The inaugural meeting of the Open University (OU) Citizen Advisory Panel brought together people from all over the OU community, including alumni, students, and members of staff.
Recognized as an integral component of the Open Societal Challenges (OSC) Programme at The Open University, the OU Citizen Advisory Panel, which kicked off in July, aims to give more voices across The Open University a say in our research.
As far as we are aware, this is the first such initiative in the Higher Education sector, where a citizen panel is tasked with contributing to the overall direction of its research programme.
Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Innovation, said:
“We believe that we are pioneers of this approach in Higher Education. We decided to do this so that we could invite a real cross-section of the University to discuss issues which really affect us all.”
Envisioned to lend robust support to challenge-oriented research endeavours within the thematic spheres of Sustainability, Well-being, and Tackling Inequalities, this panel is part of a foundational framework of bottom-up engagement. Comprising a cohort of 17 panellists distinguished by their diverse backgrounds, the panel has been thoughtfully assembled through a university-wide process that emphasizes the significance of pertinent life experiences.
A notable hallmark of the advisory panel is its resolute commitment to engaged research, a principle that underscores the necessity for rigorous, responsive, and ethically conscious interactions with the public throughout the course of research activities. The key purpose of the Panel is to provide high-level oversight to the Open Societal Challenges portfolio, which encompasses research-based interdisciplinary Challenges from researchers across The Open University.
Testimonials from panel participants have underscored the profound value derived from the convergence of diverse yet like-minded individuals, coalescing their varied perspectives into a catalyst for meaningful change. This collective effort has yielded valuable insights and opportunities for portfolio enrichment within the framework of the Open Societal Challenges.
Eminent among these avenues are initiatives centred on bolstering environmental sustainability, advancing innovative responses to climate change, combatting the dissemination of disinformation that obstructs climate action, investigating the intricate interplay between income inequality and sustainable practices, addressing inclusivity and disability considerations within workplaces, fortifying strategies for the prevention of sexual abuse, and navigating the intricate terrain of technology ethics.
These propositions will be subjected to thorough consideration during a forthcoming 'You Said-We Did' session scheduled for the December 2023 panel meeting.