Using complexity principles to understand the nature of relations for creating a culture of publically engaged research within Higher Education Institutes
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Edward Elgar. This Chapter is provided for private use only.
Reason for embargo
A number of drivers for contemporary research, including impact case studies for the UK Research Excellence Framework, pathways to impact for the RCUK grants, and the need to demonstrate patient and public involvement for health research in the UK, are focussing attention on how to achieve public engagement in research. A key issue underlying these initiatives is the problem of how to secure culture change within Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) such that Public engagement becomes part of how research is done within that institution. In 2008 RCUK funded six ‘Beacons for Public Engagement. Support was provided for each funded partner organisation to create a culture of engaging with the public to inform the design and delivery of research. We sought to understand how each Beacon had created the conditions for two-way engagement in the research design and delivery. We undertook an initial scoping study of the organisational culture within each Beacon and, using maximum variation sampling, selected seven resultant result projects which were our case studies. We used a participatory approach in the design and delivery of the research The findings from the case studies and analysing them from the perspective of complex systems have led us to conceptualise an ‘engagement cycle' which has three phases or elements: Creating the conditions: Development and hosting of a series of activities and events which bring researchers and non HEI communities together to foster the development of relations amongst academics, and between academics and potential non-academic partners. Co-creation of research: On the basis of these new partnerships, we anticipate projects of mutual benefit to both academics and non-academic partners will be developed. Feedback loops to inform ongoing and future research: A process of formative and summative evaluation should run alongside these activities, with shared feedback, capturing the value and impact of the work and leading to future collaboration In this chapter, we will discuss the approach we used to gather the data, how complexity theory underpins the approach and the interpretation of the findings, and how the results led to the engagement cycle. We will seek to show how it is possible to understand the dynamics of successful public engagement with research using complexity theory, and what implications this has had for the methods used.
in E. Mitleton-Kelly, A. Paraskevas, and C. Day (eds.) Handbook of Research Methods in Complexity Science: Theory & Application. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.