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Submissions open for BBC National Short Story Award and BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University

The BBC National Short Story Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 and published in an anthology by Comma Press.

The 2020 winner of the BBC National Short Story Award was Sarah Hall for ‘The Grotesques’, a timeless and unsettling story set against a backdrop of privilege and inequality in a university town. This was the second win for Hall who also won the prize in 2013. Previous alumni of the award include Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Jon McGregor, Ingrid Persaud, Cynan Jones and Jo Lloyd.

The writers shortlisted for the BBC Young Writers’ Award have their stories narrated by an actor, recorded for a BBC podcast, and published in an anthology. The winner of the 2020 BBC Young Writers’ Award was Lottie Mills for her story inspired by her experience of disability, ‘The Changeling.’ Both winning stories are available to listen to on BBC Sounds.

This is the first year of a new three-year partnership with the University of Cambridge, including Cambridge University Library, the Faculty of English, Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education and for the first time, the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Dr Lisa Mullen from the University’s Faculty of English and Director of Studies at Downing College said: “The University of Cambridge is delighted to be collaborating with the BBC again on these awards, and to support and nurture both new and established short-story writers.

“Stories are at the heart of our shared human experience, and Cambridge's Faculty of English, Institute of Continuing Education, the University Library and Fitzwilliam Museum all have a special interest in how this dynamic form of fiction responds to a changing world.”

The BBC National Short Story Award and BBC Young Writers’ Award are now open for submissions. Novelist and former Radio 4 Commissioning Editor for Arts James Runcie will chair the judging panel for the BBC National Short Story Award, an award that has enriched both the careers of writers and the wider literary landscape since its launch sixteen years ago.

Runcie said: “I am so delighted to chair the 2021 BBC National Short Story Awards. We need imaginative alternatives in these dark times: stories that question and surprise and open up new worlds.

“They can be short or long. They can take place in the past, present, future, or even all three at once. They can be set in a nutshell or in infinite space. But what I think we’ll be looking for is uniqueness of vision, a distinctive tone, curiosity, intrigue, surprise: an invitation to the reader’s imagination. I can’t wait to get started.”

Chair of the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University is BBC Radio 1 Presenter Katie Thistleton. She chairs the judging panel for the teenage award for the fourth time as it opens for submissions for the seventh year. Thistleton is a writer and the co-host of Radio 1’s Life Hacks and The Official Chart: First Look on Radio 1. The BBC Young Writers’ Award is open to writers between the ages of 14-18 years.

Thistleton said: “I’m really looking forward to chairing the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University again for 2021. As a keen writer myself, and someone who loved entering writing competitions when I was younger, I know how important and exciting this opportunity is.”

Runcie and Thistleton will be joined by a group of acclaimed writers and critics on their respective panels.

For the BBC National Short Story Award: Booker Prize shortlisted novelist Fiona Mozley; award winning writer, poet and winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize, Derek Owusu; multi-award winning Irish novelist and short story writer, Donal Ryan; and returning judge, Di Speirs, Books Editor at BBC Radio.

For the BBC Young Writers’ Award, Thistleton will be joined by bestselling, highly acclaimed Irish YA author, Louise O’Neill; twenty-year old singer-songwriter Arlo Parks; Sunday Times bestselling author and actor Robert Webb; and Guardian Children’s Fiction Award winner Alex Wheatle.

Full Terms and Conditions for the NSSA and YWA are available with submissions accepted online at www.bbc.co.uk/nssa and www.bbc.co.uk/ywa. The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 15th March 2021. The deadline for receipt of entries for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University is 9am (GMT) Monday 22nd March 2021. 

The shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University will be announced on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7.15pm on Friday 10th September 2021. The shortlist for the BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University will be announced on Radio 1’s Life Hacks from 4pm on Sunday 19th September 2021.

The stories shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award with Cambridge University will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 13th to Friday 17th September 2021 from 3.30pm to 4pm.

The announcement of the winners of the two awards will be broadcast live from the award ceremony at BBC Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row from 7.15pm on Tuesday 5th October 2021.

Novelist James Runcie and broadcaster Katie Thistleton will chair the judging panels for the 2021 BBC National Short Story Award and BBC Young Writers’ Award with Cambridge University and submissions now open.

