Fairness in knowing’: How should we engage with the sciences?


Well good evening and thank you for joining
us at this the 4th lecture in our special 50th anniversary Inaugural Lecture series. It’s good to be 50, been there and done
that myself. We are enjoying ourselves this year. I am Nicholas Braithwaite, I am acting as
Executive Dean for the STEM faculty. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics and it is for the duration of 2019. It is my privilege to be hosting one of the
50th anniversary celebration events showcasing our research, teaching and knowledge exchange
portfolios. Each year the Vice-Chancellor invites some
of the newly appointed and promoted Professors to give an Inaugural Lecture, and over the
course of the year our Inaugural Lecture series provides an opportunity to celebrate academic
excellence, with each lecture representing a significant milestone in an academic’s
career. This evening we will hear from Richard Holliman,
or Rick Holliman as I have always called him, Professor of Engaged Research who will challenge
us to think about how we could engage with the sciences. This is quite an apt topic because this is
at the moment British Science Week. Science has the power to influence our lives
and we should care about how it should be governed, how it should be represented and
funded. This raises questions like who should have
a voice in framing scientific investigations? How should contemporary science research be
conducted? Who should be involved in shaping how the
inputs from scientific investigations impact on society and the economy? So, to celebrate the OU at 50, Rick will explore
selected examples from the OU’s Curriculum, Research and Knowledge Exchange activities
in this Inaugural Lecture. So here’s the format for the evening. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session
and then we invite you to join us to celebrate downstairs. For anyone in the audience who wants to use
Twitter you can do that. There’s a hashtag which should be appearing
on screen there #OUtalks and if you could tag @OpenUniversity that will help us tell
the world what’s going on. Rick himself is a keen user of Twitter and
he has a Twitter handle which is somewhere, is that being displayed at the moment, I don’t
see it. What’s your Twitter handle? @Science_Engage
Thank you. Right, now if you are joining us via LiveStream,
and we have some people joining us via LIveStream from around the world, please use the email
address that’s been provided and keep your comments and questions brief so that we can
put them into the Q&A session. They will be collected and forwarded to us
when we go to the comfy chairs over there. Before we start there is a health and safety
slide which is appearing for the studio audience right now. Please take note of that. Assembly Points 10 and 11, I think follow
the crowd is always good advice on those occasions. There will be people here who know where we
should go. Now about Rick, Richard Holliman. He is Professor of Engaged Research at the
Open University. His academic work examines tensions between
theories and practices of knowledge exchange by evaluating examples where researchers and
‘publics’ have sought to produce, or even co-produce, impacts derived from research. In combining research and practice through
this work, he has developed the concept of engaged research. He will explain what this means and its implication
for the sciences and other areas of academic knowledge in his lecture. Through his research he has developed a strong
reputation for engaging collaboratively in inter-disciplinary teams both within and beyond
university settings, which gives him an opportunity to inform professional practice, shape debate
and frame policy decisions. He was the academic lead in the OUs RCUK-funded
public engagement with research catalyst, and our school/university partnership where
we collaborated with schools across Milton Keynes. He has worked extensively with the National
Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement for the last 10 years or more, and more recently
with the Public Engagement Team at the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Wow. It now gives me great pleasure to introduce
Professor Richard Holliman. I think we are ready to go, yes. OK good evening. I would like to start by thanking people for
coming along today. It’s amazing to see so many friendly faces. I would like to thank Nick for introducing
me, the OU Communications Team, and my family in particular Jane, Ellen and Fred, where
are they, hello how are you doing, for helping me put this event together over the last few
months. Thanks also to those who have helped with
the displays outside the theatre. You will see their work represented here on
this slide. It’s really lovely to be able to showcase
some examples of the work that OU colleagues are undertaking in science communication and
engagement. As noted by Nick, the Audio-Visual team are
LiveStreaming this lecture. I therefore would like to say hi to family,
friends, OU students, and colleagues watching this lecture across the 4 nations of the UK
and beyond. G’day Australia, Guten Abend Deutschland,
Hi and Bonjour Canada, Kia ora New Zealand. It’s a real honour to be part of this celebration
of the 50th Anniversary of The Open University. By happy coincidence this year also represents
a half-century for my twin brother and me. The photo was taken last week, it’s been
a tough week. We are not just twins however, we are twin
Professors which has to be up there with the best Buy One Get One Free deal you can find. Happy Birthday to the OU and Professor Peter
Holliman. So here I am basking in the light of the 40
fame filled minutes of the academic writer. Tonight, I am going to talk about the changing
relationship between publicly funded research and wider society. In part this is because the politics of research
has changed in profound ways over the course of my academic career. Public funders for research, in the UK at
least, now require that universities and researchers routinely plan to generate social and or economic
impact from research. Other changes have been driven by social technologies. The photo on the right is me at Milton Keynes
Museum, which happens to be a great place to visit. I used a handheld device like this in the
1980s on various military exercises. Try putting that on the end of a selfie stick. In 2019 citizens use technology to participate
in research across distance and time in ways that would have been unimaginable 30 years
ago. Tonight I want to explore how we are responding
to this change in context. I am going to do that in 3 parts. First I am going to introduce the concept
of border crossings, second I will review some ideas about fairness and knowing and
third I will introduce the concept of engaged research. OK, part 1 explores ideas about border crossings
and I am doing this from a social cultural perspective. So what do I mean by border crossings in this
context? To be clear, I am not talking about the types
