- Previous events
- Vitae researcher development conference 2008
- Workshop programme NEW UPDATE December 08
- D8 Workshop summary and outcomes
D8 Workshop summary and outcomes
Engaging researchers in the development of themselves and their peers
Julie Walker, Head of Publishing Support, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and Dr Chris Wood, Director of Postgraduate Development, University of Exeter
Researchers have a vast array of skills, experience and expertise that can be brought to bear on professional development programmes. However, it is often difficult to successfully engage researchers in their design, development, marketing and evaluation. Taking a case study approach, this workshop examined and discussed ways in which researchers can be successfully engaged in ways that capture their expertise and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experience.
Julie Walker discussed the AuthorAID pilot project which brings together researchers from across the world to provide peer support, mentoring and skills development. This illustrated how skills development can transcend geography using Web 2.0 technologies and by specifically engaging with the developing world.
Chris Wood explained how the University of Exeter have engaged researchers in training and skills development programmes through the recruitment of paid postgraduate ‘Skills Ambassadors'. This case study explored the role that ‘agents of change' drawn from the target cohort might have in an institution's training programme.
AuthorAID: Julie Walker
This project was initiated by the charity INASP and funded by the UK's Department for International Development and the Swedish government. It aims to create a knowledge community connecting and supporting researchers from across the globe, matching senior researchers with early career researchers in mentorships. It is not a single programme; rather, an approach available to use in various contexts. It has a website/online community, with pilot workshops in three countries.
The developers of the AuthorAID website (Pure Usability Ltd) engaged the researchers who would be using the online knowledge community by involving them in the design of the site through extensive user research.
The pilot project concludes that:
- engaging researchers in the design of their own space can be successful
- researchers can engage with each other worldwide through websites and social networking tools, but initial contact should ideally be by phone or face-to-face to establish a relationship based on trust
- The efficacy of a web-based learning community can be greatly enhanced by supporting workshops.
View Julie Walker's presentation.
Engaging students to enhance the postgraduate research experience: Dr Chris Wood
Engaging students both provides a quality mechanism and offers a ‘principled approach to building relationships among and between postgraduate research communities'.
While the presentation largely focused on describing how the university ‘employs' research students to expand and enhance Exeter's highly regarded Effective Researcher Development Programme, it also outlined other forms of researcher engagement: participation in research supervisor development sessions and the Learning and Teaching programme.
The twelve Skills Ambassadors (one per School) help to:
- co-ordinate School-based events
- contribute to some training events
- generate new ideas
- improve engagement
- develop a ‘skills culture'.
Since introducing research student skills champions Exeter has seen a 25% increase in student participation in the Effective Researcher Development Programme. While there is still more to do (such as employing students more pro-actively as change agents in a variety of contexts) overall, these forms of engagement have all been successful - a platform from which to cultivate imaginative, collaborative research communities.
View Chris Wood's presentation.
Participant debate focused on engagement issues, particularly on the place and value of paying students (for a range of roles - examples from other institutions of other contributions and renumeration were identified).
Discussion confirmed the importance of getting student opinions, through active engagement, on skills development. ‘Ownership' of the programmes is increased where the target audience has helped to develop them, and participation increases.
It was thought important to involve those in universities who are ‘closer' to the students in skills development, such as research administrators and faculty.
In some HE institutions participation in skills development has increased by running courses under the aegis of student societies, ie the same ‘product' re-badged in a way perceived as more relevant and attractive by researchers.
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