We have reached Phase 2 of our seed funded impact project; on time and budget. (Have a look at my previous post for an overview of Phase 1.) This progress is very pleasing for all the obvious reasons but also because it has been fairly straightforward so far. In our mini-team, we identified appropriate sites and site managers to target with our first phase of requests for interviews. We also had a good round of emails working out which questions to ask and in what order. We got ethical approval from the university and set out the email that we would send to interviewees to explain the background to the project. And we have now invited our first phase of interviewees.
Earlier this year members of the Religious Studies department – Dr John Maiden, Professor John Wolffe and Dr Gavin Moorhead – were awarded an ‘Engaging Research’ award by the Open University for their work on the ‘Building on History: Religion in London’ project. With this in mind, now seemed a good moment to reflect on the project.
The project was a knowledge exchange initiative, running between January 2012 and January 2013, which engaged religious publics in London with recent scholarship on the the city’s modern religious history.
We are really excited to have been selected for seed funding from the Evidencing Engaged Research call. This project builds on and extends the work we are doing on the JuxtaLearn Project which aims to engage students with science and technology through creative video performance (see our earlier post).
An award-winning, externally-facing partnership with research at the core
I don't think of myself as an academic. Before I took on my current role as an Outreach Coordinator within the award-winning Floodplain Meadows research team at the Open University I'd worked for 12 years for the Environment Agency, delivering policy, legislation and proactive conservation projects ‘on the ground’ in Dorset, Wiltshire and a little bit of Hampshire. I'd worked with a wide range of conservation and community partners, occasionally getting cross with flood defence engineers. In short, I came to this job for a change!
I recently won one the the OU's first ever Engaging Research Awards. When I heard about the engaging research awards, I thought ‘hmn...How can there be an award for something which ought to be integral to any good piece of research? Isn’t engagement with publics the defining characteristic underlying all research endeavours? And how can one judge a piece of research to be more engaged than another?’
The more I thought about it, the more I realised how engagement with publics has been an underlying principle of the Our Story project. The story-making tablet/smartphone app (called “Our Story”) was developed in parallel with my PhD research and has led to a number of projects integral to my doctoral work but also expanding it to other areas, research institutions and publics.