Researchers keen to maximise the impact of their research, especially during the last 18 or so months of the REF period, may be interested in the following.
The ESRC-funded methods@manchester seminar series on the Impact Agenda is holding its sixth seminar, on Making an Impact, on Thursday May 24th at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford.
The series adopts an interdisciplinary perspective to examine and clarify the concept of ‘impact’ in the context of academic research in the humanities and social science. The aim is to identify the processes that influence impact and explore mechanisms that maximise it.
Morning: Academics who have made an impact will describe this impact, explain how it came about, and draw out any general lessons about how to create impact.
Speakers include Andrew Dilnot, University of Oxford, Pete Alcock, Professor of Social Policy and Director of the ESRC-OST-Barrow Cadbury Trust Third Sector Research Centre, and Pete Edwards, Technical Director, RCUK dot.rural Digital Economy Hub and Director, PolicyGrid Digital Social Research Node, University of Aberdeen.
Afternoon: Pimp My Research – a workshop for junior researchers/PhD students
Learn how to produce an impact plan and see demonstrations of tools and techniques designed to improve your own personal research impact.
Lead: Peter Halfpenny, Sociology, Manchester and Celia Russell, Mimas, Manchester
If you’re a scientist, social scientist, clinician, or engineer and you want to spend time over the summer understanding the way media works you’ve still got time to apply for the British Science Association’s Media Fellowships.
This year the media hosts include BBC News Online, BBC Radio 4, Financial Times, The Guardian, Times Higher Education, and the Times. The scheme will improve Fellows’ public engagement skills, give increased confidence when dealing with the media, and enhance understanding of how to pitch a story to media organisations.
Here’s more about the aims of the scheme from the BSA:
Media Fellowships aim to bridge the communication gap between scientists and journalists and give space for a dialogue between the two. They reflect the British Science Association’s committment to increasing the accessibility of the sciences and providing opportunities for discussion and debate. The Media Fellowships aim to give scientists and their colleagues, the confidence and willingness to engage with the media and tackle issues of mistrust and misrepresentation and to give journalists access to new scientific expertise.
The deadline for applications is 15th March 2012. Full details of how to apply are available on the BSA’s website.
In the latest issue of Connect, EPSRC has published some additional guidance on their recently introduced National Importance criterion:
Preparing new proposals to include National Importance
Since 15th November 2011, National Importance has been used in the assessment of all proposals to the EPSRC. It’s pitched as a “major secondary criterion” after Research Quality and alongside Impact.
When considering National Importance, the guidance and soundbites from researchers and peer reviewers in the Connect piece above should be read in conjunction with the existing EPSRC FAQs. Reviewers assessing National Importance will be looking at how your research will help meet national strategic priorities over the next 10-50 years. When writing a grant application, you should address to what extent your research:
- Contributes to, or helps maintain, the health of other research disciplines
- Contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges
- Contributes to current or future UK economic success
- Enables future development of key emerging industry(s)
Since both impact and national importance speak to the significance of the research outside of the academic sphere, it’s reasonable to ask what the difference is between the two concepts? The two are clearly complementary. However, while impact relates to the specific benefits and engagement that this particular project will bring to users and the public, national importance is primarily concerned with making the case for why taxpayers’ money should be used to fund this research. This should be discussed in terms of how it aligns with UK priorities over the 10-50 year timespan.
In addition to the above, EPSRC has also made available to download presentations and resources from a series of regional meetings held in December last year.
If you’d like further advice and guidance on how to address this in your proposal, please get in touch.
The ESRC has recently announced a number of changes to their grant application process which will be of interest to all potential applicants. Most of these changes bring the ESRC more into line with its sister Research Councils. Full details are available on the ESRC website, but I’ve summarised the headlines below:
- Classifications: From today you can now identify relevant public and third sector engagement activities in the classification section of proposals. This change reflects the increasing importance being placed on impact and engagement outside the academic sphere across the Research Councils.
- Grant administration: The three changes under this heading reflect the ongoing cross-Council harmonisation process and move to a shared back-office via the SSC. Applicants will now have the opportunity to reply to reviewer comments on all Standard Grants, not just those over £500K as previously. In addition, the reviewer scoring has shifted to a numerical 1-6 scale, rather than A+, A, A-. Finally, Je-S has revised its user expertise classifications so all Je-S users will need to log in and amend their expertise to reflect the new categories.