of borders that we cross when we move from country to country. I am interested in something more subtle. Cultural borders that have the power to shape
our identities, world view, ability to act, and so on. This is culture as both an enabler and a barrier. We cross borders all the time in our everyday
lives, from one sub-culture to another. As Glen Aikenhead argues here on the slide,
as you move from one sub-culture into another we intuitively and sub-consciously alter certain
beliefs, expectations and conventions. In other words, we effortlessly negotiate
the cultural border. Aikenhead was interested in how to support
border crossings when people move into a different sub-culture, one where the beliefs, expectations
and conventions are partly or wholly new to new people. My argument here is that this will be the
case when citizens engage with a new academic sub-culture for the first time. So, for example, some area of the sciences. In part 3 of the lecture I will explore how
university staff can help to support border crossings. First I would like to give you an example
of a border crossing that I was involved in. I left school when I was 16 years old. I had no interest in going to university,
much less so in becoming an academic. Rather I decided to join the Army Catering
Corps. In Army slang I became a cabbage mechanic. It’s true. The first 6 weeks or so of my new life involved
basic training. It was somewhat of a culture shock. Fellow members of my squad and I had to learn
a whole new sub-culture. To a large degree we either sank or swam. To illustrate the point, half of my squad
had left or been discharged by the end of 2 years training. This illustration of a sub-cultural border
crossing should I hope be obvious from this example. A civilian, me, learnt how to become both
a soldier and a chef. That’s not the end of my sub-culture learning
journey however. Furthermore subtle border crossings were to
follow. Following my training I was posted roughly
every 2 years to different units. I was an attached member of these units. Each time I was posted I had to relearn the
rules and conventions of that new unit. Cavalry who drove heavy tanks, like infantry
who issue drill commands by a bugle call, and the Scots Guards who were often on ceremonial
duties. Each unit was part of the British Army, and
there were many similarities between them. At times, however, these units also worked
in different and sometimes mysterious ways. Ok so why am I telling you this. First, I argue that the Army is both one culture
and many sub-cultures. Each unit has both similarities and differences
in how they live and work. Science also is one culture and many sub-cultures. Biologists, earth scientists, physicists,
chemists, astronomers and so on, have both shared and distinctive ways of working. Scientists need to be aware of how different
and intimidating their academic sub-culture can look to those engaging from beyond academic
sub-cultures. Like all academics when they engage, they
should seek to meet people in shared territory. Second, the active border crossings from one
culture to another can range from being straightforward to deeply challenging. It can require considerable effort. We should not underestimate the challenges
of those making border crossings into and out of academia. Citizens engaging with the sciences require
tailored support each time they engage with a new scientific sub-culture. Third, there are obvious differences between
the Army and academia. There are also, I argue, similarities. Like many academics working in science communication
and engagement I am effectively an attached member of another academic unit. To work together I have needed to learn about
how earth sciences and ecologists think, whilst my departmental colleagues have delighted
in occasional sojourns into the social sciences. I use the term ‘delighted’ advisedly. To work effectively beyond our own sub-culture
requires a commitment to lifelong learning and engagement. OK so lots of academics conduct disciplinary-based
research. Others explore the borders between academic
disciplines, solving problems through multi-disciplinary work. Both approaches are fine of course as long
as there is clear thinking to back the selection. I am interested in another group. Those living and working at the boundaries
of sub-cultures, those who see value in exploring the interface between academia and wider society. Those who spend significant amounts of time
engaging beyond the confines of their discipline or their professional practice or their civic
life can take on the role of boundary creatures. I am a boundary creature. Boundary creatures straddle the borders between
sub-cultures, between academic knowledge, professional practice and other forms of expertise
and experience. As Anne Adams, hi Anne, and colleagues argue,
‘we can become explorers and bring home to human computer interaction’, that’s
Anne’s basic discipline, ‘through boundary crossing, experiences from foreign lands. To do this however we have to take on the
mantle of being considered both horrific and empowering’. The point Anne and colleagues are making is
that in acting as boundary creatures they are, to some degree at least, challenging
the conventions in their professional sub-culture both in how they work, but also, potentially
in redefining the outputs from research. Working as a boundary creature can therefore
be an unsettling experience at times, particularly when academic professional institutional sub-cultures
don’t value engaged practices. The question is why should we bother? I’ve done a good deal of training and teaching
over the years and those involved have often been interested in different rationales for
engagement. Put simply, they want an answer to the question
‘what’s my motivation for this?’. At times they have been looking to justify
their personal commitment to engagement. More often than not, however, they have been
looking for arguments they can make to their line manager or PhD supervisor to justify
their commitment on a longer-term basis. I wrote about this issue recently describing
three broad motivations to engage. So first you can make a normative case. For example, to address an injustice. A simple example of this would be a desire
to engage to increase diversity in the scientific workforce. As an example of a normative justification
for engagement I was part of a team that conducted engaged research with young people on a project
called Invisible Witnesses. Through this work we explored some of the
cultural barriers that discourage young women and girls from studying the sciences. You can make a substantive case for engagement. For example, to improve the quality of research
and/or its outcomes. I lead a team in conducting engaged research
with science engagement practitioners and scientists on a project called Isotope. Through this Action Research Project, we co-developed
a community website for sharing best practice and engagement. And third you can make an instrumental case. For example, ‘What’s in it for me?’
