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19th October 2022

Talented researchers in Wales working on life-changing research recognised at annual research conference

Health and social care researchers in Wales have been recognised for their ground-breaking work in the use of health data in the pandemic response, the outcomes of unpaid carers, young people’s sleep and mental health, and involving the public in the different stages of research.

The Health and Care Research Wales Awards, which were presented at its annual conference on 13 October, acknowledge the incredible achievements of the Welsh research community over the past year.

This year, four distinguished researchers were honoured under three award categories: the Impact Award, the Rising Research Star Award, and the Public Involvement Award.

Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales, said:

It’s been an amazing year for the research community as so much has been achieved. These awards are a great opportunity to acknowledge the astonishing efforts of the researchers who helped recover important research and tackle real-life challenges as we came out of the worst of the pandemic.

A huge well done and thank you to all those who entered the awards this year and also to the judging panels for their professional and valuable contributions.”

Impact Award – Joint winners: ‘SAIL Databank and partners ‘One Wales’ Covid-19 response’ and ‘The future of unpaid carers in Wales research project’

This award recognises the difference that Welsh health and social care research is making to people’s everyday lives. The judges were encouraged to see the breadth of research taking place and the impact and influence the research could have on patients, practice and policy in Wales. There were two standout applications and the judges decided to honour both of them.

SAIL Databank and partners ‘One Wales’ Covid-19 response

Ashley Akbari, Associate Professor at SAIL Databank, accepted the Impact Award on behalf of SAIL Databank and partners ‘One Wales’ Covid-19 response. Ashley said: “This is a true recognition of the collective team efforts. Our project involves multi-disciplinary collaboration between the government, policymakers and the public. We are glad to promote team science and convey its importance and value to the wider community.”

The judges described the SAIL Databank and partners ‘One Wales’ Covid-19 response application as ‘phenomenal’, demonstrating impact across a global pandemic.

Watch Ashley speak about their work:



The future of unpaid carers in Wales research project

Fangzhou Huang, Principal Investigator at Swansea University accepted the Impact Award on behalf of the future of unpaid carers in Wales research project. Funded by Public Health Wales, the Future of Unpaid Carers in Wales is a collaboration project between Swansea University and Public Health Wales, and engaged with NHS, Carers Wales, Carers Trust Wales and Welsh Government.

Huang said:

We are honoured to receive this award. This is an award for everyone who supported our project. We are happy to see our project is making an impact to evidence-based policy, helping the vulnerable groups in the community.”

While the judges said the project demonstrated genuine impact and collaboration in an area aligning to important Welsh Government policy.

Watch Huang speak about the future of unpaid carers in Wales research project:



Rising Research Star Award – Dr Katie Lewis

The Rising Research Star Award 2022 was given to Dr Katie Lewis, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Cardiff University. This award recognises those in the early stage of their health or social care research career who are already making an outstanding contribution to their field and/or developing as emerging leaders of the future.

Katie said:

I’m very honoured to be awarded the Rising Research Star Award from Health and Care Research Wales. This award enables me to disseminate my research findings at a conference and raise awareness of this research area.”

The judges described Katie as ‘an extremely strong candidate’ and believe her research in the area of sleep and mental health could have a huge impact – a true rising research star.

Watch Katie speak about their work:



Public Involvement Award – The GPs in EDs study

The ‘GPs in EDs’ study was given the Public Involvement Achievement Award 2022, which recognises the very best use of public involvement in a health or social care research study, using the UK Standards for Public Involvement.

Julie Hepburn, public involvement member of the study, accepted the award on behalf of the study, which was delivered by PRIME Centre Wales.

The study aims to evaluate how GPs work in Emergency Departments in September 2022. Through all research stages, from study inception to completion, public contributors have been equal team members.

Bridie Angela Evans, Public Involvement Lead at PRIME Centre Wales said:

I feel very proud and delighted that our work has been recognised in this way. I hope we have shown others how they can genuinely involve people in their research teams, welcome the roles public members can undertake in a collaboration and value the contributions these skilled and motivated individuals bring to carrying out good quality research.”

The judges believe this to be a leading example of the influence that public involvement can have on health and social care research. It was fantastic to see the team embracing the UK Standards for Public Involvement and focusing on capturing and measuring the impact that public involvement was having throughout the life of the study.

Watch Bridie speak about the study:



The winner of each category will be awarded funding of up to £250 to attend a training course, conference, workshop or similar event to develop an area of their research skillset.

Judith Paget CBE, Chief Executive at NHS Wales, who presented the awards, said the judges were particularly impressed by the strong field of applicants and quality of entries this year, with many entries being highly commended.

Highly Commended:

Impact Award

Dr Claire Nollet’s research project, co-designing a mental health training programme for frontline staff in the sight loss sector

Rising Research Star 

Dr Julie Peconi, Senior Research Officer at Swansea University

Adam Williams, Trial Manager at Cardiff University

Find out more about the speakers and presentations from this year’s conference.