Images of Research Competition

Can you capture your research project in a single image? The University Graduate School presents this challenge to our postgraduate researchers every year and the images we receive represent the exciting breadth and quality of research our postgraduate researchers are working on at the University of Birmingham.

The challenge

Images of Research (IoR) offers postgraduate researchers across University of Birmingham the opportunity to showcase their research in a creative and innovative manner.

You are invited to submit an image and accompanying narrative that effectively engages and communicates the impact of your research to a non-specialist audience.

Applications for the 2020/21 competition closed on Sunday 14th February 2021. We are currently reviewing applications and will be announcing our shortlist and People's Choice vote soon!

Who can enter?

You can join the competition if you are a postgraduate researcher (PGR) currently registered at the University of Birmingham. That includes PGRs from any College, mode or year of study. Refer to our definition of a postgraduate researcher.

How do I take part?

Applications for Images of Research 2020/21 closed on Sunday 14th February 2021. The information on this page shows the entry criteria for this year and will be updated to show the shortlisted entries and winners once announced.

To enter, please submit your chosen image alongside your IoR application form which should include a short image title (max. 10 words) and image narrative (max. 110 words).

Before completing the application form and selecting your image, you should review the detailed submission requirements and guidance below.

Applications for Images of Research 2020/21 closed on Sunday 14th February 2021.

Why should I enter?

This is a unique opportunity to raise your research profile and engage a public audience. IoR challenges you to consider your research and how it can be creatively captured and communicated to a non-specialist audience. You can use IoR to work towards goals set on your Development Needs Analysis form, or personal goals relating to the following research development areas:

  • Knowledge and intellectual abilities: Cognitive Abilities, Creativity
  • Personal Effectiveness: Personal Qualities, Self-management
  • Engagement, Influence and Impact: Engagement and Impact, Communication and Dissemination

How are entries judged?

The organisers of IoR will select the shortlisted entries. Initial shortlisting will ensure entries meet the submission requirements and then use the IoR judging criteria to select a final shortlist, to be discussed by our judging panel and put forward for a public vote.

The Judges' Choice awards and initial shortlisting are assessed against the following criteria equally.

  • Overall impact of image: To what extent does the image engage the viewer and make them want to know more about the research?
  • Relevance of the image to the supporting text: How effective is the supporting narrative in communicating the story behind the image to a non-specialist audience?
  • Effectiveness in engaging viewer with research: To what extent does the submission as a whole (image and narrative) engage you with the research?

The judging panel will be announced shortly.


Up to four prizes will be awarded by our panel of judges and one prize awarded as a result of a public vote.

  • Judges Winner - £250
  • Judges Runner up - £200
  • People’s Choice award - £200
  • Special Mention: Innovative Image - £100
  • Special Mention: Artistic Merit - £100

Applicant information and guidance

We highly recommend you review the below information before selecting your image and submitting your application. The submission requirements detail the minimum requirements in order to be considered for the shortlist of IoR. The submission guidance offers detailed advice and guidance to create a compelling entry.

Please note, the submission requirements and guidance have been updated from previous years. Although you are encouraged to review the previous submissions shown at the bottom of the page, please keep these potential changes in mind and refer to the submission requirements and guidance below for the 2020/21 competition requirements.

Submission requirements

The submission requirements detail the minimum requirements in order to be considered for the shortlist of IoR. 

Applicant requirements

  • To apply you must be a postgraduate researcher currently registered at the University of Birmingham.
  • Entrants are limited to one submission.

Image requirements

  • Image may be portrait or landscape.
  • Images can be a photograph, collage, or a digital drawing created by the researcher.
  • High resolution to allow for printing, the file should be as close to 300 dpi (dots per inch) at A3 size as you are able to achieve.  If taking a photo, set your camera to high resolution with no image compression. Mobile phone cameras are increasingly default set to low resolution; please check your settings before taking your photograph. Low quality images are unlikely to be shortlisted.
  • Images should be submitted in either jpeg or tiff format – no other file formats can be accepted.
  • Text can be used as part of the visual composition of the image but should not be added to describe or offer explanation of the image.
  • If submitting a digital collage, it is not permissible to use images downloaded from the Internet unless you have permission to use them. Only images which have been downloaded from bonafide royalty-free websites, such as Pixabay and Unsplash, may be used.
  • If submitting a photo, entrants must be the exclusive owners of the submitted image. Commissioned work such as professional photographs or photographs taken by someone other than the entrant are not allowed.
  • You must have written permission from any identifiable persons (or their legal guardians) contained within the image.

