Can projects increase the inclusivity of scientific research?
Citizen science is a collective term for projects that engage both professional scientists and non-specialists in the process of gathering, evaluating or computing scientific data.
The number and scope of citizen science projects has increased dramatically over the past two decades – much of this is a direct result of developments in information and communication technology (ICT) and the Internet.
Some citizen science projects are now conducted entirely via the Internet and participants help to analyse large sets of data that have been provided by scientists.
Are people with learning disabilities regularly excluded from decision-making processes which may have a direct impact on them?
I’ve recently published research that explores this important issue (Carr, 2018), with the aim of contributing to wider discussions about how we build capacity to ensure that citizens have access to, and agency within, research (Holliman, 2017).
Informed by action research, our partnership was designed to create structured, strategic, sustainable and equitable mechanisms for effective school-university engagement with research.
Over four years our project team created engaging opportunities for 11 schools and more than 6,577 people within Milton Keynes. Students and teachers engaged with authentic practices of contemporary and inspiring research in a range of academic disciplines.
Through this work we offering opportunities to participate in mutual learning and develop relevant and useful skills and competencies in how to access, assess, analyse and respond to contemporary research.
How can you plan effectively for engaged research? What are some of the common pitfalls, and what counts as best practice?
Colleagues and I from the Open University and Denbigh School in Milton Keynes recently published a chapter in a new edited collection (Kucirkova and Quinlan, 2017) where we offer practical advice on how to respond to this important question in a pragmatic way (Holliman et al. 2017).
The framework has been designed to be applicable to any researcher and discipline, and to be adaptable to all forms of engaged research.
The chapter documents a worked example of the framework, involving an activity mediated via digital tools and technologies and involving scientists, an educational technologist, several teachers, 25 sixth-form students, and an evaluation researcher.
Vickie Curtis, Richard Holliman, Ann Jones and Eileen Scanlon
Colleagues and I have recently had a chapter published in an edited collection (Curtis et al., 2017).
Led by Dr Vickie Curtis, and reporting findings from her PhD thesis (Curtis, 2015), this chapter explores processes of learning within online citizen science projects.
In particular, the chapter presents evidence as to why citizen scientists register on projects, but also, crucially, what makes them stay and become productive members of a distributed research project.
Social technologies in use
In the chapter we argue that digital technologies are profoundly social in use. They are developed and defined by participants who learn through iterative processes of participation.
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.
In a recent talk at the British Sociological Association Conference at the British Library in December 2015, I outlined how I developed a research methodology which allows for the voices of survivors of Hiroshima, known as ‘hibakusha’, to be heard, and their subsequent written-up texts to be analysed within the framework of ‘coercion and consent’.
The discussion resulted in an forthcoming article tentatively titled ‘Telling the narratives of Hiroshima’ in the Auto/biography Yearbook for the British Sociological Association for June 2016.
Helen Brown, Director of Denbigh Teaching School, Milton Keynes
Through my role in leading Denbigh Teaching School Alliance, I’ve been overseeing the school end of the Engaging Opportunities Project. Through the teaching school, we’ve tried to engage as many schools and students as possible from across Milton Keynes in activities working alongside Open University researchers.
We want to increase knowledge and understanding of a range of research, but also of the researcher’s working experience. We want to create opportunities for young people to be inspired by research so that one day in the future, they may look back and think, “I took part in Activity X or Y with a real researcher and that made me want to….” In education, impact is often measured by results and short-term gains, but for us, the aim of this project is to plant seeds in young peoples’ minds.
Liz Hartnett, Gill Clough and Anne Adams, The Open University
This blog post was jointly authored by Liz Hartnett, Gill Clough and Anne Adams. The authors worked together on a European Union-funded project called Juxtalearn. Anne Adams was also one of the Co-Investigators on the OU’s Engaging Research Seed Funding Scheme with a particular interest in the generation and collection of evidence of the social impacts from research.
The Juxtalearn project was setup to help identify barriers to understanding by focusing on creative performance, provoking student curiosity through video making activities that contrast with the standard teaching activities.
We aimed to use the Public Engagement with Research Catalyst seed funding to develop and evaluate a variety of engagement data collection tools, with regard to their richness in informing us about engagement and its effects for teachers, students and researchers.
John Oates, The Open University; Silvana Mengoni, University of Hertfordshire; and Janet Bardsley, The Open University
This blog post was jointly authored by John Oates, Silvana Mengoni and Janet Bardsley. The authors applied to the OU’s Engaging Research Seed Funding Scheme to explore the impact of their research into ‘key working’.
Key working is a way of supporting families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), which enables the implementation of the Children and Families Act and Code of Practice (September 2014).
Our seed funded project was based on the Council for Disabled Children widely disseminating the Guide, with an emphasis on exploring its uptake among potential users who might not have been sufficiently aware previously of approaches to key working in relation to the new legislative frameworks.