Having only recently completed a grant application for the ESRC’s Knowledge Exchange programme, the challenges of finding and then keeping suitable partners with whom to “tango” is fresh in my mind. One of the primary challenges is the ability to explain in plain English to prospective business partners what Funder terminology actually means. There then follows the need to explain what lies behind the potential award of funding, before then having to clarify full economic costing (never an easy task at the best of times) and associated acronyms that mystify all those outside (and some inside) academia. Thereafter comes the rigour and intimate detail of the application form which baffles most businesses (especially those seeking KTPs) followed by an explanation of the demands of the post-award reporting requirements.
All in all, much of this is straightforward …. to us!! For business partners, however, it often represents a whole new and somewhat mysterious world that if not careful in your articulation of what it all means, may result in the loss of your partner at any time throughout the completion of the application. In addition to a very clear explanation of what the process of bidding entails, those businesses most likely to dance with you are those that you know very well. Very few businesses (probably understandably) enter into such bids from a cold call so building long-term, sustainable two-way partnerships early in your career is pivotal to bidding in later years when you are less nervous about asking for that dance…
Although a major contributor to life at BU, the study of Tourism is often wrongly maligned as being a niche subject on the periphery of more established areas of study such as Business & Management and Geography. Well, in the UK alone over 100 institutions offer HE courses at undergraduate level including “top tier” universities such as Exeter, Surrey, Strathclyde and Stirling with many more competing for students and staff across Europe and beyond with major concentrations of activity in North America, the Middle East, South East Asia and Australia and New Zealand where tourism is not only a significant area of academic interest but also of valuable income, foreign exchange earnings and employment.
Returning to the UK one of the most significant “coming of age” moments has been the explicit inclusion of Tourism for the very first time in a Unit of Assessment in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework. Unit 26, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism is one of only a few new units in the REF, a fact which clearly reflects its growing maturity as an area of academic investigation and the widespread positive recognition with which it is now held across the sector. This recognition really took hold 2 to 3 years ago when the ESRC awarded colleagues at the University of Exeter £1.5 million to set up its research cluster in Sport, Leisure and Tourism, an award which would have been unthinkable only a few years before. Since then, staff from the School of Tourism at BU have been attracting funds from the ESRC, the European Union and the United Nations World Tourism Organization and others while the significant award recently won by colleagues from the School from the EPSRC on sustainable patterns of travel demonstrates the collaborative and inter-disciplinary opportunities offered by Tourism. This latter point was again highlighted recently with the inclusion in the RCUK publication Big Ideas for the Future of a project looking at the fusion between public health and tourism policies at the local level. This was BU’s only entry in this prestigious publication, testament if it were ever needed that the industry that is widely acclaimed as the world’s largest has now also come of age in the academic arena!
With many of the leading journals in the field of Tourism and related studies now recording rejection rates in excess of 90%, the pressure is on all of us with an interest in publishing in such journals to enhance our level of engagement with the variety of alternative research methodologies available to us and to deepen our level of knowledge of those deemed most appropriate; as well as to improve the level of rigour with which we apply them in our work! In addition to constructive criticism from panel members of the level of conceptual and theoretical engagement in many papers reviewed for RAE2008, feedback from reviewers points to methodological weaknesses in papers submitted and a sense of frustration over the a lack of rigour and an apparent unwillingness to try contemporary approaches.
In response, the School of Tourism has invested much time in developing the methodological expertise of its staff and for 2011-12 is launching a new programme of Research Methods on Wednesday mornings throughout the year. Available to all School staff and PhD students, the new programme, being led by Professor Roger Vaughan and Dr Lorraine Brown, explores both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research, a number of emerging methods of contemporary interest, with the programme concluding with sessions on the use of “voice” and “trustworthiness” on the writing up of qualitative research and the presentations of quantitative findings.
For further information please contact Dr Lorraine Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org