Posts By / afeigenbaum

What do Fishbone, Amusement Park and Apigee have in common?

They are all tools for digital storytelling. On Thursday May 14th, the Fusion-funded, inter-faculty BU Datalabs team presented at Interdisciplinary Research Week. Guests from across the University and beyond came to learn about digital storytelling and how visual data stories can better communicate the significance of research findings to policy-makers and the public.

Weathering the rain, the event kicked off with a reflective exercise called ‘Analogue Twitter.’ Participants were asked to write down a story of their research in 140 characters or less. From sports management to midwifery, research stories spanned the disciplines.

To get things going, Senior Lecturer in Digital Storytelling, Dr. Brad Gyori brought his expertise in interactive media, and his experience as the Head Writer of the Emmy award winning show Talk Soup, to introduce the audience to the many storytelling patterns that have emerged with the rise and innovation of digital platforms. Digital storytelling can range from Fishbone narratives that have one main linear narrative with suggested diversions, to the Amusement Park that offers loosely clustered, different perspectives with no central hub, as we see in Highrise: Out of my Window.

Next up, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, a Senior Lecturer from the Faculty of Media and Communications, introduced the audience to the power of storytelling with maps and infographics. Drawing from her own tear gas project and others’ expertise, she explored how visuals can act as ‘infobait’, drive curiosity, and interrupt dominant narratives.

After lunch, BU Datalabs project partner Malachy Browne from the social media journalism outfit reportedly shared insights and strategies for using online tools to do investigative research, share your findings, and dig deeper into social data. From apigee for APIs to mine social media data, to wolframalpha that can return the weather from any date in history, Browne made connections between the tools of his trade and the possibilities for expanding our digital methods in academia.

For more information on the BU Datalabs project, email: afeigenbaum@bournemouth.ac.uk  If you would like to get involved, we will be hosting a meeting open to all staff and students in early July. Details to follow. 

Serendipitous Impact and the Power of No: lessons from CEMP’s Research Away Day

On Friday February 13, 2015 eighteen researchers across all stages of their careers came together for our CEMP Research Away Day. Hosted at the Old School House By the Sea in Boscombe, the day focused on how we can foster our media & education research culture, from REF strategy to collaboration building, both at BU and beyond.

Kicking us off with REF and Impact, Rebecca Edwards from RKEO spoke about key issues including the new Open Access Guidelines and how we can work to evidence our impact. She summed up 8 key points to takeaway:

1. Know your Open Access
2. Go Gold when possible – use RKEO fund
3. Collaborate with other institutions and international colleagues
4. Identify and developing Impact Case Studies
5. Evidencing your Impact as you go along (testimonials, visitor counts, etc)
6. Promote your research on the BU research website
7. Aim to increase research income
8. Focus on PhD registrations and completions

Sound like a gigantic task for just one person? These goals are not for individuals to accomplish alone. Working in teams and groups is key for doing innovative research, producing outputs and building successful bids. Making connections between our work is a necessary beginning.

Isabella Rega’s Making Connections session got the group talking about where our interests intersect. Using three different coloured post-it notes, we wrote down the issues (green), methods (pink) and stakeholders (yellow) that we work with. Participatory research methods, HE teaching and learning, and Education and Social Change emerged as key overlaps.

Out of these connections some concrete plans emerged, including turning fusion project output into educational resources and a participatory methods workshop day.

From project plans to project afterlife, we shifted to speak about documenting and evidencing impact. We looked at four case studies of research projects including ETAG and Copyrightuser.org, their significance and who they reached. Rebecca Edwards provided advice on how we evidence, measure and track our project’s impact. Sometimes these impacts can be anticipated, but more often there is serendipity and surprise.

Tracking Impact

-Tiers of influence
-Is influencing an organisation enough? How do we understand what this was?
-Testimonials
-Formal letters from key institutions
-If you’ve done research at another institution it doesn’t count at our institution. Impact stays at institution. Reason is because it is usually about groups.
-Entire groups can be rewarded for impact
-Demonstrate the evidence of impact on policy —> Following the story
-Distinct contribution of the University
-Can’t always see the impact from the outset —> serendipity involved, not always
-visitors counts and the result of them

After a tasty, if unidentifiable food-filled lunch from Bosconova, we ran a reflection session on barriers to research bidding and publishing. Designed to get us thinking about the personal and structural constraints on our research, the session helped us room-source practical solutions to common challenges.

Richard Wallis got us back up on our feet with a enthusiastic round of Research Speed Dating. Partnering up with colleagues for short bursts of time, we quickly exchanged project ideas offering feedback and fostering more research connections. Julian McDougall and Richard Berger rounded out the afternoon with a go-around. Everyone shared their upcoming plans and outlined the support they would need to achieve them.

