Public Release: 

Research as Art Awards 2017: Fifteen extraordinary images shed light on the beauty and diversity of research

Swansea University


IMAGE: Overall Winner. Ruth Callaway (College of Science/ Coleg Gwyddoniaeth) SEACAMS2 and Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay Plc have worked together to explore opportunities to enhance the ecological value of the worlds' first tidal... view more 

Credit: Ruth Callaway, Swansea University

Fifteen stunning images, and the fascinating stories behind them -- such as how a barn owl's pellets reveal which animals it has eaten, how data can save lives, and how Barbie breaks free -- have today been revealed as the winners of the 2017 Research as Art awards.


The overall winner is Dr Ruth Callaway, a research officer from the College of Science. Her entry, Bioblocks: building for nature, illustrates how children and researchers have been exploring ways in which the tidal lagoon proposed for Swansea Bay could become a new habitat for marine creatures.

At a workshop held by the University, over 200 children used cubes of clay to sculpt ecologically attractive habitats that could be used by sea creatures. Crevices and holes could provide shelter. Using different textures and overhangs would allow animals and seaweed to cling to the breakwater.

The workshop is one of the ways in which Swansea University researchers on the SEACAMS project have been working with Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay Plc, to enhance the ecological value of the world's first tidal lagoon.

Research as Art is the only competition of its kind, open to researchers from all subjects, and with an emphasis on telling the research story, as well as composing a striking image.

It offers an outlet for researchers' creativity, and celebrates the diversity, beauty, and impact of research at Swansea University - a top 30 research university.

86 entries were received from researchers across all Colleges of the University, with titles such as:

  • Soaring skills of a vulture

  • Coffee and medication monitoring

  • Still on duty? A Roman soldier in endangered Syria

A distinguished judging panel of senior figures from the Royal Institution, NewScientist, and Nature, selected a total of fifteen winners. Along with the overall winner, there were judges' awards in four categories relating to engagement -- imagination, inspiration, illumination, and the natural world -- and 10 highly-commended entries.

Overall winner Dr Ruth Callaway described the image in her winning entry:

"Over 200 children used cubes of clay to sculpt ecologically attractive habitats for coastal creatures. These bioblocks demonstrate that humanmade structures can support marine life, while children and their families have gained a better understanding of the unique resilience of sea creatures.

It is hoped that the diverse and complex habitat will enable more species to use this new material as a living space: crevices and holes will provide shelter; variable textures and overhangs will allow animals and seaweed to cling to the material."

Dr Ruth Callaway added:

"Innovative projects such as the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay are inspiring, but they also throw up lots of questions and complex environmental challenges.

For marine scientists, the project creates unprecedented research opportunities to explore how the construction process could reduce negative impact on the coastal environment.

The EU-funded SEACAMS project and the company Tidal Lagoon Power work in collaboration, and we explore novel ways of enhancing biodiversity. Discussing these ideas with the public both informs the wider community about our work and triggers new research ideas."

Competition founder and Director Dr Richard Johnston, Associate Professor in materials science and engineering at Swansea University, said:

"Research as Art is an opportunity for researchers to reveal hidden aspects of their research to audiences they wouldn't normally engage with. This may uncover their personal story, their humanity, their inspiration, and emotion. It can also be a way of presenting their research process, and what it means to be a researcher; fostering dialogue, and dissolving barriers between universities and the wider world."


Pictures and accompanying material:

  • All 15 winning entries -- pictures and accompanying text -- are available here

  • All material is under embargo until 00.01 on Friday 14 July 2017

  • Pictures and text may be used -- with credit to Swansea University, and to individual entrant where applicable

  • JPEGs available on request

Interview opportunities:

  • The winning entries will be exhibited at a reception at Swansea University from 12.30 to 2.30 pm on Friday 14th July. Media organisations are invited to attend. There will be opportunities to interview winners with their entries. Please confirm attendance in advance.

  • Interviews in advance of this may be requested, both with winners and with competition founder Dr Richard Johnston, a British Science Association Media Fellow

Notes for editors:

Judging panel:

  • Prof. Gail Cardew - Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution
  • Dan Cressey, Reporter, Nature News
  • Flora Graham - Digital Editor of NewScientist
  • Barbara Kiser, Books and Arts Editor, Nature

Media contacts:

Kevin Sullivan
Swansea University Public Relations Office

Notes to editors:

Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university. The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. The University's 46-acre Singleton Park Campus is located in beautiful parkland with views across Swansea Bay. The University's 65-acre science and innovation Bay Campus, which opened in September 2015, is located a few miles away on the eastern approach to the city. It has the distinction of having direct access to a beach and its own seafront promenade. Both campuses are close to the Gower Peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Swansea is ranked the top university in Wales and is currently The Times and The Sunday Times 'Welsh University of the Year'. It is also ranked within the top 350 best universities in the world in the Times Higher Education World University rankings.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed the University has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK, with the 'biggest leap among research-intensive institutions' (Times Higher Education, December 2014) in the UK.

The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020, as it continues to extend its global reach and realising its domestic and international ambitions. Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit

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