Skip to content

BERA in the news

2018 Public Engagement & Impact Award Winners

The British Educational Research Association Public Engagement & Impact Award recognises the important impact of research and practice in the education community and celebrates significant educational research and its activities that have demonstrably engaged the public

Nominations are sought in respect of:

  1. individuals or teams whose educational research work has shown demonstrable public engagement and/or impact;
  2. practitioner(s) or policy-maker(s) whose activities are well grounded in educational research and have led to demonstrable public engagement and/or impact;
  3. persons whose activities have boosted public engagement with educational research and/or its impact, or whose efforts have increased recognition and support for education research in public policy.

For the purposes of this Award, ‘public engagement’ is broadly defined as activities that bring research and/or researchers and the public (or specific groups within the public) together. It is more than just disseminating research – effective public engagement is about two-way communication, with the researchers listening to and learning from participants or other stakeholders at different stages in the research process. Research Councils UK provide a helpful definition of public engagement – see
‘Impact’ is broadly defined as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.  It includes, but is not limited to, an effect on, change or benefit to:

  • the activity, attitude, awareness, behaviour, capacity, opportunity, performance, policy,
  • practice, process or understanding; of an audience, beneficiary, community, constituency, organisation or individuals; in any Geographic location whether locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.



The winner of the 2018 BERA Public Engagement and Impact award is The ASPIRES/ ASPIRES 2 and Enterprising Science team (UCL Institute of Education) for their impactful research on ‘science capital’ and educational inequalities.

The ASPIRES/ASPIRES 2 and Enterprising Science research projects team originated the concept of ‘science capital’, developed new understandings of what produces unequal patterns in science participation, and developed a teaching approach to improve science engagement. Their research has dramatically changed science education policy and practice both nationally and internationally, shifting understanding, policy and practice across government departments, national institutions, museums, science centres, and major science and engineering professional societies. The team’s work reflects their commitment to social justice, and demonstrates their ability to lead sustained improvement in broadening STEM aspirations, participation, and diversity based on strong conceptual, empirical research.

The impact of Professor Louise Archer and her team’s science capital work draws from two research projects; ASPIRES/ ASPIRES 2 and Enterprising Science. ASPIRES/ ASPIRES 2 constitute a 10-year longitudinal study, tracking a student cohort from age 10-19 to understand the influences of family, school, careers education, social identities and inequalities on science and career aspirations. ASPIRES/ ASPIRES 2 is a mixed methods study, comprising surveys with over 40,000 students and longitudinal interviews with 60 young people and 60 parents (tracked from age 10-19).

The research found that while over 70% of 10-13 year olds find science lessons interesting, this doesn’t translate into STEM aspirations. Additional findings include: stratification of KS4 science into ‘Double’ and ‘Triple Science’ may contribute to the STEM skills gap; careers education is patterned by existing social inequalities, and girls who take Physics are ‘exceptional’ in key ways, reflecting specific barriers to progression in the subject.  Enterprising Science used the concept of science capital to understand how young people from all backgrounds engage with science and how their engagement can be supported.

Subsequently, the Science Capital Teaching Approach was developed by Professor Archer and colleagues as a social justice approach to teaching the curriculum; improving students’ relationship to science and producing rewarding experiences for teachers. It relates science to students’ lives and challenges stereotypes about who can do science. Students who experience the approach record significantly increased levels of science capital, higher attainment, are more likely to aspire to STEM education/careers (from 16% to over 21.4%) and are more likely to see science as relevant to them (from 25% to 42%). Dramatic results occurred among disadvantaged communities with some teachers citing a 600% improvement in attainment among their lowest attaining students.

The judges also highly commended

Professor Stephen Gorard, Professor Vikki Boliver, Dr Beng Huat See and Dr Nadia Siddiqui (University of Durham) for their work on Assessing and addressing disadvantage in education