Described by participants as a “fantastic day,” we left feeling the best kind of inspired: more excited and less exhausted about the research plans that lay ahead for CEMP’s growing educational research community.

Anna Feigenbaum is a CEMP Fellow. To find out more about CEMP and how to get involved, check out the website: http://www.cemp.ac.uk/

Wellcome Trust Grant Success for Dr. Anna Feigenbaum

CMC Media School Lecturer and CEMP Fellow, Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, was awarded a Wellcome Trust Small Grant in Medical Humanities for her project ‘Communicating Medical Knowledge in the History of Tear Gas’. Aiming to inform new medical knowledge about tear gas, as well as provide resources for policy-makers and key stakeholders, this research project examines changing and contested notions around the health effects of tear gases for law enforcement purposes. Using a case study approach and archival methods, the project explores how medical experts have communicated medical knowledge around tear gas, shaping policies and legislation, from the Geneva Convention to the European Union ban on trade in instruments of torture. Outputs for this project include a contracted book with Verso and an open access website of tools and resources. Dr. Feigenbaum’s work on tear gas has been quoted in the Guardian, The Financial Times, New Internationalist and Vice magazine, as well as in international publications in Brazil, the Philippines, Turkey and Italy. Dr. Feigenbaum is always interested in building new interdisciplinary collaborations. If you are interested in this area of research, be in touch! afeigenbaum@bournemouth.ac.uk

Deadline! Panic. Click Submit: Grants Academy Diary Part 3

Email flurries. Cut-and-paste frenzies. Forgetting if draft v3.1.5 is most recent despite diligent attempts to effectively dropbox. Sound familiar? Grant deadline time demands we are at our sharpest, but more often finds us high on caffeine and flung headlong into chaos. Whether one clicks submit with confidence, hesitation or blind faith, when the closing hour comes, we breathe a sigh of relief. It’s out of our hands and into the 1 in 12 success rate abyss.

Like many colleagues, I’ve been on grant teams where ‘click submit’ was done with varying shades of satisfaction. But this time, something felt different. This wasn’t any ordinary bid. This was my Grants Academy bid. A bid that had gone through three days of extensive surgery via R&KE OP’s staff development programme on bid writing run by expert consultant Dr. Martin Pickard. It benefited from Martin’s expertise, as well as the critical eyes of five interdisciplinary BU colleagues also attending the workshop. Further developed by two CI collaborators,  two external peer reviewers,  BU Quality Approver Richard Berger and the devoted attention of my research officer Pengpeng Ooi, never before had I been on a grant handled with so much personalised and professional care.  This time when I clicked submit, there wasn’t a sentence worth changing.

In two earlier diary posts I discussed the daunting task of getting started with bid writing and my (somewhat unfounded) fears of impact agendas. After the first two workshops we each went off, brains buzzing with new tips and tricks, to independently work on our bid drafts. But rather than spend hours crafting confident cases for support, those two weeks during the start of spring semester saw little time to devote to redrafting. Like the students we sometimes bemoan, most of us ended up in a last minute ‘meet the deadline’ whirlwind, turning in work we were only half proud of.

Building on session one’s tips about project formulation and session two’s insights on expressing the wider value of our research, session three provided a simulated peer review process to help us better understand how bids are evaluated and scored.  This final stage of the Grants Academy began with a discussion of review criteria, followed by a tally of the scores we gave fellow academy members, and then individual rounds of feedback on each of our six draft bid submissions. While none of us broke most research funder’s thresholds of 70% approval, few of us felt we deserved to, at least not yet.

Offering a supportive environment to watch our work get torn apart — a necessary if uncomfortable part of the bid enhancement process — day three of Grants Academy proved as beneficial as the first two. Rather than disheartening, the patterns and repetition of criticism shared across our cross-disciplinary colleagues’ reviews helped us to hone in on what desperately needed fixing. This peer review process was topped off with one-to-one feedback from Martin on where to go next with our bid’s development.

After the session a few of us stayed behind, manically typing away, not wanting to forget any of our colleagues’ sage advice. I knew my deadline was only a few weeks away and I wanted that 60 up to a 90, to fill the gap of the 1 in 12 success rate with sure-fire reasons why we deserved funding. Over the next two weeks my CIs and I racked up 57 emails, 3 hours of skype meetings and 5 budget drafts — all for just a £10,000 bid. In the words of our Grants Academy Guru, “To compete, we train.”

