Three 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
Get involved in UK Parliament Week 2016, 14th – 20th November
Engage your students, colleagues or local community with democracy, politics and the UK Parliament. Join hundreds of other organizations running events and activities during UK Parliament Week 2016 to explore democracy and empower people.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is offering a three-day course called the ‘Engaging with Government Programme’. You can secure funding from the AHRC to cover the costs of the course, accommodation, travel and subsistence if you are an early career researcher working in any area of the AHRC’s subject domain who is within eight years of your PhD or six years of academic appointment.
Bright Club is returning to The Stand comedy club on 13th September at 8.30pm and is offering academics from the North East the chance to get on stage and have their say.
Improve your presentation skills.
Get first class professional communication training.
Exciting engagement opportunities.
Have a laugh!
“Great fun- a total buzz! Better than any ‘conventional’ sci-comm training!” – Kirsty Lees, PhD Student
“Outreach at it’s most terrifying and rewarding!” – Paula Wright, Researcher
This is an incredible way to get your work out there, as well as improve your skills and gain confidence. Each event is compered by a professional comedian, and subjects cover everything from pigs and language to booze and geophysics.
Professional engagement Training is given to help tailor your material to a comedy audience. This will take place on the 30th August – 12pm – 3pm at the Centre for Life with further opportunities to rehearse and fine tune your set before the show.
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.
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.
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.
This will provide opportunities to hear about successful FP7 and Horizon 2020 projects in these areas, to learn about the upcoming Societal Challenge 2 calls and to participate in “brokerage” sessions to meet potential project partners.
Participation is free but you must register by 10 June. If you have an idea for a project in one of these areas and would like to attend this event, please contact your faculty research funding and policy manager. We also have small “EU networking” fund to support academics to attend events such as these.