Image narrative requirements

  • Your image title should ideally be 2 - 5 words with a strict maximum of 10 words.
  • Your accompanying narrative should ideally be 80 - 100 words with a strict maximum of 110 words.
  • Your image narrative must give a description of your image and place it in the context of your research.
  • Your narrative must be accessible to a non-specialist audience.

Submission guidance

The submission guidance offers detailed advice and guidance to support you in creating a compelling entry. We also suggest some external resources that may support your entry.

When composing your image and supporting narrative it is useful to consider your entry from the perspective of a public audience. 

Image type and subject

Entries to the Images of Research exhibition can be a photograph, collage, or a digital drawing created by the researcher. The subject of your image has no limitations but should be visually striking and representative of an element of your research.

Your image subject might be a depiction of research data, a photograph of your research process, or even a staged composition that represents your research.

Do not be deterred if your research does not lend itself to literal interpretation, one of our prizes ‘Special Mention: Innovative Image’ is reserved for an entry that demonstrates inventive and original thinking in representing their research as an image. Your Image Narrative gives space to provide the context and connection to your research and demonstrate your innovative thinking.

You can see examples of effective entries from a range of disciplines below. At the bottom of this page you will also find links to the previous Images of Research competition entries that may give you some inspiration.

Image composition

Consider an audience viewing an exhibition in an open gallery, your image needs to be engaging at a distance to stand out. It should catch the eye and encourage a viewer to investigate further. Compelling images come in many forms and may engage your audience for different reasons.

  • Your image may be aesthetically appealing such as a beautiful landscape, pleasing use of colour (mono, tonal or contrasting) and/or a well-considered image composition.
  • Your image may be compelling as it challenges the viewer, such as a new view of the familiar, a juxtaposition of ideas or an image that seems to communicate a complex story.

You are encouraged to be creative in your image composition, one of our prizes ‘Special Mention: Artistic Merit’ is reserved for an entry that demonstrates particular skill in composition. The impact of the image will be the primary focus of this award but the image narrative should provide some context and detail of your composition methods. 

Image title

If your image captures the attention of your audience effectively, the next visible element is the title. Your image title should either provide more insight, or more intrigue but should not attempt to provide an academic description of your research.

  • Your image title should ideally be 2 - 5 words (max. 10 words).
  • Try to make your image title compelling and intriguing, it should work alongside your image to capture the attention of a non-specialist audience.       
  • It could be simple, expressive, thought provoking or even pose a question.
  • It will differ from your working research title, which is aimed at a more specialist academic audience.

Image narrative

If your image and title are compelling, they will work as hooks to draw the audience in, providing you with an opportunity to engage them with your research. You should continue to keep the audience in mind though, asking yourself what they would want to know, as well as what you want to tell them.

You can start by explaining your image, describing what can be seen and how it was captured. Whether further description is required will be dependent on your image. For example, if your image is of scans you might include the type of imaging machine, details of the subject, or how they can be interpreted. If you have composed the picture yourself, your audience may want to know your methods (digital, mixed material) or perhaps your inspiration. If your image is a photograph, you might include where and when it was taken or what else was happening around you at the time.

You should then explain the link to your research, the research problem you are addressing and the potential impact of your research.

  • Your supporting narrative should ideally be 80 - 100 words (max. 110 words)
  • A focused supporting story that gives the context of your image and connects it with your research.
  • To help you get started, try drafting your narrative by writing one sentence to answer each of the questions below.
    • What does your image show/represent?
    • How/why was your image made?
    • What is the link to your research?
    • What is the fundamental problem your research is trying to address?
    • How will your research make a difference?

Further resources

Guidance created by Images of Research Team:

External guidance on communicating your research in images:

External guidance on creating great images:

Previous exhibitions

You can view the entries to previous Images of Research exhibitions below. Please note that the submission requirements and judging criteria have been updated for Images of Research 2020/21.


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