As a result of recent policy interventions active researchers working in the UK higher education sector are expected to routinely engage with stakeholders, user communities and members of the public. Researchers seeking public funds are required to produce an ‘acceptable’ plan to envisage, theorise and instantiate places, spaces and methods for engagement. In practice, many researchers are learning the skills required to be effective scholars of engagement on the job (Holliman and Davies, 2015). Within this wider context researchers have identified significant challenges around what they describe as “the evaluation, esteem and apathy cycle” (Watermeyer, 2015). Engaged research: 1) can lack a culture of reflective practice where researchers plan effectively with stakeholders, user communities and ‘publics’ 2) often suffers from a dearth of evidence where the relative success of these activities is assessed through systematic evaluations; 3) still wants for findings from the processes and products to be shared with relevant stakeholders (including funders) to secure the higher status that these activities deserve. How then can we begin to break what is, in effect, a vicious circle and make engaged research aspirational? Drawing on the findings and interventions from a recent RCUK-funded, university-wide project (Grand et al. 2015;
Holliman et al. 2015), I will explore some of the implications for an emerging scholarship of engagement with contemporary research.
Dr Richard Holliman is Professor of Engaged Research at the Open University, UK. Through his research he has explored: 1) developments with digital technologies and how they mediate interaction and online activity, influencing and extending opportunities for participation and collaboration; 2) the evolving nature of media industries as they adapt to and drive monetised innovation within an increasingly digital ecosystem; and 3) the ways in which the greater visibility and value afforded to stakeholders and publics is shifting and extending academic scholarly practices. His research publications are online at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/view/person/rmh47.html
Grand, A., Davies, G., Holliman, R. and Adams, A. (2015). ‘Mapping public engagement with research in a UK university’. PLOS ONE, 10(4), pp. 1–19. URL: http://oro.open.ac.uk/43126
Holliman, R. and Davies, G. (2015). Moving beyond the seductive siren of reach: planning for the social and economic impacts emerging from school-university engagement with research. Journal of Science Communication, 14(03), C06.
Holliman, R., Adams, A., Blackman, T., Collins, T., Davies, G., Dibb, S., Grand, A., Holti, R., McKerlie, F., Mahony, N. andWissenburg, A. (2015). An open research university: final report. Milton Keynes, U.K.: The Open University. URL: http://oro.open.ac.uk/44255
Watermeyer, R. (2015). ‘Public intellectuals vs. new public management: the defeat of public engagement in higher education’. Studies in Higher Education.