or ‘What’s in it for us?’. I’ve delivered training workshops alongside
the geologists, where’s Clare, hi Clare, a filmmaker and various experienced postgraduate
researchers to deliver training to those new to science communication and engagement. In particular we supported post-graduate researchers
in mapping the skills they gained to engagement and communication on to job applications. The point I am making here is that we can
choose to engage for different reasons, but we should do it for clearly justified reasons. The people with whom we engage deserve nothing
less than clear intentions. So whilst I am focussing on the need to improve
fairness and knowing in this lecture, in effect a normative justification, I argue that there
is also a need to consider both instrumental and substantive motivations. Much of my work in recent years has been based
on the principle that if you want people to get better at something support them to develop
a track record of sustained excellence, and then recognise and reward their excellence. This may seem blindingly obvious to many of
you, it is important to note therefore that for the first 15 years of my academic career
at the OU there was no career pathway for engagement. That changed in 2015. I’m obviously not the first academic to
successfully conduct engaged research over a sustained period at The Open University. I am, however, the first Professor to be promoted
through the Knowledge Exchange profile. This new profile was partly informed by the
OU’s Public Engagement with Research Catalyst, an open research university, as you can see
on the slide there. Funded by Research Councils UK, the OU project
was one of 8 tasked with embedding the principles and practices of engagement within our respective
university’s research cultures. We drew on work that had been managed by the
National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, that’s the NCCPE for short, through an initiative
called the Beacons for Public Engagement. That initiative had identified a number of
drivers for change in universities, including the need to recognise and reward excellence. The OU’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research,
Scholarship and Quality at the time, Professor Tim Blackman, hi Tim, saw the value in exploring
a new route for promotion. Sally Dibb led a working group to develop
and test a new profile. As the quote on this slide shows, Tim and
Sally reflected on the reasons for introducing a new promotion profile in the final report
of The Open University project. Part of my role here in developing this Inaugural
Lecture, therefore, is to say thanks to Tim but also to Paul Manners and Sophie Duncan
for their leadership of the NCCPE. They have been tireless in raising the profile
of public engagement in Higher Education in the UK. My role is also to validate knowledge exchange
as an academic career profile and to offer some insight into how I think we can work
together to support further excellence in engaged research. There is still work to do. I therefore want to highlight that the university
sector needs to ensure that professional staff working in university engagement also have
aspirational career profiles. A recent paper in the Journal Research for
All, that’s handy, highlights some of the challenges facing publicly engaged research
managers. That’s a very important issue to resolve
but its one for another day. I am here to demonstrate to academics who
will come after me that if you can demonstrate sustained excellence in engagement at the
OU, your work will be celebrated. Like Mark Brandon, hi Mark, and Lesley Hoggart,
both recently promoted knowledge exchange Professors, I am here to act as a source of
advice for, and as potential collaborator with, OU research and teaching focussed colleagues. OK, continuing in the theme of recognising
excellence, I want to celebrate the social justice mission of the OU. The OU clearly has a long tradition of boundary
crossing, opening up engaging in opportunities without fear or favour. The three Inaugural Lectures proceeding mine
exemplify this tradition. They are recorded and archived online. Go and have a look. I hope by now that it will be clear that my
focus is slightly different. I want to explore how we embed a culture of
engaged research at the OU. Put simply, my recent work has sought to both
explore the requirements not just of boundary creatures, but also of boundary organisations. When the OU was founded our founders demonstrated
remarkable foresight as a boundary organisation by establishing a mission for social justice
that still informs everything we do. We are open first as to people. We are open as to places. We are open as to methods. We are open finally as to ideas. My argument here today is that the OU was
invented to deliver fairness in knowing as a boundary organisation. Though to improve the life chances of our
students through our formal curriculum but also citizens through opportunities for informal
learning. That work clearly continues. The issue I want to focus on here is how a
programme of organisational and cultural change can be used to create the conditions where
engaged research can also thrive. For me that involves a commitment to fairness
in knowing. We seamlessly move to part 2. In part 2 of the lecture I will briefly introduce
the concept of fairness in knowing and offer an example to demonstrate why I think its
important. Academia thrives on the free movement of people
and ideas. I have met lots of amazing people in this
way. It’s through these networks that I met Fabian
Medvecky who introduced me to the concept of fairness in knowing. On this slide he argues that whether science
communicators acknowledge it or not, they get to decide both which knowledge is shared
by choosing which topic is communicated, and who gets access to the knowledge by choosing
which audience it is presented to. As a result, the decisions of science communicators
have important implications for epistemic justice, how knowledge is distributed fairly
and equitably. The implication of Fabian’s work is that
the decisions academics make shape and frame the possibilities both for who has a voice
in research, but also how those voices are enabled to be heard. What happens then when we limit those choices,
and should we leave those choices solely to academics. I mentioned the Isotope project earlier in
the lecture when I introduced substantive motivations for engaging. That’s when we are looking to improve quality. Isotope like almost all the projects I have
led was underpinned by action research which is represented by the graphic on the right. At the beginning of the Isotope project we
drew on earlier research to identify an initial set of questions. See the arrow. We were looking to create ways of sharing
