Leadership; Mission; Communication
Champion’s blog; star date 2014.03.10 (in effect, an update on the first post on this blog, ‘An open research university‘).
Nearly two years of the mission completed; 14 months of funding left. “Where do we boldly go from here?”
I was interviewed late last year by Lucian Hudson, the OU’s Director of Communications, to explore this question. We also discussed progress with the core mission of the OU’s Public Engagement with Research Catalyst.
You can see the results of our discussion in the video below. If you’d prefer to read the text of the interview, select transcript.
Becoming a signatory to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement
One of the first actions on the OU’s Public Engagement with Research Catalyst was to obtain high-level approval for the university to become a signatory to the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s (NCCPE) Manifesto for Public Engagement. In effect, this helps us to coalesce engaged research work at the OU around a shared purpose, connecting this purpose with the RCUK Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research, the work of the other seven Public Engagement with Research Catalysts, and with the national body for supporting work on this nature, the NCCPE.
Our commitment to this UK manifesto for public engagement, and to engaging publics more specifically with Open University research, is encapsulated in the following quote from our Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean:
“We are delighted to become a signatory to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement. The Open University (OU) is committed to embedding the principles of public engagement within our research culture, putting people at the heart of everything we value. Public engagement has always been an integral part of the OU’s mission, whether it was late night BBC programmes, our continued partnership with the BBC or reaching wider audiences through open and engaged pedagogies.
We are now working to create the conditions where public engagement with our research can flourish and where excellence in research engagement is recognised and valued.
In embedding the principles, values and reflective practices of public engagement within The Open University, we want to ensure that our research has relevance beyond the Open University, embracing an ‘ecology of openness’ as we become an open research university.”
Our approach to public engagement
The Open University’s commitment to public engagement with research is informed by our long-term commitment to social justice and inclusion. We are undergoing a process of organisational change, led by Professor Tim Blackman, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research, Scholarship and Quality), supported by an RCUK-funded, cross-Faculty team of researchers.
Adopting an action research approach we aim to embed public engagement with research within The Open University’s strategic planning for research and the operational practices of researchers at all levels. In other words, we are working with researchers, research managers and senior executives to create the conditions where engaging research can flourish, and where excellence in these activities is recognised and rewarded.
Framing organisational change
A technique developed by the NCCPE and the Beacons for Public Engagement, and known as the ‘EDGE Tool’, provides a set of prompts that shapes and frames our programme of organisational change. (EDGE is an acronym that stands for Embryonic, Developing, Gripping and Embedding.)
We have used the EDGE Tool to assess the university’s support for public engagement with research in relation to nine categories: leadership; mission; communication; support; learning; recognition; staff; students; and publics. And we are now working with Faculties to help them to assess their approaches to engaged research using the EDGE tool.
Together, these assessments, combined with research to explore how academics plan, enact and assess public engagement with research, are informing the development of action plans with aims and objectives that relate to each of the categories from this tool.
Aims and objectives
Through the PER Catalyst programme of organisational change, we are:
- exploring the roles and responsibilities that different academic domains value in providing leadership for public engagement with research
- supporting discussions to develop a shared understanding of public engagement with research as it applies in different research domains
- implementing an awards scheme, recognising researchers for excellence in engaging publics with research
- investigating the requirements and support mechanisms that can facilitate effective digital engagement with research
- exploring how researchers plan, enact and evaluate their public engagement with research work, with the aim of creating engaged communities of reflective practice
- building on existing work in career development and doctoral training programmes for researchers and postgraduate research students
- issuing calls to researchers for seed funded projects on public engagement with research, providing a network of support
- offering structured opportunities for publics, students, user communities and other stakeholders, e.g. through Participation Now and Engaging Opportunities, to engage with OU researchers and research