Amy Orben honoured

…with the British Psychological Society's Award for Outstanding Doctoral Research.

09 January 2020

A social-media and screen time researcher who has informed policy debates in the area, and advocate for open science, has won the 2019 BPS award for Outstanding Doctoral Research. Dr Amy Orben, now a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford, supervised by Professor Robin Dunbar and Professor Dorothy Bishop.

Orben’s doctoral research, which has resulted in three published papers so far, has used innovative methodologies and statistical techniques to dig deeper into the question of whether screen time and social media use impact on adolescent wellbeing and life satisfaction, finding little evidence of strong negative effects. She has also pointed to, and addressed, issues with many of the methodologies used in the field – including the use of self-report measures, and the ways in which analysis of large data sets may lead to researchers to identify apparently significant results but which have low effect sizes or are taken out of context.

Orben has also engaged with policymakers on debates around screen time guidelines for children including presenting at the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee and the UN, her work also helped to inform the UK Chief Medical Officer’s report on screen time guidelines. Orben is an advocate for more robust, transparent science, and co-founded ReproducibiliTea – an international open science journal club.  

Orben said she was honoured to receive the award, and that she strongly believed that even 10 years ago her doctoral work would have been difficult to publish, due to its lack of positive results and a clear story. ‘While the adoption of reproducible and open research approaches is still seen as a risk to graduate students as they navigate a harsh and competitive working environment, these approaches are becoming increasingly sought after by editors, reviewers and hiring committees. Adopting these practices did not only allow me to produce good research without the constant worry of having to find significant results, but also enabled me to meet amazing advisors, mentors, collaborators and friends who were integral to both my academic and personal development.’ 

Dr Orben features in a forthcoming episode of our Research Digest podcast, on screen time.