A report from ESRC funded research has found that university-community engagement is marginal to the funding, organisation, management and strategic control of universities and this means that universities are missing out on the chance to help develop ‘social capital’ in their local communities.
The research team advised a 3 step approach to engage more effectively with community groups and have greater impact:
- Create small-scale learning communities, linking academics with community groups
- Link the activities of these communities temporarily to core university teaching and research to allow the activities to professionalise and grow.
- ‘Spin out’ these activities into the deprived communities to develop further, allowing them to address particular symptoms arising from social exclusion.
BU’s student services team have developed excellent relationships with local residents associations. If research staff would like to publicise any community-related initiatives through these links, or go a step further and develop any initiatives with these groups please email Mandi Barron, Head of Student Services, who can help with suitable contacts.
Further information on the ESRC-funded research can be found here.
Today is my first day back in the office after a road trip from Vancouver to Los Angeles, taking in many exciting cities, national parks, activities, etc en route. From spotting killer whales in the San Juan Islands to making the most of tax free shopping in Portland to hydrobiking in Long Beach harbour, I’ve packed in lots of fun! One of the coolest things we did, however, was to go to the La Brea Tar Pits at the Page Museum in Los Angeles.
The La Brea Tar Pits is one of the world’s most famous fossil localities, recognized for having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world. Whilst I was walking around the museum looking at skeletons of giant sloths and sabretooth tigers, a fossilised mammoth tooth (the size of my head) and a display of 404 dire wolf skulls, I had a eureka! moment. The museum is an excellence example of transparent research that engages the public and results in huge societal impact.
The entire research lifecycle is onsite and visible to visitors, including information on:
- how the research is funded and why it is important to society
- how different disciplines are working collaboratively
- the tools and techniques used
- how the research is changing our understanding of evolution and science
- how different community groups are engaging with the research
- examples of research outputs produced
Through windows at the Page Museum Laboratory, visitors can watch bones being cleaned and repaired. Visitors can also visit Pit 91 and see a tar pit being excavated.
The Museum periodically canvasses visitor opinions and surveys changes in public understanding to ensure that research impact is being maximised and to justify the public funding that makes the research possible.
Evidently this integration of engagement, access to research and demonstrable societal impact is easier in some disciplines than others but research shouldn’t be taking place behind closed doors in universities; members of the public should be involved throughout the research lifecycle. This is a key strategy of Research Councils UK (RCUK) and other major funding bodies (such as Defra and the Royal Society). You can access the Concordat on Engaging the Public with Research here.
This week is Universities Week 2011, a national campaign demonstrating the benefits of universities within UK society. The campaign highlights the impact universities in the UK have on the individual, the local community, its businesses, and the future of the UK, just to name a few. Each day of ‘Universities Week’ has a theme which highlights a unique aspect of the country’s universities and their influence on the economy, culture, society, and the future.
A number of events will be taking place throughout the week around the country and case studies of research projects with the potential to have a huge impact will be highlighted on the website.
Sharing Big Ideas
Monday’s theme highlights the extensive knowledge that universities hold and how it influences UK society.
Universities have been asked to submit a selection of ‘facts’ they teach in their courses from history to zoology and the most engaging have been compiled into an online application called ‘FactShare’. Generate your own factoid from the website.