Stories are at the heart of our shared human experience, and Cambridge's Faculty of English, Institute of Continuing Education, the University Library and Fitzwilliam Museum all have a special interest in how this dynamic form of fiction responds to a changing worldDr Lucy Mullen


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Beyond the pandemic: build a greener future

It is crucial that recovery from the pandemic is shaped to support the responses to climate change and biodiversity loss if we hope to mitigate yet further global disaster, says Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero. Today (9 November 2020), Cambridge Zero launches A Blueprint for a Green Future to guide how the UK government can best achieve this.

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Cambridge University and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore establish new research centre to support lifelong learning

The Centre for Lifelong Learning and Individualised Cognition (CLIC) is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), and is funded by Singapore’s National Research Foundation. 
 
Cultivating new skills is a lifelong process that requires cognitive flexibility, yet there is currently a gap in evidence-based training programmes that can effectively support and promote this way of learning throughout people’s lives. 

Cognitive flexibility goes far beyond conventional IQ; it is the essential capacity for responding to the fluctuating events of the modern world. It underlies adaptive coping to change, and also the generation of innovative, creative thinking. 

Trevor Robbins, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience Psychology in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and a senior academic advisor to the programme, said: "Understanding the psychological basis of cognitive flexibility and its basis in the brain will have enormous societal benefits, with educational, as well as clinical, impact.” 

He added: “This novel and original collaborative programme by two leading Universities will enhance the science of learning by innovative interventions and methods, for training cognitive flexibility over the life span."

The research programme will be led by Zoe Kourtzi, Professor of Experimental Psychology in Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. Involving researchers in psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and education, CLIC will explore cross-disciplinary ways to develop innovative research in the science of learning. The ultimate goal is to translate these research findings into an integrated model of learning that can be applied in the real world, improving cognitive flexibility across the life span.

Research will focus on four life stages - early years, adolescence, young adults and middle age - when flexible behaviour is critical for coping with changing circumstances. During these periods the brain undergoes neural changes such as early maturation, restructuring or resilience to decline, presenting important opportunities for intervention. 

NTU Senior Vice President (Research), Professor Lam Khin Yong said: “The cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers from NTU Singapore and Cambridge University is expected to have wide-ranging impact on workers, as technology and globalisation change the nature of labour markets worldwide.” 

He added: “The ability to develop and master new skills at the workplace is becoming increasingly pressing globally. Singapore’s nationwide SkillsFuture programme, for example, gives opportunities for people to develop their fullest potential throughout life. Yet, we know that differences in individual cognitive functions can affect learning and performance. This is where research in the Science of Learning can play a key role in enhancing educational outcomes and practice. The new Centre will support the country’s drive in helping the workforce prepare for the digital economy, as businesses turn to automation.”

Annabel Chen, Co-Director of CLIC and Professor of Psychology and Director for the Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE) at NTU, Singapore, said: “This is an exciting development for research in the Science of Learning. We have been working closely with colleagues from Cambridge, and tapping into expertise across NTU, including the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Business School, National Institute of Education, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and College of Engineering to develop the CLIC programme.”

She added: “This development complements the Science of Learning Initiative in the Centre of Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE), launched by NTU in 2015. With this multidisciplinary effort and input from the Ministry of Education and SkillsFuture Singapore, we believe our programme will be able to provide insights and translatable solutions for the Future of Learning and Economy in Singapore and beyond.”

The collaboration was brought together through the presence of the University of Cambridge’s first overseas research centre in Singapore, the Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore Ltd (CARES). CARES was established in 2013 under the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) – a collection of 15 joint research programmes between local universities and top overseas institutions funded by Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF). The Centre hosts several research programmes, most of which involve NTU and focus on the decarbonisation of Singapore’s chemical industry.

The new programme on the science of learning is a novel direction for CARES and CREATE, bringing together expertise from Cambridge and Singapore to investigate new ways of helping people prepare and adapt to the rapidly changing workplace.

A new research centre focused on improving support for lifelong learning and cognitive agility opened on 1 October 2020 in Singapore.

The programme will enhance the science of learning by innovative interventions and methods, for training cognitive flexibility over the life spanTrevor RobbinsJess Bailey on UnsplashColoured pencils


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Vice-Chancellor’s awards showcase impact and engagement during the pandemic

Now in their fifth year, the awards were made in five categories: collaboration, early career, established academic, professional service, online and remote.

