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Prestigious prize celebrates impact of two Cardiff University research projects

29 November 2021

Dr Rebecca Windemer (centre left) & Professor Jenny Kitzinger (centre right) at the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize award ceremony.

Two Cardiff University research projects are among the winners of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize 2021.

Professor Jenny Kitzinger from the School of Journalism, Media and Culture and Honorary Professor Celia Kitzinger from the School of Law and Politics secured the Outstanding Public Policy Impact prize for changing the law to promote person-centred decision-making for "coma" patients.

Dr Rebecca Windemer, previously of Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning, claimed the Outstanding Early Career Impact prize for influencing policy and debate on end-of-life considerations for onshore renewables.

Improved decision-making for patients

Professor Jenny Kitzinger’s research, conducted together with her co-investigator and sister Professor Celia Kitzinger, examined how decisions about life-sustaining treatment are made about patients in prolonged disorders of consciousness.

They conducted in-depth interviews with patients’ families and with healthcare professionals, tracking patients through the healthcare and legal systems over time as decisions were made about their treatment.

Their findings helped to change the law and informed new professional guidelines which have improved decision-making for patients who were sometimes being treated without consideration of their own wishes and often contrary to their best interests.

Professor Jenny Kitzinger collects the Outstanding Public Policy Impact prize

Professor Jenny Kitzinger said: “One in three of us will face the end of our lives unable to make decisions about serious medical treatment for ourselves. It is vital to have good processes in place to ensure person-centred care.

“Celia and I are proud to have contributed to improvements in this area and are very grateful to all the legal and healthcare professionals who worked with us to ensure our research informed positive changes in the law and in professional guidance.

“We’re also hugely indebted to the families who generously shared their experiences with us as they strove to ensure their loved ones were treated as individuals, with respect for their own values and wishes.”

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A significant impact

Dr Rebecca Windemer’s ESRC-funded doctoral studentship research looked at onshore wind and solar farms and what happens when they reach the end of their 25-year planning consent.

Her research has made a significant impact on government policymakers, the European wind industry, planning industry, politicians and the wider public in the UK.

It also led to the development of an end-of-life policy for onshore wind and solar farms in Wales and influenced the priorities of wind farm developers by showing that communities will not always be supportive of repowering – replacing old wind turbines with new ones.

Dr Rebecca Windemer collects her Outstanding Early Career Impact prize.

Dr Windemer, who is now a Lecturer in Environmental Planning and Design at the University of the West of England, said: “Increasing the amount of energy we generate from renewables will play a key role in meeting NetZero targets. However, space for renewable energy infrastructure is limited and it is therefore important to consider how we make decisions regarding the future of existing sites. Decision making is not straightforward as often sites or the surrounding land uses have changed over time and as local communities were often assured that the infrastructure would be removed after 25 years.

“My research has brought this issue into focus, particularly through highlighting the importance of considering community opinions and experiences and the need for a clear planning policy. This award will enable me to generate further impact through sharing my findings and recommendations on an international scale.” Now in its ninth year, the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize is an annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from excellent research.

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ESRC’s interim Executive Chair, Professor Alison Park, said: “Our competition recognises the UK’s world-leading economists and social scientists and highlights how their work makes a difference to people and organisations within the UK and across the world.

“The winners of this year’s awards provide excellent examples of how the social sciences are proving vital in helping communities and businesses navigate key national and global challenges, including recovery from the pandemic. It is also encouraging to see so many research teams feature, celebrating the vital role of collaboration and team-working within research.”

See the full list of winners and finalists.