There and Back Again… a Broker’s Journey to England / Un aller-retour… le voyage d’un courtier en angleterre

David Phipps, RIR-York
I’m not a Hobbit going to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim a hoard of gold from a grumpy dragon for a bunch of dwarves (I loved there and back again... a hobbit's tale by Bilbo BagginsTolkein as a kid and still do)… but I did go to England recently to speak about institutional knowledge mobilization.
Je ne suis pas un hobbit allant à la Montagne solitaire afin de réclamer un amas d’or à un dragon grincheux au nom d’une bande de nains (enfant, j’ai adoré Tolkein et je l’aime encore aujourd’hui)… mais je suis bien allé en Angleterre récemment afin de parler de la mobilisation des connaissances au niveau institutionnel.
There is a growing interest in institutional knowledge mobilization – not just researchers doing it as part of their scholarship but how institutions make it a priority and support it. The University of Sheffield Research Exchange for Social Sciences (RESS) calls it Co-Production. The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) calls it…not surprisingly… public engagement. I had the pleasure of speaking with both organizations during my visit July 8-14. While we implement differently because of the very different higher education funding mechanisms and the social services and community sectors are organized differently (there is no equivalent to our United Way) we share similar goals and drivers for our work: to maximize the impact of academic research on society. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Welcome Trust Engagement Fellow (now that’s a cool fellowship to have!) Erinma Ochu who tweets as Manchester Beacon (@mcrbeacon).

RESS logo

My slides as presented to Sheffield and NCCPE (mostly but not 100% the same) are posted on Slide Share, but more interesting than what I presented is what I learned:
The University of Manchester has an Associate Dean of Engagement in each Faculty. This represents a significant investment in academic leadership for engagement by the university. I don’t know of any university in Canada with this model but if it exists please comment below.
The Research Excellence Framework 2014 is driving a lot of public engagement activity in the UK. The Higher Education Funding Council for England will be basing part of their institutional funding on the extra-academic impacts of research. Universities have created units of research impact to create the REF case studies. Institutions are required to write a one REF case study for every 10 faculty members from all disciplines. In addition to driving block grants this process is forcing institutions to think about the impacts of research beyond academic quality. This will also create a rich resource of 6000 or so REF case studies which are raw material for scholars of the impact of research such as Claire Donovan (@ClaireDonovan).  We don’t have a REF exercise in Canada – but don’t hold your breath…some form of assessment is sure to come our way on day.
Paul Manners, Director NCCPE, said of the visit, “What a treat it was to host the visit by David and Gary: at the NCCPE, we are always looking for new ideas and examples of practice toNCCPE logo  stimulate innovation and fresh thinking. The Canadian experience of Knowledge Mobilization provides a fascinating context in which to think about creative ways in which universities can both respond to and help to build capacity and innovation in wider society. There are some similarities with what’s going on in the UK – but fascinating differences too, for instance in the ways that graduates and interns are involved in Canada. Delegates at the workshop were really inspired by what they heard, and the session generated a lot of lively discussion and debate. The only down-side was that it was over so quickly – we are very keen to find ways to continue the conversation and to build more structured ways to share experience and expertise across national boundaries.”
It was also great catching up with @CuppBrighton colleague @Dave Wolff again. He and his community partner, Paul Bramwell, were also presenting at the Sheffield Co-Production seminar. And I traveled with Gary Myers (@KMbeing) who presented on social media as a tool for knowledge mobilization. He presented 92 slides in 14 minutes. Yes 92 slides in 14 minutes. My slide decks had 12-16 slides and I had 30-40 minutes. The contrast was wonderful for us as presenters and for the audience.
We went there and came back again, and like Bilbo in The Hobbit, we came back with more than we left with. Thanks to @KatePahl and Anne Pittard of RESS for all their efforts funding and organizing the visit.