4B. Supporting research uptake – who is responsible?
Many functions in a university will have an interest and perhaps some responsibility for research uptake as well as the research office who may take a direct overarching responsibility for it. This may include the library, digital services, public relations and media, community support, the communications team (sometimes as distinct from public relations) as well as many academic departments and research teams.
Many universities who took part in the DRUSSA programme considered it useful to have a co-ordinating function (often the research office) who, together with other senior colleagues could drive through a university strategy that could then be applied across the university.
Elements for this could include:
Induction of new staff: ensuring all new researchers are aware of their own obligations in managing research uptake within their research programmes and what this looks like.
Employing staff with specific remits to promote and manage the impact of research.
Incorporating research uptake in all research proposals
Most new academic staff are appointed on the basis of the excellence of their efforts at undertaking quality research and having research quality verified through peer-reviewed publications. This means that their knowledge and expertise in getting their research into public use is limited to presenting at conferences or writing reports and papers.
“Essential tools for incorporating Research Uptake are institutional policies. Over the last few years, with the support of the DRUSSA Programme, the University of Nairobi has reviewed and developed policies and strategies with Research Uptake in mind. Both the Research Policy and the Intellectual Property Policy were revised to embed critical stages in the research life cycle including Research Uptake. New policies have also been approved, such as the Communications Policy, Extension and Outreach Policy, Open Access policy and the latest one being the Incubation Policy. A Research Uptake Strategy has also been developed and is under consideration. All these policies embed Research Uptake in the University’s structures and practices, with the purpose of supporting researchers and formalizing Research Uptake requirements.” Rosemary Omwandho, Assistant Registrar in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Nairobi
While these channels of research communication can help to assure quality, they do not assure uptake or utilisation. A core question for the university will be, is it sufficient to reward and incentivise high-quality research by relying on traditional bibliometrics, if the university obtains little new visibility in the public or amongst policy-makers? If research quality and visibility are equally important, then metrics to assess uptake and utilisation will be an important component of your research management (and human resource management) strategy.
In Section 3C, we outlined the range of offices and functions that are available to support researchers as they develop their research uptake plans. These are also useful for research management offices as they seek to collaborate as effectively as possible with all existing supply/push factor resources across the institution:
Vice Chancellor’s Office
Responsible for leading the university’s research mission, including attaining and demonstrating improved research impact and public good
Responsible for standardising good practice through leading institutional mission and strategy
Can support other units and allocate resources for professional ised research uptake services
Can mandate awards and formal forms of recognition for researchers and research management staff who have achieved excellence in research and research uptake
Responsible for creating and formalising university policy and strategy, including research, communications and engagement policy frameworks
Establishes joined-up, pan-institutional systems for research broadly as well as governance (and reward and recognition) of research uptake systems specifically
Deans and Heads of Departments
Can provide mentoring in research uptake, communication and engagement, and can establish faculty- or department level incentives and modes of recognition for research uptake
Can endorse and lobby for increased professional support for (and recognition of) research uptake at Senate and amongst senior university leaders
Can mobilise faculty- or department-level funds to support research uptake
Research Office or Research Management Office
Provides essential pre-award research management support, assisting academics in sourcing and completing funding applications, and can advise on good practice in establishing and communicating research uptake plans in your project proposal
Provides essential post-award research management support, in form of monitoring and evaluation, reporting to funders and stakeholders, organising public- and policy-facing events and meetings, identifying conferences and community meetings, and acting as liaison between you and a range of other institutional support services
Will be aware of training opportunities for academics to improve their media engagement skills and can serve as key interface between researchers and journalists
Research-specific capacity building
Experienced in linking research findings with potential end users in academic, business, policy and community environments
Can provide advice regarding internal and external funding opportunities for research and, in many cases, for research uptake activity specifically
Experience in partnership building, planning and project management for all aspects of your research project
University Research Committee
Responsible for managing research quality, and may maintain some oversight for effective communication of relevant research findings to particular audiences
Influences the research policy environment, and can give impetus behind research projects with strong uptake potential and measurable uptake plans
Advertise journal publications
Maintain research staff profiles (including not only research background and publications, but instances of engaging with public stakeholders, media appearances, and staff interviews)
Link to research database for media agents and other stakeholders
Publicise research expertise (as well as finding) to other research groups