best practice in engagement. To start this process we sought views and
perspectives from those who we thought might want to actually share best practice. We used the information we gathered to help
put our planning into action. We observed the results of those actions,
made relevant revisions, following reflection, planned new interventions and so on. As you can see from the circle and the arrows,
it’s an iterative cyclical process. As part of the planning stage we invited scientists
and professional science communicators to plan an engagement activity. What follows are some of the key results which
are published in the book shown on the left. The book cover on the left is why someone
greeted me at an event with ‘you are the pig man’ to which of course the only reasonable
reply was ‘oink’. Back to Isotope. We found that that the scientists in particular
were constrained by a series of default settings. One, in how they selected people to engage
with. Two, the purposes for conducting these activities
and three, the methods for engaging. Given the time constraints I am going to focus
on the selection of people. The scientists knew exactly who they wanted
to be involved. They wanted to engage with gifted and talented
secondary school students. Now I am not going to dwell here on whether
it’s a good idea to label children as gifted and talented other than to note that many
teachers disagree with this policy requirement. A scheduled tweet that includes a link to
a paper that goes into more detail. Rather, I want to illustrate here what this
meant in practice for planning engagement when we conducted our research in support
of Isotope. That was in 2007 to 2008. To do this I selected, at random, ahem, a
football stadium. This is the measure of my sporting dreams. Luton Town Football Club. The capacity of The Kenny is just over 10,000. Let’s call it 10,000 for this exercise. I want you to imagine that the stadium is
filled with a representative sample of the UK population. Let’s apply the decision-making used by
the scientists in the Isotope project. First we will focus on secondary school children. 2017 demographic data from the Office of National
Statistics tells us that those between the ages of 10 to 19 make up 11.25% of the UK
population, 11.25% of the stadium equates to 1,125 secondary school students. Let’s apply the 2nd filter, those of gifted
and talented children. In 2008 the government policy required schools
to identify between 5 and 10% of the secondary school students they taught as gifted and
talented. Let’s use the more generous figure that’s
10% of 1,125 rather than split that student in half I am going to take the liberty of
rounding this up to 113 students. I think we can all agree that’s a good idea. Hence, if we have a football stadium filled
with 10,000 people who represent the UK population, 113 people would be selected to engage. That’s just over 1% of the UK population. However, if teachers use the lower threshold
of 5% the number of gifted and talented students selected to engage could be as few as 57 out
of 10,000. That’s just over 0.5% of the UK population. Now I imagine that scientists repeat this
decision-making process again and again and again and again. Almost all of the stadium is excluded. So, it seems reasonable to ask why the scientists
we interviewed consistently limited their selection. One of the key reasons is that they have been
told repeatedly by successive government and senior scientists that they should really
be concerned about the STEM skills gap where STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics. The STEM skills gap is identified as the shortfall
in the number of skilled workers required by the economy. This gap is caused, at least in part, by leaky
pipeline. See the schematic on the slide. What the schematic shows is people moving
through the formal education system and beyond. People, in particular women, leak out of the
pipeline when they choose either to study or work in STEM, or not. This is a serious issue, I get it. Through the Invisible Witnesses project I
mentioned earlier, we sought to highlight the cultural barriers that inhibit self-efficacy
among girls and women in relation to the sciences. But even with this caveat I argued that there
is still a problem. If we consistently use the need to reduce
the STEM skills gap as the only rationale for engagement, huge swaths of the public
will be excluded, and here’s why. My dad was a heating engineer for 51 years. He really likes to talk about plumbing. Hi dad. As a result, I know more than is strictly
healthy about pipework. So in spite of the fact that I have never
so much as changed a washer on a tap, sorry dad, I know that you need to check the whole
pipeline for leaks before you try and plug any of them. So, the point is that if scientists use the
default settings to plan for engagement by routinely selecting gifted secondary school
learners as their preferred audience, 99% of the population are going to be excluded. Put simply, there’s a much bigger leak in
the pipe. So my argument here is that academics need
a better strategy to inform their planning for engagement, one that delivers a fairer
way of selecting publics. My work over the past 10 years has focussed
on this with the aim of promoting fairness in knowing through forms of engaged research. I want to note therefore that since I’ve
worked on Isotope I have encountered some amazing activities that seek to promote fairness
in knowing beyond gifted secondary school learners. However, I have also encountered plenty of
examples where this type of default thinking still dominates. There is still a job to be done to promote
engaged ways of working that promote fairness in knowing. Which brings me to part 3 of the lecture. OK first I want to acknowledge that university
staff can’t engage with everybody. I still think we should promote fairness in
knowing and to do that we need to be strategic. My strategy for promoting fairness in knowing
is through engaged research. To illustrate key aspects of this work I am
going to introduce the idea of an engagement club. What is the first rule of engagement club? The first rule is that we do talk about engagement
club. Share the love people. What about the 2nd rule. I propose that the 2nd rule should be that
we think strategically about who is encouraged to join the club. To do this we need to accept there is no one
public. Like the sciences we need to acknowledge sub-cultures
with different values, expectations, beliefs, reasons for engaging and so on. Colleagues and I did this when we explored
academics’ understanding of public engagement research. One of the key findings was that academics
have different conceptualisations of the term ‘public’. This lack of shared terminology has knock
