Thursday, 2 August 2012

Feel the impact

I joined Relu programme in 2007 and I was immediately aware that my colleagues Director Philip Lowe and Assistant Director Jeremy Phillipson had their eye very much on that ball called “impact”.   They knew from the very beginning of the programme, back in 2004, that research is all very well, but if it doesn’t make a difference to the world and the people who live in it, why are we bothering?  We have to make sure that the research answers the questions that need answering and that people get to know about the results.  This seems such an obvious point to the general public, who, after all, are the people who are paying for research through their taxes.  But there are still a few academics who seem to think knowledge exchange isn’t their responsibility.  Their research could be groundbreaking and of stunning quality, and yet they still seem reluctant to promote it beyond the walls of their own discipline or institution or to reach out to the wider world.  They are too busy, they don’t get paid to do this, they have students to think about, they need to concentrate on the REF.  Fortunately this has been a rare attitude among Relu researchers, all of whom have all of those other pressures on their time.  Most have grabbed with both hands any opportunities for getting their research to the places where it can make a difference.  Involving stakeholders from an early stage was a given in all the Relu projects and this has paid dividends in making the research relevant and ensuring it is communicated effectively.  I’m sure that the enthusiastic leadership shown by Philip and Jeremy has played a key part in making this happen.  So reading the independent review of impact that was commissioned by ESRC and published this week was very pleasing.  It is overwhelmingly positive about the achievements of the programme in knowledge exchange and impact and makes a point of saying that “Much of the “value-added” of the Programme can be traced to its entrepreneurial leadership (Director and complementary Assistant Director) constantly and pro-actively encouraging stakeholders as well as researchers to participate fully in Relu.”  It also says that “Relu was successful in generating a portfolio of a significant number and a diversified range of types of impacts and impacts-in-progress in a variety of contexts.”  It’s always good to feel that we’ve done a good job – and even nicer to be told in writing. 

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