Find out more about Participatory Action Research with training days in 2017

collaboration-1106196_960_720Three workshops are being offered by the Participatory Research Hub for those interested in finding out more about this way of researching in collaboration. The workshops are open to those new to and established as researchers in universities, the voluntary and public sectors, communities and activists. Participatory research is an excellent route to research impact and one of the courses focusses on ways to involve policy-makers and practitioners in research that helps to develop policy and practice.

The three courses, all to be held at the Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham University are:

  • Participatory Action Research 1: Introduction to PAR, 3rd February 2017
  • Participatory Action Research 2: Embedding participation in research practice, 3 March 2017
  • Developing Policy and Practice through Participatory Research, 15 May 2017

To find out more about the workshops and to book your place visit:

For further advice, information and toolkits about participatory research visit:  


Research, Impact and the UK Parliament

A training event aimed at researchers at any stage of their careers is being held in Newcastle on 23 September, 10-1.30 run by the UK Parliament Outreach and Engagement Service.

Houses.of.parliament.overall.arpThis interactive session will help you:

  • understand Parliament’s role and processes
  • learn how research is used in the UK Parliament
  • be able to identify opportunities to feed your research into Parliament’s work
  • learn tips and advice on communicating your research at Parliament

There is an attendance fee of £40 and the event is being held at Newcastle University’s Business School. For more information: 


The Benefits of University-Industry Collaborations

Dr Tamsin Saxton, guest blogger
Dr Tamsin Saxton, guest blogger

Guest blogger, Dr Tamsin Saxton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Northumbria University shares the insights she gained at an event designed to provide information to support academics in creating and capitalising on opportunities to work with industry. Below, she summarises the key take-home points explaining why industry collaborations are useful, possible barriers to these collaborations, and how to go about setting up and developing collaborations.

Benefits of collaborations

Academics and universities have a lot to gain from collaborating with industry, whether that be local small businesses, global enterprises, or something in between. Industry collaborations can add substantive content, innovation, and expertise to research funding applications. In some instances, industry might contribute directly to university projects, perhaps by supplying funding, or making available rich and extensive data sets. The best applied research addresses fundamental real-world problems; one of the best ways to uncover those problems can be through industrial collaborations, and successful resolution of those problems can lead to the kind of impact that may well be needed in the next REF. Industry collaborations can also enhance the student experience, such as through work experience opportunities or guest lecture invitations.

Industry also has a lot to gain from collaborations with universities. Universities can offer the best in cutting-edge research, which can be tremendously exciting to an enterprise which might be using outdated approaches, or might just not have the time and resources to dedicate to innovation. Even the largest organisations often do not have the research capacity to innovate constantly in relation to all of their activities, which is why we see universities collaborating with industries of all shapes and sizes. A university collaboration can be a mark of prestige and value to a business organisation, increasing its value and standing among its competitors, and also in the eyes of evaluators such as investors. Collaborations also provide opportunities for businesses to reflect upon their working practices.

Collaborations with businesses in the North-East of England have their own particular benefits. Compared to the rest of the UK, the North-East has the lowest number of start-up companies per capita. Accordingly, local collaborations can help improve this record, while building the regional economy and innovative capacity, and potentially tackling specific societal and economic challenges.

Barriers to collaboration

The establishment of industrial collaborations, however, entails overcoming a number of barriers. Universities do not always market their expertise well; it can be very difficult for external organisations to find out essential information: the expertise, skills and equipment available; who is available for and interested in collaborations; how to go about making and developing contacts. Universities can appear to be alien, intimidating environments; the idea of the ‘ivory tower’ can be off-putting. In addition, universities can be perceived to be expensive working partners, they have different priorities from businesses, and businesses and universities speak a different language and run on different timescales.

Exploration-Innovation - M Schmidt (CC by 2.0)
Exploration-Innovation – M Schmidt (CC by 2.0)

Developing successful projects

There are a number of ways to try to overcome the barriers to collaboration and develop successful projects. University Business Engagement Managers are very happy to talk to academics and provide support. They can point academics to suitable business representatives who are also keen to encourage new projects that will support businesses. Indeed, it can often be wise to involve a trusted body, such as an organisation that provides representation for a set of industries, in a project or a funding application. This body can guide academics to suitable local contacts, and explain the priorities, schedules, and needs of the particular industry in question. It’s always important to keep in mind that successful projects are only built on successful relationships with people, and so building relationships has to be paramount. Starting with a small project, such as a dissertation project, can be a good way to build trust and knowledge of different working styles and needs. Finding out what the industry needs, and offering to help, is a more effective opening gambit than striding in with a request for money, input, or project commitment. Finally, once the project is up and running, then a few things might help it proceed smoothly: have a clear plan; establish common goals and projects; and build in engagement opportunities such as workshops or seminars where you keep people up to date with the project development and particularly its successes.

