistics for 2018/19: 592 funding applications received, with 193 awards made to people based in 46 institutions in the UK and beyond.
Next it was the turn of five award-holders to give a series of short presentations. The speakers were:
- Dr Stuart Allan on his Arts and Humanities Workshop Award Hidden in plain sight: non-European collections in military culture
- Dr Erik Gauger on his Personal Research Fellowship Biomimetic energy harvesting with quantum nanostructures
- Henrietta Baker on her John Moyes Lessells Travel Scholarship to support her PhD study Forensic engineering and machine learning for future infrastructure
- Carmen Cummiskey on her Enterprise Fellowship to support the work of her company FOMO Ltd
- Rachael Bews on her Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship to support her social enterprise ALICAS Ltd.
All the speakers spoke enthusiastically about the difference that RSE funding has made to their work. In drawing attention to the wider impact of their projects in the UK and overseas, they also demonstrated that their RSE-funded projects fit with the RSE strapline of ‘Knowledge made useful’. This funding has not only helped advance knowledge in academic domains, but has delivered real social impact. The large amount of press coverage of Rachael Bews’ mission to provide bespoke clothing parcels to women in clothing crisis provides a great example of this. See for example the feature in The Independent from last year.
It was impressive to see the extent to which RSE grant-holders can use the funding from these awards as a launch pad to attract further investment in their projects. For example: Stuart Allan referred to the award of an £383k AHRC grant following on from earlier RSE awards; Erik Gauger has transitioned from postdoctoral researcher to Assistant Professor with a research team of six PhD students and two post-docs working on a number of high-value grants over the period of his Fellowship.
After the formal presentations I sought out Henrietta Baker for a follow-up chat. She uses machine learning, statistical analysis, modelling, and database techniques to generate new knowledge on construction project ‘failure’ from data about prior incidents. These techniques are highly relevant to an aspect of my undergraduate teaching this semester. I therefore invited Henrietta to give a presentation as part of my undergraduate Knowledge Management module this term, and she will be visiting us in campus on 24th October. I also enjoyed talking to Stuart Allan who, by complete coincidence, I had watched speaking on a video at the Wild and majestic: romantic visions of Scotland exhibition the National Museum of Scotland earlier the same day.
There are currently a number of live calls for RSE awards. Anyone seeking project funding is advised to check their eligibility for the various grants on offer.