The winners of the collaboration category are Dr Michael Weekes from Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, and Dr Steven Baker from Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease. They collaborated to establish a comprehensive rapid turn-around COVID-19 testing platform for Cambridge University Hospitals healthcare workers, University staff and students.

The newly-established ‘online and remote engagement’ award goes to Dr Michael Ramage and team from the Department of Architecture for their HappyShield project. This involved developing, testing, and disseminating a novel open-source medical face shield to help tackle severe PPE shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, focussing in particular on production in Low and Middle Income Countries. 

The winner of the early career researcher award is Chioma Achi from the Department of Veterinary Medicine. Achi organised an engagement programme across Nigeria to strengthen the participation of poultry farmers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

The winner of the established researcher award is Dr Duncan Astle from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Working in partnership with children’s charities, local education authorities, academy chains and local schools, Astle led an engagement programme providing teachers with robust evidence to help young people overcome cognitive and behavioural barriers to learning.

The winner of the professional services award is Dr Rosalyn Wade from the Museum of Zoology. Wade reimagined the Museum’s learning and public programme following COVID-19 lockdown and the venue’s temporary closure. She designed and released a new blog and developed an innovative online festival (Zoology Live!).

The awards were announced on 5th October by the University’s Public Engagement team on Twitter

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, says: 

“The University’s mission is to contribute to society. One of the ways we do it is by undertaking research with real social, cultural and economic impact. 

“These awards celebrate research that best demonstrates social, cultural and economic impact through engagement. From advances in healthcare and industrial processes, to rapid responses to the global pandemic; from cultural activities that recognise diversity in our societies, to new knowledge that improves teaching and increases social mobility. This year’s panel of judges was inspired and uplifted by the quality of applications.”

The Vice-Chancellor’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards were established to recognise and reward outstanding achievement, innovation and creativity in devising and implementing ambitious engagement and impact plans that have the potential to create significant economic, social and cultural impact from and engagement with and for research. Each winner is offered a bursary to support their project.

This year’s winners and runners up are:

Established Academic Award

Winner: Dr Duncan Astle (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, School of Clinical Medicine) – Breaking barriers to learning in the classroom

Runners up: Dr Joseph Webster (Faculty of Divinity, School of Arts and Humanities) – Sectarianism in Scotland and the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act

Professor Peter Hutchinson (with Professor David Menon) (Clinical Neurosciences / Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine) – Reshaping the treatment of traumatic brain injury

Early Career Researcher Award

Winner: Chioma Achi (Department of Veterinary Medicine, School of Biological Sciences) – Strengthening participation of poultry farmers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance

Runners up: Emma Soneson (Department of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Medicine) – Public health approaches to identifying and responding to mental health difficulties in children and young people

Dr Naures Atto (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies/Middle Eastern Studies, School of Arts and Humanities) – Endangered Middle Eastern Cultures and their Vulnerability in Migration Contexts

Dr Nicki Kindersley (Faculty of History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) – Militarised political economies in South Sudan

Professional Services Award

Winner: Dr Rosalyn Wade (Museum of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences) – Learning and Public Programme of the Museum of Zoology: blending contemporary zoological research with active and online learning experiences for public audiences

Collaboration Award 

Winner: Dr Michael Weekes and Dr Steven Baker (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research / Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, School of Clinical Medicine) – A comprehensive COVID-19 screening programme for Cambridge University Hospitals healthcare workers, Cambridge University staff and students

Runners up: Dr Victoria Avery, Dr Melissa Calaresu and Dr Miranda Stearn (Fitzwilliam Museum / Faculty of History / Fitzwilliam Museum) – Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500–1800 Research Project 

Online and Remote Engagement Award

Winner: Dr Michael Ramage and team (Department of Architecture, School of Arts and Humanities) – The HappyShield 

Runners up: Centre for Geopolitics (Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences) – Centre for Geopolitics Coronavirus Response

Academics, students and professional members of staff from across the University have been recognised in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards for their work in areas including COVID-19 testing, PPE production and online engagement.

These awards celebrate research that best demonstrates social, cultural and economic impact through engagementStephen ToopeHappyshieldThe Happyshield face shield


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