The event, ‘ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Capacity Building Event’, was held on 26th April 2016, and hosted by Newcastle University (Business School). This report was written by event delegate Dr Tamsin Saxton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology (


Webinar on impact in Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 6

Net4Society, the Network of National Contact Points for Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 6 “Europe in a changing world – Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”, has recorded a webinar on impact in Societal Challenge 6 projects, focusing on how the impact of proposals is assessed by evaluators. It is an hour long but worth a watch if you are developing an application to this Societal Challenge or have a H2020 project proposal with a significant Social Sciences and Humanities element.


Digital Research Report: The Societal and Economic Impacts of Academic Research

Making Impact Logo

A new report produced by the Digital Science consultancy team explores the types of evidence used to demonstrate impact in REF2014 and pulls together guidance from leading professionals on good practice.

Download the report

Global perspectives in the report include:

  • Stephen Hill, Head of Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which ran the 2014 UK impact assessment sums up: “Delivering broad societal benefits needs to be at the heart of the research endeavour. Understanding, collecting and analysing evidence of impact is an essential part of an effective research base of the future.”
  • Tim Cahill, The Conversation, Australia explains the status of impact assessment in Australia and the likely role of ‘Engagement metrics’ in the new Australian assessment framework, which is set to include impact for the first time.
  • Fiona Goff and Phil Heads, Natural Environment Research Council and Research Councils UK explain how they use the UK’s impact assessment exercise to support the case for the UK government’s Science Budget; how impact stories play a key role in communicating and celebrating success and provide public accountability.

Other contributors:

  • Johan Blaus from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Dr Saba Hinrichs and Dr Jonathan Grant from King’s College London
  • Lisa Murphy from Science Foundation Ireland
  • Christian Herzog from ÜberResearch, Germany
  • Bokani Tshidzu from impact consultancy Vertigo Ventures

The report was produced to provide a pivot for discussion at a HEFCE sponsored workshop organised by Vertigo Ventures on “The Evidence of Impact”, which took place in early April 2016. It is freely available for use at similar events elsewhere to prompt further discussion.

Further Digital Science Consultancy Division reports can be viewed here.


Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

The Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotechnology YES) is an innovative competition developed to raise awareness of the commercialisation of bioscience ideas among early career researchers. The competition, funded by sponsorship, aims to encourage an entrepreneurial culture for the benefit of the UK economy.

Closing date – 17 May 2016

For further details see the Biotechnology YES website.


Bright Club needs you!

Microphone by visual dichotomy CC BY 2.0The thinking person’s comedy night is back. Returning to The Stand on the 19th of April at 8.30pm, Bright Club is  offering  academics/researchers from the north east the chance to perform.

Training is given to help tailor your material to a comedy audience. This training will take place on the 5th of April, 12.00-3.00pm at The Centre for Life and will be run by a professional comedian and science communicator (and previous Bright Club act) Duncan Yellowlees. If you decide to brave the stage and perform there will be further opportunities to rehearse and fine tune your set.

This is an excellent opportunity to improve you communication skills, get first class training and reach a wider public with information about your work.

 Each event is compèred by a professional comedian, with academics and researchers taking to the mic to talk about their subject in a light-hearted and entertaining way.

What:  Bright Club Stand-up comedy training

When:  Tuesday 5th April . 12pm-3pm

Where:  Centre for Life.  – Meet at main science centre reception

If you are interested in the possibility of enhancing the impact of your research in this incredible and unusual way, please contact Duncan Yellowlees (


 “I felt the biggest buzz and sense of achievement and just wanted to get back on that stage!” – Emily Nicholls

 “I laughed, I cried, I conquered. Bright club was simultaneously the most challenging and rewarding thing I have done to date” – Lauren Powell




London School of Economics website on Integrating Impact and Research Activity

The London School of Economics has created an innovative tool which provides an outline for each stage of the research process and tools to integrate impact with research activity.

Research phases covered include:

  • Developing research ideas
  • Refining ideas
  • Research proposals
  • Literature review
  • Identifying research questions
  • Collecting data
  • Analysing data
  • Research output
  • Implications and conclusions


By considering impact throughout the research process, outcomes can be maximised and the most engaging impact activities can occur.

For further background information, please visit the Social Research Impact website.