on effects for who has a voice in research. Two key interventions resulted from this research. First, we co-developed a principle definition
of an engaged research. We argued as you can see on the slide, that
engaged research encompasses the different ways that researchers meaningfully interact
with various stakeholders over any or all stages of a research process. From issue, formulation, the co-production
or co-creation of new knowledge to knowledge dissemination and evaluation. Crucially, we added the clarification that
stakeholders may include user communities and members of the public or groups who come
into existence will develop an identity in relationship to the research process. In other words, all the members of the public
are equally valid. Engaged research at the OU is open to all
10,000 people in the stadium. What we need then is a strategy for selecting
publics. I will come to that in a moment. For now I want to note that we gain support
from senior OU research leadership for this definition. Why is this important? To drive change, I argue, we need shared understanding
of key terms. Once you can agree a definition you can explore
what’s in and out of scope. You also have a definition against which you
can explore questions of excellence and so on. The point is that to drive sustainable change
requires not just that we change individual practices and develop more boundary creatures,
we also need to develop boundary organisations by influencing the culture of research in
universities. What then was the 2nd key intervention that
resulted from this research. As part of the same culture change project
we drew on the research expertise of two social scientists to develop a strategy for creating
publics for engagement. One of them, Nick Mahoney, produced the Open
Access pamphlet shown on this slide. In the pamphlet Nick introduces the 3 dimensions
for Creating Publics that are listed on the slide. In demonstrating what the dimensions mean
in practice I am going to use the OU’s inclusive use definition of publics to include stakeholders,
users, communities and so on. OK first let’s consider questions of representation. Addressing this dimension requires us to consider
who should have a voice in research, who is excluded and why. I am part of a team led by Jane Seale, hi
Jane, who are co-supervising Jess Carr’s PhD research. Jess is working with people with learning
disabilities and the self-advocacy charity My Life My Choice to co-produce advice and
support and capacity building for citizen science. These are citizens who have been routinely
excluded from making decisions about research. In the past these are people who have been
objects of research. Jess’s research is informed by the principles
of inclusive research. In practice this means that Jess’s approach
is not just about selecting who should have a voice in research as Jane’s quote shows. Her work requires considerable foresight to
explore the different possibilities for how research could be conducted. The research process then needs to be flexible
and adaptable to offer participants with different needs and capacities to have genuine opportunities
to contribute in ways that work for them. The 2nd dimension focuses on the types of
expertise and experience that can enhance the engaged research process. This dimension requires us to recognise that
intelligence is not the preserve of academics. Shock, horror. Knowledge too comes in different forms. Academic papers are not the sole repository
of useful and relevant knowledge. Helen Brown, Assistant Head Teacher at Denbigh
School in Milton Keynes shows in her quote on this slide how we applied this dimension
when we collaborated in the co-design of the Engaging Opportunities Project. The teaching expertise of Helen alongside
Andy Squires, Anthony Steed and Mark Russell was crucial to the success of this school/university
partnership. In putting this project together we sought
to implement ideas from influential work published by the Think Tank Demos in the early 2000s. Key among these ideas is the concept of upstream
engagement. As examples, we conceptualise and wrote the
grant proposal collaboratively then worked as a team across sub-cultural borders over
4 years to plan, implement, and evaluate the relative success of different types of activity. The 3rd dimension invites us to consider how
we provide opportunities for public self-organisation. As an example, I co-supervise Vickie Curtis’s
PhD research that resulted in the book shown on this slide. Vickie’s research explored motivations to
join and then maintain active participation in 3 online citizen science projects. She found that people joined these projects
for many reasons. The dominant one to be, to make a contribution
to science. The motivations to continue participation
shifted over time however, with the social aspects of participation becoming more prominent. In effect, at least some of these citizen
science volunteers saw the value in forms of self-organisation and self-governance. They were increasingly seeking a voice in
how these projects were shaped and organised. As the quote from Vickie on this slide shows
‘It falls to those who originally organised these initiatives to ensure that volunteers
can take greater control over aspects of the projects. Ideally of course citizens should be involved
in co-designing these projects in the first place.’ OK so we have covered quite a bit of ground. I want to finish by reviewing the key themes
of my talk. At the individual level I argued that effective
planning involving relevant people is key if we want to support excellence in engaged
research. Academics should not be the only voice in
planning for these types of activities. We need to plan upstream on shared terms and
in tailored ways with representatives from relevant sub-cultures. We then need to work collaboratively and cooperatively
to achieve shared or complementary goals. A good number of researchers already do this
through forms of engaged research. Can we extend the practices of engagement
to further enrich aspects of our research culture? I argued both that we can and that we should. At the institutional level, support needs
to be in place to help those who are new to engage in practices. Further the incentives and rewards for making
border crossings need to be clear. If we truly want to engage fairly these activities
need to be appropriately recognised in similar ways to teaching and research. Finally, I argued for engaged research to
be sustainable requires a commitment at the level of sector-wide agencies with the responsibility
for publicly funded research. The final piece of work that I want to highlight
demonstrates a commitment to evidence-based change on the part of a public funder for
