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Academic view – Professor Sheila Peace

Sheila Peace

I have been a researcher in gerontology for more than 30 years and I have a wealth of experience in developing and successfully gaining external funding for research projects. I have been at The Open University since 1990 and I was first attracted by the opportunity to develop the OU’s expertise in Gerontology and create ‘The Ageing Society’ course. This was particularly appealing to me as not only was I able to maintain my research base, but I was also able to feed into the courses that were being developed, which was very satisfying.

My work has always been very applied, which is greatly encouraged at the OU. There is always lots of energy, enthusiasm and support for the research that I am doing, and no more so than when I am doing things in innovative ways or in fields that are hard to access.

The research environment at the OU enables you to think laterally and allows you to see the potential to do research. There is also a very energetic research office within the Faulty of Health and Social Care with a good infrastructure, and there are lots of groups of other researchers to join.

However, many academics don’t know the OU as a research university and the impact that our research is having on society. We have a large proportion of active researchers and the OU has made great contributions to innovative research techniques, such as the work on visual research methods, data analysis and also the development of research ethics.

There is lots of energy, enthusiasm and support for the research that you are doing at the OU, particularly if you are doing things in innovative ways or in fields that are hard to access.

Professor Sheila Peace, Professor of Gerontology

Our relationship with the BBC is also an asset and provides many opportunities for academics to offer their expertise in the development of BBC programmes. A few years ago I was a consultant academic for Silverville, a documentary programme which followed the lives of residents in a retirement village, which was a great experience.

I have always been research active and I have been involved in 16 externally funded research projects during my career. My work has contributed to the improvement of living standards for the elderly and has been instrumental in informing the current building guidance for care homes. I co-authored the book Private Lives in Public Places (1987) which is well-known in the care home sector and is still referred to today. I also recommended the use of the residential ‘flatlet’- a single room with ensuite, which has now been adopted as the minimum standard accommodation in the care home sector. My research has also taken me abroad where I was able to apply my research and knowledge at the International Federation of Ageing in Washington DC and the World Health Organisation, contributing to a project on the needs of older women. 

Professor Sheila Peace is Professor of Gerontology in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, and is currently a peer reviewer for multiple research councils in the UK.