What are partnerships and collaborations?
Research partnerships and collaborations can be a very effective way of developing research impact. Working together with non-academic experts in your field can help shape the design of your research project to make it more pertinent to end users, provide access to new information and add value to your results. As examples, you could think about working with charities, businesses, health providers, sports teams or schools.
The partners you approach will vary according to your area of research, what you want to achieve and any skills or knowledge that you don’t have within your team. Some may be partners you’ve worked with before, while others will require building entirely new relationships.
Why use it as a pathway to impact?
Working together with key partners and collaborators from the very beginning of your project can be an extremely effective way of developing impact. Insights from people working in the sector you hope to go on to influence can help shape the direction of the research. Partners can also be useful when disseminating your results as they may have key contacts or be able to reach audiences that you wouldn’t be able to access by yourself.
This pathway to impact can work well as part of a combination of pathways. For example, you could work with your partners to influence relevant policy makers that they already have a relationship with or you could communicate your research findings to your partner’s stakeholders and audiences. If one of your key partners is a business organisation, there may be an opportunity to influence their practice if your research is relevant to their work.
How to go about working with partners outside of academia
One way of involving partners from the very beginning is to establish a stakeholder group to scope out the research and support the development of a bid. This can help shape your methodology and the development of your research, ultimately making it more relevant to non-academic audiences, which is the key to creating strong impact.
Partners can also help when disseminating your research results as their third-party endorsement can help add authenticity to what you say. They may also have contacts or links with relevant audiences that you might not otherwise be able to access, and as they will have had a stake in the research from the very beginning, they are likely to want to help share the results.
Who you’d like to collaborate or work with will very much depend on the subject of your research and who it may ultimately influence. You may want to work with different partners for very different reasons – one might have excellent connections with research end-users, another may have an existing relationship with a key policy maker you’d like to influence, while another may have useful for suggestions for how to shape your research methodology. Each partner can bring very different skills to the table; it’s up to you to judge what will be most advantageous for your project.
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