My biggest takeaway tip for colleagues registered in an upcoming Grants Academy session, or those thinking about enrolling, would be to come with a bid in the early to mid-stages of development. (NOT something either brand new or nearly finished.) This will allow you to get the most out of the developmental process of the workshops. Attending the sessions forces you to make time for drafting by providing structured deadlines and feedback to carry forward. I chose to develop a small Fusion Funded pilot project. 

Anna Feigenbaum is a Lecturer in CMC group at the Media School. As part of her CEMP Fellowship she created this diary of her time at the Grants Academy.  You can read her Day One Diary post here and Day Two here.  

 

CEMP Success: Three BU Colleagues approved as Higher Education Academy Associates

Last week colleagues from BU’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP) and Centre for Excellence in Learning (CEL) won appointments to the newly approved Higher Education Academy (HEA) Associates programme. CEMP’s Director Julian McDougall, Head of CEMP’s Postgraduate Research Richard Berger, and CEMP Fellow Anna Feigenbaum from the Media School’s CMC will join the re-developed Academic Associates community. As Associates they will take part in research projects, event programming and developing the HEA’s UK and International consultancy.  The HEA is the UK’s main provider of resources, events and workshops relating to learning and teaching in higher education, servicing 28 different disciplines. In addition to running its professional recognition Fellowship programme–that many BU staff are a part of–the Higher Education Academy also offers a robust funding scheme for education research and practice.  Through their Academic Associate roles, Julian, Richard and Anna look forward to strengthening CEL and BU’s relationship with the HEA.  Continuing CEMP’s track record of internationally recognised higher education research, this role will enhance the centre’s engagement in media education research consultancy, shaping innovative teaching practice and influencing HE policy.

Grants Academy Diary – Day Two

After completing my homework, I arrived for day two of Grants Academy ready to watch my ‘one page proposal’ get ripped apart. Day one provided a new bag of tricks and background knowledge on funding bodies and their remits. Yet, rather than feeling more confident, I seemed to have developed a sudden outbreak of academic imposture syndrome. Taking a seat around our workshop table, I quickly realised I wasn’t alone. It seemed most of us participating in the Academy went home for a round of self-doubt:  Did our research really have any benefits? Were there enough people in our research networks? Do any of us actually have the skills (or time!) to coordinate a major research project?

Day two’s session was focused on locating benefits and articulating impact. Facilitator Martin Pickard once again dove right into the murky grant-writing world: The days of academic freedom are long gone. The only way to win funding is to wade into the dark waters and train for competition.

Our first job of the day was to learn how to uncover and articulate the outward-facing values of our research. While many of us in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities fear that impact must be financial, Martin showed us RCUK’s list of possible beneficiaries and impacts to diversify our thinking. These include the environment, health, society and citizenship among others. While all bids must clearly identify impacts to beneficiaries, our job is to ‘potentially impact,’ not to promise world change. Most of our research is making a minor contribution to a bigger problem. The task then is to make a strong case for the minor contributions we make.

To examine how an impact agenda reshapes the ways we present our projects, we workshopped Dr. Hywel Dix’s research proposal. Hywel and his collaborators are bidding for a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant for a pilot study. Their research plan proposes to re-evaluate the tacit assumptions that work produced by contemporary authors late in their career is of inferior quality to their earlier work.

Martin put Hywel on the hot seat, asking him to identify impacts and beneficiaries.  At first it seemed difficult to think about this English literature project through the business-oriented language of impact agendas. But through collaborative brainstorming we came up with concrete ways groups of people would potentially benefit from Hywel and his team’s research:

Beneficiaries – Re-evaluating Literary Production in Later Life

  • Academic: scholars in literary studies
  • Cultural sector: contributes a new evaluative framework for making aesthetic judgement around authors work (i.e. impact prize competitions, Arts Council grants)
  • Students/Teachers: inform ways canonical literature is selected for curriculum and testing
  • People in later life:  placing value on these literary productions has the potential to impact people in later life with dementia and Alzheimer’s as writing and reading improves health and wellbeing

After lunch it was time for the dreaded peer reviews of our ‘one page proposal’ homework. Working in the silos of our own departments, on a day-to-day basis we rarely exchange ideas with colleagues across schools. As Communication Scholars read a Computer Science bid and a Business researchers evaluated a Social Work proposal, we realised what it takes to write clearly and convincingly outside our comfort zones. Having seven pairs of interdisciplinary eyes on each of our proposals was terrifying but invaluable. The peer review highlighted the importance of Martin’s advice to give reviewers exactly what they want to see. Use the remit and criteria to structure your arguments so a reviewer does not need to search through the document with a fine tooth comb to find key elements.

