The Floodplain Meadows Partnership is a research project based on key academic work carried out at the Open University by Professor David Gowing and others on the response of species-rich floodplain meadows to changes in management, particularly hydrological changes. The partnership recently received an Evidencing Engaged Research seed funding award to look at the impact that advice from the project has had on site managers and sites across the UK. ...continue reading →
Higher level distance learning in prison gives prisoners a positive student identity, resilience and high hopes for a better, crime-free future. These qualities help them to tackle the immense challenges facing ex-prisoners. Maintaining their student identity and belonging to a learning community after release, also enables them to integrate into society more easily.
Last week (12th May), Ann Grand and I gave a seminar at the OU on Digital Engagement. I started by giving a brief introduction to public engagement, referring to the NCCPE's EDGE tool for self-assessment, and a description of the purpose of the OU's Public Engagement with Research Catalyst project.
Purpose of this call: To support active researchers in the generation and systematic collection of evidence of the impacts from engaged research, demonstrating effects, changes and/or mutual benefits to those participating.
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.
Teamwork is key to successful planning
When we're producing courses at the Open University we tend to work in teams; many of them are multi-discplinary and almost all of them combine academics with other forms of professional expertise (e.g. editors and media professionals). For example, the last course I chaired (with the catchy code, SH804) involved more than 70 people during the production phase (including academics, media professionals, editors, librarians and web developers).
Over the years I've been lucky enough to work with some excellent colleagues in various course teams. You might expect me to say that. But it's not always straightforward working as a social scientist in a Faculty of Science. One of the many colleagues I've really valued working with is Professor Simon Kelley. We worked together as part of a larger course team on Science in Context.
Serendipity meets planning for diversity and inclusion
Spin forwards several years: I'd been working on the Engaging Opportunities project for about nine months when we began to think seriously about organising the first of the three annual lectures that we'd promised RCUK we would deliver.
I’m an astrophysicist and my research is mainly concerned with what may be called the “time domain universe”, or simply: stars whose brightness varies with time.
Stars can have a variable brightness for one of several reasons: they might be intrinsically variable due to pulsations of the star’s atmosphere; they might be in orbit with another object that periodically passes in front of it; or they might suffer some form of catastrophic change that causes flaring or outburst behaviour, for instance.
One way to carry out research in time domain astrophysics is simply to monitor the brightness of all the stars in the sky and see what you find. This is, in effect, what is done by the WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project, of which I and others at the Open University are part.
A day in the life of a field geologist
Earth Scientists like me study the Earth: how it formed, how it changed over geological time, and how all the different ‘bits’ such as the atmosphere, oceans, soil and rocks interact with each other.
In detail, I’m a geologist – I specifically try to understand the rocks beneath our feet. And in even more detail, I’m a field geologist. Nothing excites me more than the prospect of getting to spend weeks in a tent up a remote mountain somewhere (although preferably not in the rain), collecting rock samples for analysis back in the lab.
I am a palaeoecologist at the Open University. My research involves reconstructing how our planet has changed over longer time scales in the past (1-2 million years). At first glance my research does not seem entirely relevant to current climate change but in fact it is integral. The climate system is hugely complicated and we still don’t fully understand how all the aspects work or how they interact together. One way of learning how the system operates is to simply observe it. The longer you observe it; then the better you will understand how it works and what are the possibilities for how it may change.
Public engagement with research has come a long way since 2000. The pace of change has quickened significantly following the establishment of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE), the completion of the Beacons for Public Engagement programme, the embedding of research impact within Research Council grant applications and the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), and the 2010 publication of the RCUK’s Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research.
Whilst each of these developments was significant, the publication of the RCUK Concordat three years ago was a watershed. In effect, its four principles were a mandate for embedding public engagement within the UK’s research culture. To celebrate the third anniversary of the Concordat's publication RCUK have published another booklet called Inspiration to Engage. ...continue reading →