Open research


Professor Tim Blackman, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research, Scholarship and Quality)
Professor Tim Blackman, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research, Scholarship and Quality)

The Open University's Catalyst for Public Engagement with Research project, 'An open research university', is one of eight funded by RCUK under this scheme. Led by Professor Tim Blackman, and supported by a multi-disciplinary research team, this three-year project (April 2012 - March 2015) will embed public engagement with research within The Open University's strategic planning for research and the operational practices of researchers at all levels.

"The Open University Catalyst will be informed by our long-term commitment to social justice and inclusion. We sought RCUK support to embed an 'ecology of openness' to inform all aspects of how researchers engage publics, user communities and other stakeholders with research, and at different points in the research process.

We aim to change the culture of research and to improve the overall quality and impact of our research portfolio, increasing The Open University's relevance to, and impact on, society." Professor Tim Blackman, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research, Scholarship and Quality)

Over the three-year life of the project, The Open University will develop a more strategic approach to public engagement with research that both informs and is informed by theoretical and practical work conducted by academic researchers, and by sector-wide strategic developments in relation to public engagement with research.


Through the work of the Open University's Public Engagement with Research Catalyst we are:

  • developing an Open University manifesto for public engagement with research
  • implementing a rewards 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
  • building on work in career development and doctoral training programmes for researchers and research students
  • issuing calls to researchers for projects on public engagement with research, providing a network of support
  • offering structured opportunities for publics, students, user communities and other stakeholders to engage with OU researchers and research
NCCPE web page: Self-assess your institution using the EDGE tool
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Framing culture change

A technique known as the 'EDGE Tool' provides the co-ordinating framework for the project. (EDGE is an acronym that stands for Embryonic, Developing, Gripping and Embedding.)

Developed by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, the OU project team 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. Each of the OU Catalyst project's objectives relates to a category from this tool and has a work package associated with it.

The work packages will be evaluated according to the criteria laid out in the tool. By March 2015 the aim of the Catalyst project is to transform The Open University's research culture from a 'developing' phase to a 'gripping' or 'embedding' phase in how researchers are encouraged, supported and rewarded for engaging publics, user communities and other stakeholders with research.