The peer review also pushed us to explain the basic tenants of our research. We easily come to take the big picture of our research for granted, when this is often what actually needs the most justification in our proposals.  We are accustomed to disciplinary conferences and peer review journals where we argue the fine points of theory, method and approach. While this does belong in the application to show rigour and expertise, without a clear case for why our research matters, we can’t win.

Anna Feigenbaum is a Lecturer in the Media School. As part of her CEMP Fellowship she is creating a diary of her time at the Grants Academy.  You can read here Day One Diary post here

Grants Academy Diary – Day One

For most of us the world of grant-making elicits more fear than inspiration. Like many colleagues, I struggle to keep up with the ever-changing cycles of remits, impact guidelines and highlight notices. Carving out the time to write a journal article already feels like a feat. So it is difficult to imagine spending months writing a document that will never be published, to enter into a competition with 1 in 12 success rate. But, whether we like it or not, the reality of budget cuts, promotion tracks and ever-growing data sets has made grant-writing an essential component of research activity.

While I’d like to claim enthusiasm brought me to the Grants Academy, it was more this ambivalent combination of frustration, fear and facing reality. Grants Academy is a staff development programme on bid writing offered to us by R&KE OPs.  After acceptance, an 18-month long membership kicks off with a two day intensive training workshop providing background knowledge and strategies for bid development. The workshop is currently run by Dr. Martin Pickard, a highly experienced and trained consultant.

Arriving at our first session, Martin began by exploiting our fears and delivering some harsh truths: Grant writing is a competition. Funding bodies are businesses. We have to sell our research. For those of us academics who still carry a critique of the marketisation of Higher Education, these words are difficult to swallow. If there ever were good old days of scholarship for scholarship’s sake—they’re certainly over.

But, Martin reassured us after dramatic pause, this doesn’t mean we can’t do the research we want. It just means that if we want funding, we have to learn how to play the grant writing game. Like all competitions, to win we need to train.

Throughout the first day of the workshop we learnt a number of different skills, including how to: use grant language, structure our research projects into measurable tasks, and move from sounding interesting to sounding necessary. For one of our hands-on activities we were asked to write a 10 point summary of why we should get grant funding. Below I offer a glimpse into how much changed in just a few hours:

Here’s an excerpt from 10:30am:

This project is on less lethal weapons which are used on a daily basis around the world to quell protest and dissent.  There is a lack of information on the human and environmental impacts of less lethal weapons in real-world situations. Through a collaborative research network, the project bridges quantitative and qualitative methods, bringing together researchers with medical practitioners, lawyers, investigative journalists and humanitarian field workers.

By the end of the day, this was shaped into my Unique Selling Point (still a work in progress):

To respond to the need for more cross-sector knowledge exchange and publicly accessible information regarding the effects of less lethal technologies, this AHRC Research Network project brings together, for the first time, a cross-disciplinary team of researchers from Communications, Geography, Law, International Relations and Medical Sciences. Employing a stakeholder-oriented approach to research networking, the project is designed to connect academic researchers with those who regularly face the real-world impacts of less lethals on civilian populations: medical practitioners, security professionals, journalists and humanitarian field workers.

While it was a long day of attempting to move from interesting to necessary, there was plenty of caffeine and amusing anecdotes to get us through. Plus, in place of triangle sandwiches, we were treated to a hot lunch in lovely Green House Hotel dining room.

Anna Feigenbaum is a Lecturer in the Media School. As part of her CEMP Fellowship she is creating a diary of her time at the Grants Academy. 

International, Interdisciplinary, Innovative: the AHRC brings grant bidding advice to BU

On January 20, 2014 Bournemouth University played host to a lunchtime visit from the AHRC. The funding advice seminar covered general information about the Arts & Humanities Research Council, as well as tips and advice on AHRC bid writing here at from BU. In the lead up to the AHRC visit, the BU Research Blog offered a great round up of key facts and figures. Reiterated at the event were the AHRC’s commitments to:

  • Influence public policy
  • Engage with the creative economy
  • Impact internationally
  • Increase their profile with public

The AHRC offers research grants, fellowship grants, network grants and a special international stream. Across all funding lines, international collaboration was stressed, as were innovation, interdisciplinary work and making a clear case that your planned output matches the target audience for your research agenda.

Our AHRC visitors also highlighted their focus on developing management and leadership skills for Early Career Researchers. If you are out of your PhD for less than 8 years or in an academic post for less than 6 years, you are eligible to apply for their ECR streams. While ECRs go through the same grant process, the success rate is higher, as the ‘bar’ for a fundable project rests below their standard streams.

