Challenge 3: Keeping the balance: research rigour, accessibility and impact?

Question How do we ensure that academic rigour and objectivity of research is maintained whilst...

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Gráinne Conole
5 February 2010


  • How do we ensure that academic rigour and objectivity of research is maintained whilst also making research more accessible and of demonstrable impact to UK economy and society?

Facilitated by Dr Heather Graham, The Leadership Foundation
Contributors: David Sweeney, Hefce; Brigid Heywood, The Open University, Professor Teresa Rees, Cardiff University

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Brigid Heywood (Open Unversity): we are struggling with defining relationships appropriate at the beginning of a research agenda. Also a debate about doctoral training, when there is an argument about capacity - how e-technologies might change we way support doctoral level researchers. We are interested in data - extending the ownership of primary data - issues about funding distributed data models.. Have centred our (OU) issues around research capacity building. 

Robin Goodfellow
11:26 on 11 February 2010 (Edited 11:34 on 11 February 2010)

Theresa Reese - Cardiff University:

One extreme - protect blue skies research

Other extreme - train researchers as journlists (a third of their time in dissemination)

Question the subjectivity of impact - who decides? Example from Cardiff - article written by part-time lecturer in psychology: the 'unhappiest day of the year'. No science in it, but it has most publicity & response from cholocate company! Do we need to discuss what we mean by impact?

Have got a letter from Harriet Harman welcoming inequality research saying it may be part of next manifesto - is that  impact?

Robin Goodfellow
11:30 on 11 February 2010 (Edited 11:35 on 11 February 2010)

David Sweeney (HEFCE):

No tension between rigour and impact - academics invent myths! Academics must listen and not parrot their own view uninformed by evidence. We are only interested in impact that results from excellent research. My question: how do we justify investment of public funding in research (£6bn a year)? Public money is spent for wellbeing and economic growth of the country.

Robin Goodfellow
11:33 on 11 February 2010 (Edited 11:36 on 11 February 2010)

Embedded Content


Robin Goodfellow
12:11pm 11 February 2010

Group feedback 1

General recognition that we have to embrace impact but protest rigour - need to change reward (promotions) system - but we are risk-averse...

Robin Goodfellow
12:14pm 11 February 2010

Group feedback 2

..leadership issue is getting people on side - how many institutions have open access for publically funded research? (4 hands) - this is a major management task - need more management expertise amongst PVCs

..segmenting the university into smaller roles has implications for jobs...

Robin Goodfellow
12:16pm 11 February 2010

Group feedback 3

Open access is a good thing - but how to implement it? Bottom line is cultural - key issue..

internationalisation of research has benefits but for many institutions a local focus is more appropriate

..difficult value judgements, comparable to deciding which drugs to develop!

Robin Goodfellow
12:18pm 11 February 2010

Brigid Heywood last word:

institutions and academics will follow the money - REF is a reality but worry we are losing range of research that has international recognition - how do we make decisions about management of research in its entirety?

the day job is a challange - but to have space to find out where to take the institution - tend to be short term when we need to be brave about innovation.

Robin Goodfellow
12:19pm 11 February 2010

Theresa Rees last word

Rigour is the last word!

Robin Goodfellow
12:20pm 11 February 2010

David Sweeney last word

It's about identifying people who will do the work - understanding individuals and managing and supporting them.

Will Pollard
12:58pm 18 February 2010

Would someone describe mode two knowledge and the "dark side" ? I roughly follow what it means for science but there seems to be a critique shared by some academics though not explained in public.

My interest is in quality ideas and it seems that quality is a mode two sort of topic, not really a subject. This is a block on getting much attention for theory. So trying to find the bright side of mode 2 might shift something.

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