Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.
I’ve recently agreed to take on a new role at the Open University (OU) as the Academic Lead for Engaged Research. I’ll be based in the OU’s Research and Academic Strategy (RAS) Unit for half of my time from 1st August 2017.
A key objective for my work in this new role will be to align the principles and practices of engaged research with the OU’s recently-approved Academic Strategy for External Engagement, in particular addressing the following aim:
“We will create new knowledge through research, scholarship and professional practice that meets the needs of external stakeholders and extends the reach and impact of our research on society, culture, economy and governments across the UK and internationally.”
Helen Brown, Director of Denbigh Teaching School, Milton Keynes
On 12th July we ran a day-long completion where five teams from three schools across Milton Keynes competed to build a water-powered rocket.
The challenge was organised by researchers from the Open University (OU), working with teachers from Denbigh School. Together, we sought to build on the success of previous competitions.
Key among the organisers was Alice Dunford, from the OU’s School of Physical Sciences. Alice is studying for a PhD in astronomical imaging. She put her research aside for the day to act as our resident rocket scientist, offering advice and guidance to the competitors.
Alice was ably supported by Vic Pearson and Richard Holliman from the OU, Leanne Gunn from Science Made Simple, and myself and Adele Makki from Denbigh School. These contributors each helped to make the day a success.
2017 is the #YearOfOpen … a 365 day celebration of open education and the anniversary of a number of key milestones in its development, including the Cape Town Declaration, 15 years since the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and the 5th anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration.
We’re excited to announce that, in addition to all the excellent events happening around the world, we’ll also be hosting a Year of Open event here at The Open University, UK (OU) on the afternoon (BST) of Tuesday 20th June 2017.
The Engaging Research training I completed in March 2017 didn’t feel like work, but the fact that the week was fun doesn’t mean that the skills and discussions we had during the training weren’t really valuable and important.
Over recent years, the change in weighting of required research outputs has given much greater importance to engaging end-users outside of our academic spheres with our science.
A lack of wider engagement can even impact on whether your research gets funded. As PhD students at the beginning of our academic careers we are at a advantageous point where we can decide if we want to incorporate engagement activities into our work and really embrace this movement from the outset.
It was back in 2015 that we attended the course, learning how to communicate our research more effectively and how to engage stakeholders with our research. This included spending time experimenting with language and using metaphors to explain what our research was about and who could use it in outside of academia.
It was the first time that many of us spent quality time thinking about how our research could be engaged with other researchers, NGOs and industry; an exchange of knowledge that would improve our research quality and increase the impact of our work.
Week 1: l-r, Melanie Stone, Kate Newton, Eleni Wood, Richard Holliman, Rosalinde Nicholls, David Pettifer, Stacy Phillips, Clare Warren, Jasmine Wareham, Slawomir Michniewski, Lucy Garrett, Kate Baker, Janet Sumner, Gerard Giorgi-Coll and Chris Nedza. Photo: Gareth Davies.
During the academic year 2015-16 I worked with a group of 22 teachers from 12 different schools (primary and secondary) across the Enigma Maths Hub. I’ve recently published a report about this work (Lee, 2016).
The purpose of the programme was to support teachers in applying some of the ideas from research about Maths resilience to their practice and therefore to improve the classroom experiences of children learning Maths.
The teachers took part in a year-long action research project to introduce mathematical resilience into their classrooms. The teachers worked in pairs in their schools supporting and challenging each other to work differently and to make a difference.
Richard Holliman and Clare Warren, The Open University. Photo: Michael Francis.
We’ve just published an open access paper in a new journal called Research for all. (Scroll down for further details about the new journal.)
In the paper, we discuss how we supported future scholars of engaged research through a training programme that included some preparatory and follow-up activities, combined with a week-long residential element (Holliman and Warren, 2017).
In the paper we acknowledge that researchers in the UK are taking on new roles and responsibilities to meet the requirements of an expanded agenda for generating and evidencing social and economic impacts from research.
The Dragons Den workshop facilitators at Engage 2016
A few weeks before Christmas we facilitated a workshop to discuss the benefits and sustainability of collaborative partnerships at the annual NCCPE Engage Conference in Bristol.
The workshop was developed and delivered by staff from the OU, working alongside colleagues from the School-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI) based at the University of Bristol, University of Southampton and Lancaster University.
This post explains the planning, preparation and performance of the workshop, and includes a few reflective comments on what worked and what could be done differently next time.
I’ve always been a bit of a mountain addict, so when I began my studies in Earth Sciences, I was overjoyed to find that I suddenly had a legitimate reason for being a bit mountain mad. I discovered that, in detail, the geological processes responsible for the formation and evolution of mountain belts are fascinatingly complex. I also found that there are likeminded people, who are, like detectives, conducting research that aims to uncover the million year old mysteries of the mountains.