05 Apr 2012

The Open University wins £299,456 of public engagement research funding

The Open University has been awarded £299,456 of Catalyst funding for a three-year project designed to embed public engagement within research in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The news follows a Catalyst funding call from Research Councils UK (RCUK).

Professor Tim Blackman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Scholarship, will lead the project to embed public engagement with research within the University's strategic planning and the work of researchers at all levels, making it an 'open research university'. The project will be supported by a new Catalyst Champion post and the work will include:

• developing an Open University manifesto for public engagement with research
• implementing a rewards scheme recognising researchers for excellence in public engagement
• developing a digital infrastructure for public 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 and providing a network of support
• providing structured opportunities for public, students, user communities and other stakeholders to engage with OU researchers and research

The Open University is one of just eight institutions to receive the funding. Professor Tim Blackman said: “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.”

The funding opportunity follows on from the success of the Beacons for Public Engagement initiative which ended in December 2011. RCUK believes that public engagement can enhance research by helping it to remain relevant to society and be responsive to wider social concerns, helping research to maximise its economic and societal impact.

Professor John Womersley, RCUK Champion for Public Engagement with Research said: “RCUK believe that engaging with the public should be something all researchers do. This funding will help HEIs create a culture where public engagement with research is fully embedded within that institution. I congratulate those researchers awarded funding and look forward to their successes serving as a model for other HEIs to adopt in future.”

Other academics involved in The Open University’s project include: Dr Richard Holliman of the Environment, Earth and Ecosystems Department, Dr Richard Holti of The Open University Business School, Dr Nicholas Mahony of the Centre for Citizenship Identities and Government, Dr Anne Adams and Professor Scanlon of the Institute of Educational Technology and Dr Trevor Collins of the Knowledge Media Institute.

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