- Equipment: In line with EPSRC changes last year, ESRC has increased the threshold for equipment from £3,000 to £10,000. Anything up to £10K should now be classed as directly incurred. Items from £10K to £113K (the OJEU threshold) need additional justification and will typically be funded at around 50%.
Last Friday Sam King and I took the long train down from Newcastle to Swindon to visit the Arts and Humanities Research Council for an ARMA-sponsored “Study Tour” (it took 5 and a half hours to get there – a substantial journey, but not quite the epic 7 and a half hours it took me last time I visited Research Councils HQ). AHRC have helpfully uploaded the agenda and all of the presentations on their website:
AHRC/ARMA Study Tour 2012
Study Tours are a useful opportunity for research support staff like us to meet with research council staff and hear about their latest strategic priorities, discuss any policy shifts, and find out about new or revamped funding opportunities. Despite having the smallest budget of all the UK research councils, the AHRC is the primary funder for many researchers in arts, humanities and related disciplines. One of the messages which came across clearly throughout the day was that their funding has a significant effect on the research community and the UK’s economic, social and cultural well-being (see, for example, their recently published impact report for 2011).
Over the course of this week, we’ll be writing about the main insights and messages from the day on this blog. We’ll also arrange an AHRC update event in the near future open to all Northumbria staff to elaborate on some of the key points and discuss potential opportunities for funding. If you’d like to ask any questions in the meantime, please either leave a comment on the blog or contact us.
Here’s the full list of posts:
- Mark Llewellyn on Future Strategic Directions
- ‘Emerging Themes’ Overview
- Peer Review and Fellowships
- Knowledge Exchange and International Opportunities
- Research Careers, Block Grant Partnerships and Final Questions
The first post in what will become a semi-regular series rounding up the latest news and views from around the research blogosphere. This week we’re focusing on using social media in research.
Let’s kick things off with a post from Julie Northam at Bournemouth University Research Office about the benefits of academic blogging:
Academics who blog regularly report positive outcomes, such as networking and collaborating, using royalty free photos to illustrate on what they blog about, finding new audiences and opportunities, disseminating research more widely, and building reputation. Bloggers argue that far from diluting scholarly success (as has been suggested by some academics), online writing can be a serious tool for academic practice. Blogging should be seen as part of a programme of dissemination and collaboration, and is best used alongside traditional academic outlets (such as journals) as a means of amplifying the reach and potentially the significance and future direction of the research.
If you need more than anecdotal evidence on the benefits of blogging, try this post from last November at the LSE Impact blog which shows the massive increase in views for a database of 94 papers linked to from 6 different blogs:
These increases are massive compared to the typical abstract views and downloads these papers get- one blog post in Freakonomics is equivalent to 3 years of abstract views!
Staying with the LSE blog, last week they posted a piece by Don Taylor which provides an interesting counterbalance to this view:
We absolutely need the slow, peer review system as the foundation of thoughtful, careful scholarship. Twitter and other social media are important additions that can give scholarly content “reach” and “relevancy”. However, it’s a both/and, not an either/or proposition. Traditional peer review journals should remain the bedrock of the research evidence that can be brought to bear on health policy.
This reinforces Julie’s point that blogs and Twitter should be used as part of a dissemination and impact strategy for research – they’re not the whole picture.
And using Twitter as part of the research process is on Dr Jeremy Segrott’s mind too. Last week he posted this piece evaluating his experiences of using the microblogging service for the last three months:
Twitter has been immensely helpful in keeping me up to date with new reports that are published, interesting debates among academics and health professionals, and a way of developing links with fellow researchers. A single tweet I sent last week also generated two requests to do interviews with the BBC on topics relating to parenting and alcohol.
Impressive! But if you’re new to all of this, how do you get started in using Twitter in research? You could do worse than check out this guide put together by the good folks at the LSE Research Impact blog. It starts from the basics and covers all of the terminology (follow, retweet, mentions, hashtags), a range of tweeting styles, and the difference between using Twitter in research or for teaching.