Publish news bulletins about campus and community events concerning your research, public lectures you might be leading, trade and industry fairs and representations in other external media
Public relations office
Ideally has good relationship with the media, and the office has experience as to which journalists to approach with which type of story
Publish externally facing research reports, annual reports and university guides, which can profile the research you’ve been working on
Provide “knowledge translation” services (i.e., are experienced in turning academic language into language that can be accessed by non-academic audiences, specific stakeholders and the wider public)
Organise and facilitate university press conferences
Can advise and train researchers on good practice in media engagement, interacting with journalists, and academic/popular web sites and publications to consider contributing to
May house your university’s institutional research repository and can advise and support you in updating (and promoting) your records
Has a role to play, along with your web developers, in ensuring online access to research records, archives and findings
Helps to set the institutional policy environment
Intellectual Property Office
Can advise on patenting and commercialisation options, processes and implications for research you wish to make accessible to other stakeholders
Maintains audit specialisations and can provide legal advice
Can help you to decide strategy on open access, shared authorship and issues pertaining to ownership and dissemination of academic and non-academic co-generated research
Experience in designing flyers, pamphlets and publication materials
Can market your research internally and help raise visibility between faculties, departments and amongst research management staff
Experience with marketing
Can advise on engaging with external media agents and how to approach and engage with journalists (and may be able to co-draft publishable newspaper articles with you)
Can help with establishing new collaborations and expanding existing ones
Can assist with fundraising
May maintain database or record of key contacts in industry or government with a relationship to your university (who may have predisposition to work with your institution in future, and may be more receptive to your approach than a “cold calling” academic)
Can facilitate wider partnership building and can advise on good practice in approaching external stakeholders
Can help you to launch an exhibition demonstrating your research to industry representatives
A natural intersection of potential start-ups, new companies, venture capital, technology transfer and research and innovation development managers
Can provide consultation to researchers, legal advice and advice on incubation and commercialisation
Human Resources and Staff Development Offices
A key source of professional training (in media, communication, public engagement and related fields)
May be developing policy incentives to allow recognition, reward and even promotion of staff for good practice in research uptake
Can advise on how to demonstrate research uptake activity as a component of your overall research activity, helping you to establish your research record through both traditional and non-traditional means
Extension, Service Learning and Public Engagement Offices
Advice on communication models and processes with rural communities and lessons learned through past engagement
Can provide direct assistance with organising community visits and evaluating impact
Can lend experience working with a range of non-academic organisations, including schools, local government, civil society organisations, chambers of commerce, faith based organisations
Has experience in two-way knowledge translation , including both communication of research objectives and findings for lay audiences as well as communication of indigenous knowledge and community experiences that may contribute to your body of research knowledge
Continuing Education units
Can provide on-going professional training for academics in research uptake
May have experience and expertise in distance learning models which may benefit your engagement with non-local communities and stakeholders
Will have experience in community engagement models, marketing to public audiences and acting as a primary institution portal for off-campus learners and other stakeholders
Things to think about
What is the role of the Research Management or Research Office in coordinating this range of functions at your university? How would you describe the working relationship between your office and each of the offices and functions listed above in terms of helping to bring research into use?
Things to do
Set up a schedule of conversations with each of the offices and functions listed above to help determine where ownership of research uptake processes is currently thought to lie, and where there is opportunity for you and your colleagues across the university to collaborate more closely with your academic staff.
This third and final Benchmarking Survey was disseminated to key leaders at all DRUSSA universities to help establish the state of play in research uptke management. Responses to this template survey were distilled in the DRUSSA Benchmarking Report (2016)
Julia Himmrich, Research Associate at the Dahrendorf Forum, LSE
What can academics learn from how civil society organisations and NGOs approach policy impact? This article argues that academics have a lot to gain from embracing the practices of long-term advocacy.
““(Kenyatta) University has over the years transformed and enhanced its research culture with a great understanding of research’s contribution to economic, social and cultural development and environmental sustainability. The creation of the Division of Research, Innovation and Outreach has provided research and its entire span and cycle of activities prominence within the University’s strategies. The Division is supported by two centres, one of which is the Centre for Research Support and Dissemination which is tasked with, among other things, strengthening Research Uptake. The revised Research Policy is another key document which will be crucial in guiding research and uptake activities. It is aligned with the University’s 2016-2026 Strategic and Vision plan as well as the country’s Vision 2030. It is currently in the final stages of review and approval.” Prof. Vincent Onywera, Registrar, Kenyatta University