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Professor Richard Holliman

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Professor of Engaged Research
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences
  • richard.holliman

Professional biography

I am Professor of Engaged Research at the Open University (OU).  I am currently leading the OU's RCUK-funded School-University Partnership, 'Engaging opportunities', working with the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance in Milton Keynes.

I have studied and worked at the Open University since the mid-1990s. I completed my PhD in the Department of Sociology (with support from the Institute of Educational Technology), where I explored media representations of the sciences. I moved across the campus in 2000 to work in what was then the Faculty of Science.

Now based in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences in the the Faculty of Science, Techonology, Engineering and Mathematics, I have contributed to a number of postgraduate and undergraduate teaching projects that explore aspects of the relationship between the sciences and publics. Most recently, I have worked on S350 Evaluating Contemporary Science.

Research interests

My research interests lie in exploring the ways that academic research is communicated via a range of media and genres, and how ideas about (upstream) public engagement with research may be shifting and extending social practices.  Combining theory with practice through action research, I have 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 media ecosystem; and
  3. The ways in which i) digital technologies, ii) calls for increased engagement, and iii) the greater visibility and value afforded to contributions from stakeholders, user communities, members of the public and academics, are shifting and extending academic’s scholarly practices.

My research publications are hosted on Open Research Online.

Through my research work I have developed a strong reputation for engaging collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams. I retain strong links to Institute of Educational Technology through my research contributions to the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, where I continue to co-supervise Jamie Dorey's and Clare Kemp's postgraduate research.

Teaching interests

Effective communication is at the heart of good science.  For as long as humans have tried to understand the natural world they have used various forms of communication to share information and ideas, with a view to improving our collective understanding.  With the advent and widespread adoption of digital tools for communication the potential for citizens to contribute to the sciences has never been greater.  This module will help you to explore the evolving landscape of science communication, developing skills in critical evaluation and communication, whilst exploring a range of contemporary topics in the sciences.
Professional development

I have helped to develop and deliver career and professional development resources that explore public engagement and social and ethical issues with: The Royal Society; Science and Technology Facilities Council; the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement; the Higher Education Academy; and as an advisor to an Australian Learning and Teaching Council-funded project.

Impact and engagement

RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research Catalyst
An open research university

From August 2012 to March 2015 I was the Open University’s Champion for Public Engagement with Research.  As such, I was the academic lead on the OU's RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research (PER) Catalyst project.  I had overall operational responsibility for co-ordinating and leading all aspects of this action research project, and helping to shape strategic objectives for OU public engagement with research.

As the university’s champion, I was based on secondment in the Research School. Alongside my role in co-ordinating and leading the research phases of the project, I was also responsible for connecting the work of the PER Catalyst with the university’s decision-making forums and senior managers, including the faculty deans and associate deans for research, and research centre directors.

As the academic lead, I also contributed to the wider RCUK-funded Catalyst programme. Coordinated by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, this programme involved eight universities across the UK.

To find out more about the work of the OU's Public Engagement with Research Catalyst, please watch the video below.


External collaborations

RCUK-funded School-University Partnership Initiative
Engaging Opportunities

I am the Principal Investigator on The Open University’s RCUK-funded Schools-university partnership project, ‘Engaging opportunities: connecting young people with contemporary research and researchers’.   As such, I have strategic and operational responsibility for all aspects of the project.

Working in collaboration with the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance I oversee strategic planning and progress against the project objectives. 

As the Principal Investigator, I also contribute to the wider RCUK-funded Schools-University Partnership Initiative. Coordinated by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, this programme involves 12 universities across the UK.

To find out more about the work of the OU's School-University Partnership, please watch the video below.


Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG)GroupInstitute of Educational Technology


Externally funded projects

Engaging Opportunities (Extension)

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Jan/201631/Dec/2016RCUK Research Councils UK
In March 2015, RCUK extended the funding to projects participating in the School-University Partnerships Initiative by one year. The purpose of the 12-month extension (Jan-Dec 2016) is to enable our partnership with the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance to develop a particular emphasis on embedding and sustainability in the final phase of the Initiative.

Communication and engagement training for postgraduate and early-career researchers working in environmental research

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Jan/201531/Mar/2015NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
Working through the NERC-funded CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership this project is supporting postgraduate researchers, supervisors, and early-career researchers as they develop productive partnerships with the end-users of their environmental research, and to communicate the economic and social significance of their work.

An open research university: How to embed public engagement within the culture of research (RS-11-005-TB)

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01/Apr/201231/Mar/2015RCUK Research Councils UK
The aim of this proposal is to embed public engagement with research within The Open University’s (OU) strategic planning for research and the operational practices of researchers at all levels; to become an open research university.