A researcher’s multiple roles and their corresponding identities.
- What are your roles and identities as a researcher?
- How does your sense of personal efficacy affect your research?
- In what ways does digital engagement express and shape your identity?
As researchers we have multiple roles, which we undertake within distinct communities where we present different aspects of our identity. These include, for example, the roles of investigator, designer, developer, presenter, author, reviewer, editor and consultant. Through our roles we develop and demonstrate our competencies as researchers. Digital engagement offers a range of communication channels through which we undertake these roles and reinforce our identities.
Your online profile is the result of the digital traces of your activities. These might be created by you directly, such as your web pages, blog posts and tweets, or maybe by others as a result of your work, such as your participation at conferences, on editorial boards and in interviews with the media. Searching for yourself online gives you an insight into how others might see you. If there are activities you are engaged in that you value, but which are not reflected in your online profile, you may want to adapt your profile to better reflect the activities that are important to you and your career.
Actions to think about
How would you like to be seen as a researcher? Academic research is generally associated with a level of autonomy, competence (or expertise) and community belonging. In differentiating yourself as a researcher, how would you answer the following questions:
- Which roles do you most enjoy and why?
- Who have you enjoyed working with recently and why?
- Which research activities have you found most rewarding recently and why?
How do you express yourself? Your working preferences and strengths shape your interactions with others. Considering the personal roles, attributes and activities you identified, think about the following questions:
- How well does your online profile convey your preferred roles and identities?
- How do you (or could you) use digital forms of engagement to better convey your interests?
- How does engaging with others online influence your research?
Who do you think you are? Developing your identity as a researcher. Laura Graham-Matheson.
What’s in a name? Academic identity in the metadata age. Melissa Terras.
Mewburn, I. and Thomson, P. (2013) Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges. Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 38, Issues 8, 2013, pp. 1105-1119.
Bolden, R. et al. (2012) Academic Leadership: Changing Conceptions, Identities and Experiences in UK Higher Education. Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Report, March 2012, Series 3, Number 4, pp. 60.
"To know who you are is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good or bad ... what has meaning and importance to you and what is trivial and secondary." Taylor, C. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. 1989, pp. 28, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stakeholders may include user communities, and members of the public or groups that come into existence or develop an identity in relationship to a research process.
- As a researcher, what are your assumptions about the needs, capacities and interests of contemporary publics?
- What possible roles can you imagine publics taking up in your on-going research?
- How might an engagement initiative be used to shape, as well as communicate, your research?
- How might the effects of engaged research be most effectively tracked, reported on and evaluated?
The role of the public in contemporary societies is the focus of increasingly lively debate. There has been a proliferation of innovation in the area of public engagement in recent years, both within higher education and across other domains. Taken together, these developments require us to take a step beyond the common place idea that the public is an entity that is already out there waiting to be engaged, and develop more sophisticated ways of understanding and approaching contemporary publics.
It will always be important for researchers to consider the pre-existing needs, motivations and issues of specific groups (or ‘segments’ of the public). However, at a time when meanings and ways of being public are in flux this is not enough. Researchers must actively consider the public roles and relationships that they do (and do not) wish to support and the types of engagement they wish to explore as part of their on-going research.
- What, for example, are the big public issues or problems that your research sets out to address?
- How could publics interact to produce new ways of engaging with these issues? What would your ideal public be?
- Depending on the resources that are available and the context you are working in, what steps could you take to resource and support the emergence of such a public?
By negotiating these and other such questions, engaged research not only has the potential to be more effective but also to play an active role in the wide-ranging process of re-imagining and supporting the emergence of contemporary publics.
Actions to think about
- Consider the aims of your research and the possible ways people might be involved as a public to help realise these aims.
- Is there a single public problem or issue that your research addresses? Does it address more than one issue? Can you imagine different publics being engaged with particular aspects of your research process?
- Could the interactions that take place, as part of your engagement initiative, usefully feedback into the on-going development of your research?
- How could you track and measure what happens as a result of your engagement initiative? And how can you build these ways of assessing the effects of engagement into the design of your project?
- How will you narrate, account for and possibly evaluate the impacts of your engagement, including any unanticipated effects that it might have had?
Mahony, N. (2015) Designing Public-Centric Forms of Public Engagement with Research. The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Participation Now – an OpenLearn web resource to help you explore contemporary innovations in the area of participatory public engagement.
Mohr, A., Raman, S. and Gibbs, B. (2013) Which Publics? When?: Exploring the policy potential of involving different publics in dialogue around science and technology. Sciencewise-ERC.
Barnett, C. and Mahony, N. (2011) 'Segmenting publics'. ESRC and NCCPE.
Warner, M. (2002) Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone Books.
Dewey, J. (1927) The public and its problems. New York: Holt.
"[A public] is an engine for (not necessarily progressive) social mutation." Michael Warner in 'Publics and Counterpublics' 2002, pp.113.
Personal motivations for public engagement with research
- What motivates you to do your research?
- What is your motive for engaging with publics?
- What would motivate people to engage with your research?
Understanding your personal motivation for undertaking research and for engaging with publics can help you reflect on what is important to you in these processes. Furthermore, understanding other people's motivations for engaging with you and your research can help you manage and meet their expectations. When collaborations are going well, or not so well, reflecting on the motivations of the groups involved can help identify constructive partnerships or the potential sources of disconnections.
Competence, autonomy and relatedness (i.e. a sense of relating) are core psychological needs that have been used to explain motivation 1. Activities that satisfy these needs enhance self-motivation and well-being (while activities that thwart them diminish motivation and well-being). Sources of motivation range along a continuum from intrinsic (i.e. internally or self-motivated) to extrinsic (i.e. externally motivated). Intrinsic motivations are driven by interest, enjoyment and inherent satisfaction, whereas, extrinsic motivations are regulated by external processes such as rewards and punishments, personal importance, or conscious values.
Identifying and engaging with publics involves understanding what it is in your research that could support or develop their sense of competency, autonomy and relatedness. Where there is a lack of participation, it may be that these needs are not being served through the current form of engagement. Similarly, reflecting on your own sources of motivation and of others can provide a clear basis for establishing and communicating expectations.
1. Ryan R.M. and Deci E.L. (2000) Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist 55(1), pp. 68-78.
Actions to think about
- What is the source of your motivations for doing a specific piece of research? How does your research support your sense of competency, autonomy and relatedness?
- Which groups might share or complement your motivations and needs and how could you communicate the research to them in order to set realistic expectations?
- When working with others what could you do to monitor their expectations and support their sense of achievement?
"The major goal of formal education should be to equip students with the intellectual tools, efficacy beliefs, and intrinsic interests needed to educate themselves in a variety of pursuits throughout their lifetime." Albert Bandura (1997, pp. 212) Self-efficacy: the exercise of control. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.