research. I chair the Working Group that produced this
STFC report shown on the slide. The report documents evidence about the current
state of play in the peer review system that underpins the allocation of funding for public
engagement with research. In summary the report calls for us to improve
our planning, assessment, monitoring and reporting of these activities. There is clearly still work to be done. However, this is the piece of work that I
am actually most proud of. Because if we can get this right and I am
not underestimating the challenges that lay ahead, this work has the potential to drive
organisation and cultural change across the physical and engineering sciences. It has the potential to prioritise and promote
fairness in knowing. As I draw to a close I want to note, like
the OU, I am a product of the 1960s. Alongside my twin brother Pete, I arrived
into the world on an existential and feminist inspired wave of optimism. I therefore want to finish in that spirit. On a personal and a political note. I have argued tonight that the imperative
to improve fairness in knowing is embodied in our 50-year-old mission. Whilst I salute the foresight of those who
founded the OU 50 years ago, I argue that part of our role as academics and professionals
should be to reimagine the possibilities for meaningful engagement across sub-cultural
borders. How then should I finish this lecture? If you know me well, and I think a few of
you do, it has got to be a joke. A soldier walks into a bar. He stops for a moment to look in the mirror
and realises this joke isn’t going to end very well. He pops into the toilet where he changes his
uniform from a military one to a academic one. He is now wearing a fairly faded tank top,
corduroy trousers, and a pair of sandals. As he walks back into the bar, he realises
that everything, and I do mean everything, looks a lot more complicated. He has crossed a sub-cultural border. The soldier is now a sociologist. OK let’s try that again. A sociologist walks into a bar. This time with a journalist and an inorganic
chemist. He is joined by an educational technologist,
a public engagement professional, a project manager, a graphic designer, a librarian,
a film maker, a public relations professional, a teacher with a group of students, an evaluation
researcher, an impact manager, several fleece-clad environmental scientists causing real stir
with the static electricity they are generating and a group of PhD students looking if there
is any free food. Just as the group are starting to engage productively
a representative from UKRI turns up. UKRI stands for UK Research and Innovation. Among other tasks they have a key role in
allocating public funding for research. The UKRI representative points out, somewhat
apologetically, that if the group had only followed a different pathway to the comedy
club next door the punchline to this joke could have been world-leading in terms of
its reach and significance. If nothing else this only goes to show that
the Research Excellence Framework is no joke. More seriously these are some of the amazing
people with whom I have crossed borders as we have engaged. I want to emphasise that some of these people
are academics, a good proportion are not. Some are academic related working in a range
of support roles. Some are professionals, stakeholders or end-users
in a variety of roles. Others still are students. All of them are citizens engaging through
multiple sub-cultures as they look to make sense of knowledge and its impact on society. As the OU’s first Professor to be promoted
through the Knowledge Exchange profile I want to take this opportunity to thank them for
their support. It has been said that successful academics
stand on the shoulders of giants. Engage research is different. To promote fairness in knowing we need to
stand shoulder to shoulder. We need to recognise that to cross borders
requires empathy and purpose, pragmatism in process and generosity in acknowledging different
contributions. We need to recognise and support different
career pathways to excellence in universities both academic and professional. We need to value all citizens proactively
seeking out and addressing forms of injustice. In summary we need to acknowledge that whilst
we enjoy the privileges of academic life, we also have responsibilities to give voice
to members of different sub-cultures. Thank you for listening to this lecture tonight. I’ve almost got there. But more importantly a huge thank you to those
with whom I have engaged. Thank you. That hit the spot didn’t it, well done. It’s time now to hear from you in the audience
and our audience who are watching on the LiveStream too. Any questions and comments that the talk has
raised for you, please ask them now. I’m going to go and sit over there with
Rick by which time I hope the 1st question will be waiting, but I will give you a cue
in. OK if you are going to ask a question if you
could introduce yourself very briefly, say who you are and the briefer we can keep the
starting questions the longer we can give Rick to give a response. Has somebody got the 1st question? There we are, thank you. Thank you, thanks Nicholas. It’s Catherine from the British Science
Association. I really enjoyed listening to that Rick, it
was fantastic to put all the pieces together of the bits of work that I know you’ve been
involved with over the years. I have a question related to the British Science
Association’s work which is to do with the extent to which members of the public feel
engaged with science or not. So it strikes me there are people who come
to the public events that researchers do and they bound in and sit in the front row and
they are really excited and they feel part of it, and there are people who would never
come in and if they found themselves in there by accident they will rush out the door again
right. So that’s not entirely related to knowledge,
it’s more to do with, I don’t know, culture, or identity. I wonder if you could say something about
that. Yeah, yeah. I mean it’s fascinating, do you know what
I mean, there are these invisible barriers I think to engagement, that’s part of the
challenge we face as science communicators and people interested in engagement. So this is work that has been talked about
in museums, do you know what I mean. What stops people from going to museums or
science centres, do you know what I mean. There are these invisible barriers that mean
that people are going to other places. I think the solution for us again, it comes
back to that, I talked mainly about publics, do you know what I mean, but there are obviously
a lot of interesting questions that we could ask about how we engage and where we engage
and when we engage and I think the crucial thing is to try and explore’ and this is