The Pivotal Peer Review

The AHRC reps also gave valuable insight on the evaluation process. Every proposal is ranked on a 1-6 scale by a group of up to four peer reviewers, selected from their list of 1,000 senior academics. If your proposal includes technical components, such as developing a digital archive, it will additionally be reviewed by someone who knows the technologies you’re engaging.

If your proposal scores a 4 our higher by the majority of reviewers, you’ll make the second round. Here you’ll have a chance to respond to reviewer feedback and clarification questions. “Don’t underestimate the importance of this response,” we were told. The clarity and directness of your PI response can make your application a success.

Also illuminating the evaluation process, the reps from AHRC attempted to demystify the term “impact.” In recent years the notion of ‘impact’ has caused much controversy – especially in the arts and humanities. “Impact is not just economic,” they assured us. Influencing quality of life, public service, policy and creative output also count as impact. To figure out how to articulate the impact of your research, they advised us to “simply ask yourself who, what and how” people benefit from your research.

The AHRC reps also said to keep an eye out for highlight notices that feature key strategic research themes. These themes–currently, Care for the Future, Digital Transformations, Science in Culture, and Translating Cultures—are intentionally broad and intended to offer space for a wide range of research subjects and activities.

Improving our Bids at BU

Bringing their advice home, to end the seminar, the AHRC reps offered some excellent tips for improving our bid writing here at BU.

  • BU has 9 AHRC reviewers, let’s take advantage of their expertise and experience.
  • The BU research blog is full of grant writing advice and info on the grants academy
  • Our BU research office offers an internal review process, use it!
  • Check out the peer review college section of the AHRC website.
  • Give yourself 3 months to develop your bid from research to writing to final edits.
  • Don’t be too repetitive in the bid and watch your spelling!
  • Make sure your methods of dissemination are appropriate for your stakeholders.
  • The reviewers love to see clear timescales and ‘value for money
  • Always ask yourself: Is this the best way to do this research?
  • If you get to the PI response round, it is crucial and can move up your overall ranking.
  • Remember, it’s not just about having a great proposal, you’re in a big pool competing against other really good research.

 Added to this are a couple reflections I had from my perspective as an Early Career lecturer in the Media School, a CEMP fellow and Fusion Fund committee member:

  •  ‘Rise-Up Collaborations’ – Early Career Researchers can pair with senior academics as CIs for the AHRC’s various ECR strands. As emergent researchers, we are often scared of the ‘big bids’ and tempted to stay small or follow professors onto their large-scale research projects. The in-built collaborative nature of the AHRC ECR routes are a great opportunity to push forward with our own initiatives and lead a team, supported by more experienced CIs.
  •  ‘The Three I’s’ – International, Interdisciplinary and Innovative research tops the agenda of the AHRC. This means great opportunities to be thinking about projects both across Schools at BU and with international university’s we have MoUs and Erasmus partnerships with. These ‘three Is’ are also embedded in Fusion. Pump-priming SMN Fusion Grants could be a great place to initiate the early stages of an AHRC bid for those of us in the arts and humanities seeking to expand our research horizons.

The Teaching Exchange Workshop Goes International

Developed by Bournemouth University’s Dr. Anna Feigenbaum alongside Dr. Mehita Iqani, the Teaching Exchange Workshop was designed to foster a space for collegiate interaction and sharing experiences of the challenges and opportunities involved in teaching. Piloted at five Universities across the country in 2010-2011 through support from the Higher Education Academy, the Teaching Exchange Workshop offers colleagues a chance to work through departmental issues including curriculum development, diverse student expectations, and teaching time management.

Participating institution, the London School of Economics and Politics, said the workshop activities “got colleagues thinking creatively and learning from each other. These could be applied by any department wanting to improve teaching practice and make best use of their staff’s experience and knowledge.”

On November 8, 2013 Dr. Feigenbaum was invited to South Africa to facilitate the first international Teaching Exchange Workshop at Wits University in Johannesburg. Drawing on successes of the pilot workshops in the UK, the Wits workshop featured new participatory exercises for generating innovative assignments that bridge practice and theory, and for problem-solving challenges associated with teaching in a time of 24/7 email and social media access.

As a low-cost and high productivity model for teaching quality enhancement, Dr. Feigenbaum and Dr. Iqani are keen to see the TE Workshop continue to grow both nationally and internationally. To learn more about the Teaching Exchange Workshop, you can download a free TE Workshop handbook. You can also read a sample of pilot study results published in the Journal of Further and Higher Education.