A total of 60 people attended two separate launch events for the Keele Engaged Research Network on 13 January and 9 February 2016. This new Network aims to share best practice, build skills and celebrate the kind of publicly engaged research which makes a positive impact on people and organisations beyond academia.
The events were introduced by the Faculty Research Director, Professor Scott McCracken, who welcomed participants and outlined the strategic importance of impact and public engagement. Scott said that the Faculty was committed to encouraging an environment where public engagement, co-creation, and interaction with people and organisations outside academia was recognised and supported.
This was followed by a presentation by Mike Hession, Sheena Bateman and Richard Smith from the Faculty Research Office, who provided an overview of Impact and Public Engagement, highlighting the definitions for REF and Research Councils, and promoting the support available in the Faculty (see Engaged Research slides).
Mike presented the new Engaged Research Toolkit, developed to help researchers prepare for engagement activity, and to provide a robust, online tool to report on outcomes and store vital details in a Faculty repository.
The events then featured a number of tales from the field, presentations from academic staff reflecting on their experiences of working with non-HE partners.
- Dr Jane Krishnadas told the audience how initial research into the rights of vulnerable groups at intersections with the law had led, through partnerships with the courts, advice agencies, support groups and individuals, to the Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele (CLOCK). To date, this initiative has helped over 2,000 vulnerable individuals negotiate their way through the legal system, and was providing a rich set of real-world data on court use which was being fed into new research. (Download slides)
- Professor Robert Ladrech described the results of his ESRC funded research on the climate policies of European parties, and his engagement with European policy makers ahead of the historic Paris agreement at United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP21.
- Professor Alannah Tomkins talked about developing a mutual relationship with Staffordshire Records Office, leading to the uncovering of previously untapped historical resources.
- Dr Emma Surman told the audience how a highly successful community event funded by the AHRC is leading to the development of the North Staffordshire Community Food Network, a community-led group which will provide a focus for community action and academic research on food-related issues .
- Dr Steve French gave an overview of of his involvement with unions and the public sector. His work on migrant workers was used as an Impact Case Study in REF2014. His current research focus is on work-life balance in the public sector and Steve reflected on the challenges of engagement. (Download slides)
- Dr Simon Pemberton reported on how he had translated his research in town and city planning to ensure that external partners would recognise its value to their practice. This did not compromise the research content, but did ensure buy-in (and funding!) from the partner, leading to a stronger collaboration. (Download slides)
- Dr Ceri Morgan talked about developing alternative methodologies for carrying out academic interviews with authors, and about the rewards and challenges of setting up pop-up literary cafés to encourage new kinds of interaction with the public.
Both sessions closed with a round-table discussion on possible topics for events in the future. The following types of event were suggested:
- Troubleshooting sessions for people facing the unique problems and issues eg research ethics for work with highly vulnerable groups; how to get university systems (eg finance, HR) to facilitate these interactions. It was agreed that these could either be internal peer learning sessions, based on discussion and story exchange, or the Network could bring in someone from a successful project to talk about how they problem-solved.
- Themed ‘lessons learned’ sessions based around successful projects within Keele.
- Sessions focusing on each stage of project development eg: getting started, getting to funding, generating academic journal articles from engaged research, Models of co-production research (with demonstrations), what to do after the grant: further public engagement, follow on funding. Also, how to prepare for REF.
- A session on how to record impact – how do you know you have made a difference? How do you prove it. This can be particularly difficult in the arts and humanities, when your impact might be based around a film, performance or other cultural artifact.
A full programme of Keele Engaged Research Network Events will be rolled out over the next few months. If you would like to influence this programme, please complete this short online questionnaire.
To find out more about the work that Keele does with external partners, or if you are in the University and you have a question regarding impact and engaged research support, please contact Mike Hession: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our Engaged Research Toolkit page.