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PhD student wins leading award from UK Research and Innovation

University of Gloucestershire PhD student Philippa Simmonds has won a prestigious UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) competition focusing on ways of tackling the climate emergency through the food system.

Philippa, a research student with the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) based at the University, took first prize at the UKRI’s annual research storytelling event with a presentation showcasing her work on cows, sheep, and climate change.

Entitled ‘Speak up for Food Security’, the competition is part of the UKRI’s cross-council Global Food Security (GFS) programme and aims to increase researchers’ engagement with the public by drawing on the power of stories.

Philippa was among five finalists – all early-career researchers – selected from 12 semi-finalists to present their research stories at GFS’s public engagement event ‘Food v Climate: Five Stories for Change’, held at the UKRI’s virtual pre-COP26 programme.

After some tough questions and deliberation, the audience and judges declared Philippa’s the winning story and it will now be developed into a short video to be shared on social media as part of UKRI’s communications around COP26.

Philippa said: “My story takes place on a sunny hillside in the UK uplands. We sit with a sheep farmer called Mary, and hear about the problem of greenhouse gases in the burps of cows and sheep.

“Different characters offer different solutions, representing some of the discourses around this complicated and messy topic. These discourses create heroes and villains, and offer us glimpses of alternative visions for the future.

“Developing this story and working alongside my fellow food system researchers has been an amazing experience, and I was surprised and delighted to be selected as the winner. Social science research is an essential part of the effort to transform our food system, so I’m excited that my story will be developed into a video.”

The overarching aim of the ‘Speak Up for Food Security’ competition is to equip the next generation of UKRI researchers with the narrative theory and tools to support the transformation of our food systems for people and the planet.

Dr Matthew Reed, Associate Professor in Food Citizenship at the University and Director of the CCRI, said: “Pippa’s work brings to life different ways of understanding the complex problems we are all grappling with when we think about what is best to eat to stop our planet from heating further. 

“At the CCRI we are thrilled that Pippa has received this acknowledgement of her work, and that she’ll be championing the work of food system researchers during the COP26 summit.”