Being Edinburgh
Being Edinburgh, the award.


Meet the three finalists for the 2020 Being Edinburgh award and find out who won.

The winner: ZHONG Nanshan

Zhong Nanshan
Zhong Nanshan

Read the announcement of Zhong Nanshan's award here:

Winner of the 2020 Being Edinburgh award

Respiratory expert and epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan was the first person to identify the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus during the 2003 outbreak.

As head of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, Nanshan and his team offered to admit all the critical SARS cases in Guangdong province into his Institute. He drew up the procedures for the proper management and prevention of SARS that were adopted by the Chinese Ministry of Health. This pioneering work earned him the national labour medal from the government.

Nanshan has also developed guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma, chronic cough, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. A paper he co-authored on COPD was selected by readers of prestigious medical journal ‘The Lancet’ as their paper of the year in 2008. Between 2005 and 2010 Nanshan served as President of the Chinese Medical Association.

Still at the forefront of respiratory medicine, Nanshan is currently leading the Chinese National Health Commission's expert panel investigating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Edinburgh education: Visiting scholar, 1979 to 1981. Honorary MD, 2007.

Current position: Head of National Health Commission team investigating COVID-19

Image credit:  Liu Dawei/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Barbara BECNEL

 Barbara Becnel
Barbara Becnel

Social justice activist and author Barbara Becnel has over 20 years of experience working for prison reform in the state of California, while writing 11 award-winning gang- and drug-prevention books.

From leading an international media campaign aimed at preventing the judicial execution of reformed black gang leader Stanley Williams, to organising an ‘Occupy San Quentin’ rally attended by hundreds in front of the state prison that houses California’s death chamber, she has often shown inspiring leadership and tenacity.

Building on her online MSc in Social Justice and Community Action, Barbara has returned to Edinburgh to pursue a PhD. Her thesis explores the culture of the condemned and how death row became a symbol of heroism for America’s street-gang generation. Integral to this is her collaboration with three former gangsters who are co-researchers on the project.

Barbara has recently been appointed to Scotland's Expert Steering Group for tackling racial harassment in higher education. She is also helping to organise a symposium called ‘Resisting the Language of Oppression’ for Black History Month in October.

 Edinburgh education: MSc Social Justice and Community Action (With Distinction), 2018.

Current position: PhD candidate, Moray House School of Education and Sport at the University of Edinburgh.


Tom Western
Tom Western

Tom Western is a music researcher and ethnographer, whose work explores the relations between sound, borders, displacements and citizenships. He has worked in Greece since 2016 on a number of collaborative humanitarian and activist projects.

As a core team member of the Syrian and Greek Youth Forum, a citizens group based in Athens, Tom co-founded the Active Citizens Sound Archive, which contains recordings of political inclusion activities: songs and speeches; performances and protests; everyday activisms. He ran music workshops at a refugee community centre throughout 2017, and continues to play music with various ensembles of musicians from Syria, Greece, and all around the Eastern Mediterranean, performing at events across Greece.

Since joining the University of Oslo in 2019, Tom is furthering his work on sonic citizenship. This year he is producing a six-part radio series called ‘Don't Call Us Refugees!’ and has been selected as a resident artist in the Onassis Cultural Foundation project ‘The City Talks Back’. He has several articles and book chapters forthcoming in 2020. His first book, National Phonography, based on his Edinburgh doctoral research project, is coming out in 2021.

Edinburgh education: PhD Music, 2015. MMus Musicology, 2010.

Current position: Marie Curie Research Fellow, Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo.

About the selection committee

We gathered a group of University of Edinburgh students, staff and alumni representatives to help select our three finalists.

Go behind the scenes