where the evidence base comes in, where people would like to engage and how they would like
to engage so that we can go to them. So the strategy of the British Science Association
in doing these events is brilliant, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy, do you know
what I mean. It’s how we diversify that and think in
a pluralistic way about different ways of engagement that brings in different audiences
basically. Thank you very much for that. Next question. There is one just behind you could you pass
the mike back thanks. Not at all in the academic world but helping
companies change culture and improve. How does your work fit in today to the understanding
that funding for science is based on having to produce results and encouraging competition
between researchers because only 1 of them will get the grant and will be able to produce
the money to continue working? Good question. OK, so that really is that final report I
talked about. The STFC report talks to exactly that challenge. So the question is then what are the mechanisms
for assessing what is an excellent grant. So if you purely assess the scientific research
as the basis for awarding funding, then you will have exactly the answer that you have
said you will afford award funding to the excellent researchers. If you think about it and again in a more
pluralistic way, and saying ok there are different criteria for assessing quality, one of which
is whether you can engage effectively, do you have a good track record, do you have
a good plan, do you have a sensible leader in place to do this kind of work, do you have
a monitoring process in place to actually make this work happen. So additional criteria for another piece of
work will actually then say, well actually there are 2 ways we are assessing the quality
of this work. So you can brilliant in the research aspect
and not get funded because actually you haven’t demonstrated an excellent case in terms of
the engagement. The rider on that, and this is another challenge
that we have had with the SDFC report is then arguing about how do you slice the cake up. You’ve got a limited amount of public money
for this kind of stuff and guess what the scientists just want the money for the science,
not unreasonable because that’s what they kind of love doing. So how do you then say right ok what portion
of that cake is sliced off to actually say this is purely for engagement work basically. When we looked at it terms of the SDFC report
we only found that 3% of all the people who applied for any money even asked for any money
for engagement. 97% never even asked for any money they were
doing it on magic money. They had the magic money tree that Theresa
May has been after. So that is a problem, do you know what I mean,
so that is why I say I do not underestimate the challenges, ok because we then have to
change that argument, we have to change the discourse around what it means to do excellent
research and excellent research should involve some form of engagement. Is that a question down here. Can you just hang on 1 minute someone is racing
to you with the microphone? Go
When you say engaged do you mean about to be married? That is a very good question. That is my son by the way. Hello love. No, I don’t love. So, what I am talking about is think about
it as a team. So, if you think of a team you might have
some researchers on the team who want to find out new things and you might have some other
people on that team who will bring different types of expertise to that team. I’m trying to thing of a good example that
you would get. Imagine your Beast Quest, you love your Beast
Quest don’t you. So how many people have you got on your Beast
Quest team to try and solve those problems, you don’t just have 1 person on there you
have different types of expertise to try and if there’s a really bad beast. I’ve cheesed you off ah right. We have a science communication problem, there’s
more trouble from home, I think. I think your son question leads really well
into a question I wanted to ask which is about language. It was a really great lecture Rick. Do you think, I absolutely agree that intelligence
isn’t the preserve of academics and that we have a duty to involve every citizen, including
the little ones, in science. But how much do you think the language of
academics, right down to how we report research papers and to settings like this, how much
do you think that is the barrier to achieving that. Yes, I think you are absolutely right. I focussed today on engagement because I was
given a very strict deadline by the OU Communications Team, I don’t know if I hit my 40 minutes
but hopefully, I was close. I did. Get in. So I didn’t talk anything about communication. I could have done a whole lecture on communication
and when I started to put this together, I thought I would do a bit of both and it just
got too complicated. But you are absolutely right, communication
is an absolutely essential part of this process. It comes in to me partly about the way we
train researchers to think about communicating in different ways. So that’s partly about simple stuff, to
you know, mediate information in different ways for different audiences, and there is
some cracking examples of that. But it’s also then about thinking about
how you then give other people voice to then say what they want to say and that means that
as researchers we need to quieten down occasionally, do you know what I mean. And that then becomes a really interesting
question about rules of engagement. So how do we define the rules of how we engage
so that we can allow different voices to come into the process and have a genuine kind of
say in what we are trying to do. So there’s a lot in that, it’s a very
good point. OK we are going to go online first. This is a question that has come in on LiveStream
from down under from Professor Joan Leach. Oh no, I’m in trouble now. Who posted on one of our other channels that
she got up at 5am to watch this so she says thank you to Rick for an invigorating start
to the day down under. Also congratulations to the OU for 50 years. Rick you provide a powerful vision for engaged
research and a number of great projects but engaged research and fairness in knowing is
a long game. How do we set goals and then pursue a strategy
over a number of years, maybe even a career and not just 1 project? Yes, that’s a very good point. I mean there’s lots to that. Partly one of the things which I obviously
I wanted to talk about in the lecture is how you set the framework for that kind of career
profile and to be fair that’s why Tim’s work and Sally’s work was so important for
the OU. So it’s allowed the possibility. Once you have allowed the possibility its
