Victorian Speed of Life Project wins VC Public Engagement Award

The Victorian Speed of Life project has won an University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Award. The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at the Keble College, Oxford, on 10 July 2019 hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson. Professor Sally Shuttleworth (English Faculty) and Dr Vicky McGuinness (TORCH) were recognised in the Projects Awards category for activities that have engaged the public about research. The video below was produced as part of the Awards, introducing the people behind the research and project to find out more about what they learned.

It’s claimed we suffer as never before from stress of information overload. However, thanks to rapid industrialisation the Victorians diagnosed similar problems, with people forced to process more information in a month than their grandparents had in a lifetime.

Drawing on research from the Diseases of Modern Life European Research Council project, the Victorian Speed of Life project explored the phenomena of stress, overload and other disorders of the 19th century, offering new ways to contextualise the issues of today.

Victorian Light Night was part of the national Being Human Festival and Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival. The star of the show was a light and sound projection on the Radcliffe Infirmary Building, which included the winning entries of the design competition for school children. This was accompanied by a range of talks and activities run by researchers in which a 2,500-strong audience of all ages got involved, with activities such as, ‘Make your own weird Victorian Christmas Card’; and ‘Messaging Madness – send your own Victorian telegram’.

The research took on new meaning and relevance when the researchers engaged in the many fascinating discussions with the artists, school students and the public.

“The need to think creatively about how to present to different audiences sharpened our ‘sense’ of research,” says Professor Sally Shuttleworth.

Collaborating with students from a local school, the project demonstrated how history can inform, and transform, the responses of young people to some of today’s pressing challenges.

“It has made me think about the value of communication and how lucky and unlucky we are to have such quick communication,” said one school student who took part.

Professor Alison Woollard, Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research, University of Oxford says: “These awards highlight the many ways that Oxford’s researchers engage with the public. This includes informing and empowering people by sharing research findings; working in partnership with communities to shape research and enabling citizens to take part in the research by collecting and analysing data through Citizen Science. These winning projects also demonstrate that excellence in engagement results in a ‘win-win’ for both researchers and publics alike.”

About the awards

The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards are awarded in three categories – Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome.

Winning entries receive recognition for their achievements at the Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards Ceremony that took place on 10 July 2019. The Vice-Chancellor’s prize was also announced at the ceremony, with winner to receive a cash prize of £1,500.