I hope you are keeping well! I can't believe that this is the first newsletter I've managed to send so far this year - clearly my new job at SRUC has been as busy as it has been fun! This could be a very long newsletter as a result, but I know you're as busy as me, so I've attempted to focus on the most important new opportunities, pieces of research and impact resources that are currently on my radar. Enjoy!
A New Impact Community
First of all, thanks to everyone who responded to the survey I sent you to shape a new community of practice around impact. As I explained, this arose from a group of professional services colleagues who I've worked with over the last year who wanted to keep meeting up, and thought it might be nice to extend the group to others who want to share experiences and support each other in their work on impact. You can see the full results here.
In response to this, I'm working on setting up a programme of discussion and training activities for the next year, including resource sharing and discussion via a dedicated email list linked to each month's activity, and a mentoring scheme. I need your help to shape this - please take this survey to vote for your favourite sessions and contribute to these sessions yourselves via case studies or by offering your own additional sessions:
Take the survey now
More to follow in the next newsletter...
New from Fast Track Impact
We've just launched a new training course, The Resilient Researcher. This course empowers academics and professional services colleagues to take control of their health and lifestyle, so they can maintain work-life balance, mental and physical health at a time when so many of us feel isolated and over-stretched. It is a perfect follow-on for anyone who has booked The Productive Researcher (which can also be booked as a half-day prequel). Run by Dr Joyce Reed, a retired hospital doctor who overcame burnout to work with researchers as Managing Director of Fast Track Impact, this course is uniquely tailored to the needs and challenges you and your colleagues are facing. Find out more.
Reading Group: Impact as Ethos (28th April). Hear a short overview of the key take home messages from Lauren Rickards, Wendy Steele and colleagues' Impact as Ethos publication and discuss with the authors how you can transform your University from a first generation impact culture to a second or third generation culture that challenges the assumptions and systems within which we engage with both research and society. Read their work here, and come ready to be inspired and engage in deep discussion. Book here.
Join my free impact training for the UN Environment Programme. Although places will be prioritised for peatland researchers, as this programme is for their Global Peatlands Initiative, others are welcome to join - the first session is my introduction to impact with time-saving tools at the end of April. Follow Fast Track Impact on Eventbrite to find out about new sessions as they are made available.
Short courses: We now offer all our courses as 1 hour, 90 min and 2 hour stand alone online courses or in weekly or monthly series. Perfect to slot into your online event or departmental seminar series, and designed to avoid screen fatigue. Find out more and book here.
Impact research and news
Here are some of the research articles I've found most relevant and interesting for my own attempts to generate impact - I've attempted to summarise the key points for each one to save you time.
New paper by Elena Louder and colleagues provides four rules of thumb for selecting impact evaluation frameworks and indicators:
New paper by Edward Challies and colleagues shows the kinds of stakeholder participation most likely to shape policy decisions. My summary:
- Be clear about underlying assumptions of knowledge production and definitions of impact
- Attempt to measure intermediate and process-related impacts
- Balance emergent and expected outcomes
- Balance indicators that capture nuance and those that simplify
In this new article, Richard Watermeyer and Gene Rowe argue that professional services staff specialising in impact and public engagement need parity of esteem with academics, if they are to lead our collective efforts to generate public benefits from research.
- Participatory processes that enable participants to shape the output and that focus on knowledge elicitation, aggregation and integration, have a high likelihood of delivering outputs that will be adopted in a political decision
- Communication intensity (frequent, two-way) has a significant negative effect on the uptake of participatory outputs in political decisions because processes are occupied with more discussion and negotiation than consequential decision making
- Context matters: participatory outputs generated in a NIMBY context have a lower likelihood of being adopted as, or taken up in, political decisions
- Overall, participation influences policy through its capacity to elicit/integrate knowledge and shape decisions, rather than its role in establishing legitimacy, empowerment and societal context: "participation is especially impactful when used as a tool"
Linked to this, a new ARMA report opens a window on bullying, harassment and discrimination against professional services staff in UK Universities.
If you've not read it yet, I highly recommend reading Lauren Rickards and colleagues' Impact as Ethos article, which has probably been the piece of research that has most shaped my thinking on impact over the last year (you'll be able to read more of my thoughts on this in an article I've got in press, which I'll share with you in the next issue of this newsletter). Ask yourself which generation of impact culture you have in your institution, and what it would take to move from first to second generation, or from second to third generation, and what parts of your current culture you would want to keep along this journey. I'm excited to be able to host Lauren Rickards and Wendy Steele for a discussion on their work in this month's reading group - book here.
- 74% of respondents either witnessed or experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination, with 44% reporting that this was experienced at their current organisation and 19% at both past and present organisations
- Where job families of the perpetrators were known, 39% were attributed to academic/research staff and 27% to administration/professional services
- One professional services colleague said, "There is a huge unspoken classism in academic institutions between academic and professional services staff groups. Most (if not all) professional services [staff] have experience of being spoken down to (sometimes publicly), condescended, shouted at, intimidated, insulted, received abusive emails telling them they are stupid, etc., in the course of their duties."
- Only 18% of those who reported an incident were satisfied with how it was handled by their workplace and the main reason people didn't report incidents was fear that no action would be taken
- There was a theme that the perpetrators are often repeat offenders or are untouchable: "Academics who perform well in research are seen as (and are) untouchable."
- Others were wary of reporting incidents for fear of negative impacts on their career or reprisals: "[I want to avoid] being seen as ‘oversensitive’ because misogyny is so normalised that it is invisible to most people."
- Find out more about workplace bullying and get help using this confidential Bullying UK Helpline 0808 800 2222
In our February Reading Group, George Mason University Professor Justin Gest discussed his new book, Mass Appeal: Communicating Policy Ideas in Multiple Media. The book is a concise resource for how to transform policy ideas and expertise into effective and persuasive public campaigns. Featuring specially commissioned advice from practitioners and real examples of good policy communication, it lays out how to use different media to communicate policy ideas: executive summaries, press releases, op-eds and blogs, briefings, broadcast appearances, and social media. Visit the book's website: MassAppeal.gmu.edu. Purchase via Oxford University Press.
Other useful new articles and resources on impact:
Finally, although only tangentially related to impact, you might be interested in my new blog on empathic leadership (part 2), where I discuss four reasons why becoming comfortable with uncertainty will make you a more empathic, creative and impactful leader.
As the dust settles on the REF2021 submission in the UK, a number of new pieces have been published, analysing the REF2014 impact case study database, and considering what the future might hold for the next REF period:
Like many of my other UK colleagues, I submitted the final draft of my own impact case study (on global peatlands) to the Research Excellence Framework. After reading Richard Watermeyer's recent article with Michael Tomlinson about the appropriation of impact from researchers who aren't aware their work has been used in an impact case study, I was pleased that I made room for all 10 (mainly ECR) researchers who had contributed to the work. While the researchers interviewed in Richard and Michael's article were mainly negative about their experience writing up their work as a case study, I had quite a different experience when I finally submitted mine, which I reflected on in this thread.
Thanks for reading all this if you got this far! I love chatting to people on the list, so if you have any thoughts or questions about anything you've read in this newsletter, please hit reply and I'll get back to you!
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