then a case of saying well how does that map on to different academic stages of a career. So if you take that right down to the start
and say ok what is a PhD. So we have a kind of pretty clear idea of
what a PhD is, it’s a contribution to knowledge and its’ written up, it’s a formal academic
process. But there are lively discussions on at the
minute about saying well actually does that capture everything that an academic researcher
needs to do. So a lot of the training I’ve done with
people like Clare Warren, where’s Clare, up the back, is about thinking about a more
holistic set of skills of what it means to be a researcher. So you obviously need the skills to be in
the lab for example, or in my case in the library as an archivist, you know searching
for knowledge that way, so you need those skills, but you need all these other skills. We need to be ethically sound, we need to
be able to think about governance structures within our research, who has a voice in research. We need to think more about engagement. We need to think about communication. None of those things are assessed within a
PhD, not in a kind of coherent or consistent way. Certainly an examiner is never asked to look
at those things. So that for me is where you start that process. If you have a more holistic view of what it
means to do a PhD then you start the process in a way that then allows people, as soon
as they move into an academic career, when people just say its papers, papers, papers,
papers, papers, which is what actually happens, to say there is more to this. There is more to this than just research. Crucially for me, the real challenge I think
is recognition for this type of work once you move into a career. That means you have to say we teach, we research,
we do this other stuff which is engagement or knowledge exchange. How do we balance those priorities and the
challenge is getting a Head of School, or a Head of Department to say this is also a
really valuable piece of work? So that means you need days to do this and
that means you need to sit down at an appraisal at the end of the year and say what did you
do. You said this is what you said you were going
to do. Did you achieve those goals? If you do that you start to build up a profile
and that really to me, once you can get that into place, and again, I am not under estimating
the challenges of that, you can start to build a career. In a way I was lucky because I had had this
really kind of amazing opportunity to work with different people to build this career. But I could have chosen to go through a teach
and research profile and apply for a Chair for a Professorship through that route. But for me I thought no actually no I think
we should do this in a different way. I think actually give this a go, do you know
what I mean, and try through the knowledge exchange route. Honestly, I mean Hazel was Dean at the time,
Hazel Rymer. She didn’t know whether the case would go
through because we were still trying to make sense of what is excellence in this kind of
work. So yes, it’s basically the same things we
do for every other aspect of our academic career. But it gets hidden and we need to foreground
it. Jolly good, we’ve got somebody with a microphone. Hello Rick thank you. I really value that, thank you so much. I think it’s interesting around some of
the risks and it comes down to communication but for academics the risks in communicating
and engaging because I’ve had a lot of experience in lots of different areas of engaging, and
lots of people saying well they won’t understand our research and what’s the value of it
and actually I think coming back to your son, I am still thinking about his concept of engagement
to marriage and maybe that makes you think in a different way. Maybe it’s about equitable, maybe its about
compromise. Those questions you have can make you think
in a completely different way. But you have to be able to risk your reputation,
be considered horrific and way out there. So, I wondered about your concepts of resilience
for academics and how can we support them to see the value as well a being resilient
to being open to those different approaches. The first thing I would say is I’ve noticed
throughout my academic career that people always assume that engagement is going to
work perfectly. I’ve seen so many studies that say ‘ooo
100% of these people thought this was a great activity’. That makes me go ‘oh ok a. the evaluation
wasn’t done very well, because if you look at people who do this work consistently over
time, they take those risks. So you are sitting next to Jane Seale, she
knows exactly how hard it is to do inclusive research in a meaningful way. Its really difficult. I don’t actually personally feel its any
more difficult than any research activity. Researchers are used to taking risks. That’s what we do. We don’t know the answer to the questions
before we start. We’ve got an educated guess, but actually
we don’t know. If you look at some. there is some lovely work which I examined
done though one of the ARCs at the OU a little while ago. So it was looking at engagement in schools
across Kenya. What they’d done was they’d mapped out
a kind of plan with their methodology, so they said, ‘right these are the things I
think we are going to do’ and then they put a line through the middle of it which
was there confident threshold. So up until that point they thought ‘I am
pretty confident that’s what’s going to happen’. After that, hey its all to play for. Because they didn’t know, because they had
actually allowed people to genuinely have a voice in directing the research. I thought it was brilliant. As you make those decisions the confident
threshold moves because suddenly you know what you are going to do next. But you only know what you are going to do
at the next step if you really genuinely are opening these things up. But I don’t think that’s actually that
different from a lot of research. If we really genuinely are challenging ourselves,
I mean we should take risks, that’s what we are as researchers that’s why its fun,
do you know what I mean, that’s why its enjoyable. Sensible risks. Well thought through risks, but nevertheless
risks. Good ok there may be more questions but forgive
me I’m going to try to wind this up and we can take questions afterwards. Thank you, Rick, for that excellent lecture
and for the stimulating conversation that we’ve just had since then. So all that remains for me now is to say thank
you for joining us this evening. Thank you for being with us from all around
the globe and supporting us and supporting the OU. For those who are here in person in the auditorium,
it’s time to celebrate. Please come and join us downstairs. For those who are online we will have one
for you. Thank you very much. Have a good evening.

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