LSE research competition winners 2020 share their stories

I really like the fact that we were given the choice as to how we wanted to convey our research. There's tons of amazing research being done.
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The winners of the Popular Prize receive their award from Professor Simon Hix

The winners of this year’s research competition share the inspiration behind their successful entries.

For 2020, there were eight competition categories: photograph, written pitch, short film, poster, PhD prize, LSE LIFE prize, festival prize and popular prize.

Written pitch

Department of Social Policy alumna Evelina Bondareva was awarded the written pitch prize. Her entry, Complexities of Anti-Refugee Sentiment: the importance of historical and societal explanations, explores the experience of anti-refugee sentiment in Latvia. In her research, Evelina investigates why the media and public in Latvia reacted so powerfully to the government’s decision to accept 374 refugees.

Evelina was moved to explore this topic due to her work with refugees in the UK and her interest in Latvia as her home country. “Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, the majority of research has focused on European countries most impacted by it. However, when the anti-refugee sentiment became widespread in Latvia after the decision to accept less than 400 refugees, I felt it was important to explore the underlying reasons for this,” she says.


The poster prize was awarded to Social Policy PhD student Lucy Bryant for her entry, Regulating Live Music: Who’s Running the Show?  In her research, Lucy seeks to understand the complex system of live music regulation in England and Wales and explore who’s involved in regulation and how decisions are made. She hopes this will help tackle discriminatory practices.

“It’s a system we don’t really know a lot about, but we do know there are problems. For example, black artists in particular are really discriminated against by the regulations. It’s something we need to understand more about so we can solve these issues,” she says.

Lucy chose the medium of a poster as she felt it would be a good way break down a complicated area and make it more accessible, while still giving a wider overview of the situation.


The photography prize was awarded to Department of International Relations alumnus Constantin Gouvy. His entry, Demystifying the Rise and Appeal of ISIS in Iraq: in conversation with “ISIS families”, shows mother Maha and her children in Mosul. The wife of a deceased ISIS militant, Maha was among 150 “ISIS families” who resettled in the city after government forces retook it in 2017.

Constantin took the picture while in Mosul researching the motivations for ISIS fighters in joining the organisation. For Maha’s husband, financial concerns played a strong factor with ISIS offering him $400 a month to join. “You can see from the picture, they live in extreme poverty, in one of the most destitute neighbourhoods in Mosul. When ISIS came and offered people a salary, they had the propensity to accept it as they had received no income for a number of years,” he says.

Constantin explains that some families like Maha’s have been accepted back into their former communities as they don’t subscribe to the ideology of other family members who had joined the group.

He chose to enter a photo as felt it captured the situation and helped highlight the human side of his research.  

Film prize

The film prize was jointly awarded to two groups. The first group consisted of undergraduate International Relations students Olivia G, Victoria Shum and Jad Baghdadi. Their short film, entitled Miles Away, explores the perspectives of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese students in London on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Victoria, who is from Hong Kong, and Olivia, who is from Mainland China, felt they could bring different viewpoints to the film, which they hope will help achieve mutual understanding and reconciliation between the two sides. “Exploring both sides isn’t something that’s really been done in the media before, so I thought it would be quite unique to look into this,” says Victoria.

The group chose a film for its strong impact. “Protests can be very visual in the banners and posters the protesters use. The art work on these can have very profound political meanings so having that visual framework to explore the protests was crucial,” explains Jad.

Film prize and festival prize

The festival prize, judged by LSE Director Minouche Shafik, was awarded to joint film prize winners Shey Forbes-Taylor and Brian Walker from LSE’s Communications Division, for their entry The Legacy of Sir Arthur Lewis.

Their short film celebrates Nobel Laureate Sir Arthur Lewis’ legacy and impact both at LSE and around the world. This includes his contributions to economic development, his time at LSE and his accomplishments despite the adversities he faced during his career.

Co-producer Brian first came up with the idea as a way to celebrate Black History Month and the 40th Anniversary of Sir Arthur’s Nobel Prize. He felt a film would be the best way to highlight this and approached Shey to work on the project with him, combining her technical expertise with his research.

“Shey and I thought that a short film was the best medium to tell the story in an accessible and impactful way,” he muses, adding that he was particularly pleased to win the Festival prize. “I’m thrilled and humbled by both awards but I must add that the Festival prize is extra special, as this year’s theme, Shape the World resonates with Sir Arthur’s legacy as a thinker and doer.”

Shey agrees: “It means a lot to win these prizes and I’m happy that Sir Arthur Lewis is being recognised. It’s been a snowball since we released the film and we’ve received such positive feedback. The fact it has been praised on this platform is amazing as it was such a grass roots effort.”

PhD Academy prize

The PhD prize was awarded to Accounting student Charlotte Bartels for her photograph Where Is Inside? The picture shows an office building at night time and questions the ever-growing public demand for Corporate Social Responsibility.

Charlotte chose to explore this topic as she is interested in understanding the implications of responsibility in accounting.  She notes, “corporate responsibility is a widely discussed topic, reaching international organisations, parliaments and public discourse. Businesses have to find their position in a network of environmental and social pressures demanding for control of supply chains criss-crossing continents, protection of biodiversity around the globe and support of local communities wherever they are operating.”

She chose to enter the photograph category as she wanted to rise to the challenge of condensing her work into a single image.

LSE LIFE prize

LLM alumna Arya Gerard was awarded the LSE LIFE prize for her photograph, Selective Modernisation in Singapore, which juxtaposes a traditional Buddhist temple with towering skyscrapers.

Growing up in Singapore, Arya noticed how much the city was changing around her while remaining the same in many other respects. “Despite the drastic urbanisation of Singapore's landscape from when it first gained independence fifty-five years ago, certain societal and cultural norms have survived. For instance, Religion, Hawker Culture and even Fengshui are still predominant elements in many Singaporeans' lives across generations,” she says. Arya was keen to convey this symbiosis between old and new in Singapore in her submission.

She was incentivised to enter the competition as she felt it would be a great platform to showcase her work and reach out to different audiences.  “I really like the fact that we were given the choice as to how we wanted to convey our research. There's tons of amazing research being done which sometimes gets overlooked only because it has not received enough attention,” she enthuses.

Popular prize

The popular prize, voted for online by members of the public, was awarded to five undergraduate students working as a group: Jack Bissett, Maitrai Lapalikar, Antonia Syn, Maria Soraghan and Vasiliki Poula.  Their entry, A European Democracy on a Domestic Level, argues that the European Union should be more democratic and could become so by examining the nature of the democratic deficit.

The group were brought together by the LSE Undergraduate Political Review as they all shared a research interest in the European Union.

They particularly enjoyed taking part in the competition and sharing their submission with friends and family.  “It was really fun sharing the pitch and trying to get as many people as possible involved. We all had our Mums sharing the link on Facebook trying to get their networks to vote for it. It was great to get that bit of outreach and do something at university that people at home could get involved with too!” laughs Jack.


Behind the article

Find out more about the competition and view all the entries here.