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29th May, 2019

The inaugural Sir Paul Curran award for excellence in academic communication

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The inaugural Sir Paul Curran award for excellence in academic communication through The Conversation has been won by Dr Ian Whittaker of Nottingham Trent University and Dr Gareth Dorrian of the University of Birmingham.

The award is for an academic contributor, or contributors, to The Conversation who grasp the need to talk to the world beyond their specialist field and in doing so play a vital part in bringing the benefits of expert knowledge to the public sphere.

Sir Paul is President of City, University of London, Patron of The Conversation and until January of this year, Founding Chair of its governing Board of Trustees in the UK.

Presenting the award, Sir Paul said:

These authors have woven compelling narratives grounded in their areas of research. They have been read 1.5m times and republished around the world, illustrating the power and value of The Conversation.

The award for academic communication is the first of many awards that I hope we can establish to celebrate the achievements of our authors. It comprises a twin-handled silver cup, manufactured around a hundred years ago and now engraved with the name of both The Conversation and the title of the award. This beautiful trophy will be held (and hopefully polished) by the recipients until next year’s ceremony.

Following the presentation of the award, Dr Ian Whittaker said:

I was honoured to be the first recipient of this trophy as communicating is one of the key skills of an academic. The Conversation is an excellent way of getting the knowledge that we pick up and use on a daily basis and make it accessible to a much wider audience. This method of communication is especially beneficial in a time where journalism and experts in general are less trusted by the public.

Dr Gareth Dorrian, who was not able to attend in person, said on learning of his award:

It was quite a surprise to win this award but I am very grateful to have been joint winner along with my colleague. Communicating science is something of a passion of mine, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to really do it until I was introduced to The Conversation. It has proven quite a gateway to me and, I’m sure, many other authors as well who would not otherwise have had the chance to explain their interests to the public. Long may it continue!

Writing in a blog about the event, Stephen Khan, The Conversation’s Editor in the UK, said:

I am fortunate enough to read many articles on the site that illuminate, explain and entertain. Choosing a winner for the prize was far from easy.

But Whittaker and Dorrian displayed consistency, submitting a number of high-level contributions, combined with post-publication engagement that made their efforts truly exceptional. Their work has covered topics such as space travel, the climate on planets, and even conspiracy theories. They also contributed to our Curious Kids strand, where academics answer questions submitted by children.

The Conversation is an independent news website produced by academics and journalists.

Based on a model established in Australia, the news outlet provides an independent and trusted platform for academic expertise to be shared with the public.

City, University of London was a Founding Partner in the venture and remains heavily involved in its success. The University provided office accommodation on its premises for its first six years in the UK.

Since The Conversation was established, more than 170 academics from City, University of London have written articles for the site which have collectively been read more than six million times.

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