Four extraordinary projects involving Oxford academics, which bring research impact to real-world issues, have today been shortlisted for a prestigious ‘Celebrating Impact Prize’ by the government’s Economic and Social Research Council.
Three individuals and one team project, including Oxford researchers, have been chosen because of the ‘outstanding economic or societal impact’ of their research.
Anthropologist Dr Julia Ebner has been nominated for her insightful doctoral research, which is already having significant impact – helping to identify which extremist individuals and groups pose a risk of violence to the public, using her unique framework for assessing their online messaging.
Dr Ebner explains, she created a language framework, based on research into terrorist manifestos. This has already prompted intelligence agencies and online platforms to rethink their prevention approaches and develop new ways of distinguishing credible threats from ‘keyboard warriors’.
Dr Julia Ebner has been nominated for research...helping to identify which extremist individuals and groups pose a risk of violence to the public
Risk patterns emerge through the language, she says. One significant identifier, according to Dr Ebner, is identity fusion, an intense form of group cohesion where an individual's identity becomes one with the group identity.
Previous research in offline contexts has linked this phenomenon to violence among revolutionary battalions and football hooligans, she says, but her study is the first to develop ways of detecting fusion in online extremist groups.
Economist Dr Kate Orkin has been nominated for the extraordinary impact of research-driven poverty relief measures, which have had a major impact in South Africa.
She says, in April 2020, 1 in 5 South Africans were going to bed hungry. The country had locked down hard, millions of casual workers were laid off. The existing system of food parcel distribution was overwhelmed, and there were issues with logistical management and theft.
Economists have proposed a radical new form of welfare: distributing cash direct to poor households, including during emergencies. Before the pandemic, Dr Orkin led an ESRC-funded randomised trial in Kenya to test the approach of giving cash transfers directly to poor households without any conditions.
Supported by our Kenyan findings, I advised the South African government to give direct unconditional cash grants, rather than food parcels. One study found this shift kept 5.5 million people out of severe food poverty...
Dr Kate Orkin
We found recipient households used money well: for food, and using cash to buy assets for businesses or search for work. They work more hours, invest more in economic activities and earn more income.
Supported by our Kenyan findings, I advised the South African government to give direct unconditional cash grants, rather than food parcels. One study found this shift kept 5.5 million people out of severe food poverty, during the early months of lockdown.
Lukas Lehner, a doctoral student with Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention, has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious awards for his research into a guaranteed job scheme to employ long-term unemployed people.
The team found strong positive impacts on participants’ economic and non-economic well-being from being part of the scheme devised by Lukas Lehner and colleagues
Based on the town of Marienthal in Austria, his research involves providing tailored voluntary jobs to all long-term unemployed residents. The team found strong positive impacts on participants’ economic and non-economic well-being from being part of the scheme.
Also shortlisted was a group including Oxford’s Professor Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Tom Mayne and Dr Tena Prelec, members of the university’s Department of Politics and International Relations. They are members of the Countering Kleptocracy Project team, led by the University of Exeter’s Professor John Heathershaw.
The Department of Politics and International Relations team has helped inform the fight against international kleptocracy
The project has helped inform the fight against international kleptocracy and has provided evidence of how money and reputation laundering are enabled by British financial and legal services. The research became a key part of public and political debate, and increased in awareness of the extent of illicit finance from resource-rich, authoritarian states.
The research and related knowledge exchange work was supported by the ESRC, Global Integrity (FCDO), British Academy, Leverhulme Trust and the Joffe Trust.
All the researchers received ESRC funding for their work. The winners of impact prizes, of £10,000, will be announced at an awards ceremony on 15 November 2023. According to the ESRC, ‘The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize, now in its 11th year, is an annual opportunity to recognise the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from their research.’