In this Section, we focus on the central role that Research Management offices play in the research uptake mission. As the first port of call for academics looking to get support, funding and advice for (and engagement with) their research, and as a key player in the development of institutional research strategy, you are in a unique position to build research uptake principles into the research support systems and processes you already oversee.
There are many models for establishing a strategic framework for research uptake. Your university may develop an institutional policy document that governs research uptake, with the research management office responsible for driving compliance. Research uptake may instead be a component of a wider research “mission statement,” with governance and compliance systems differentiated across faculties. There may be no institution-wide research uptake guidance, strategy or policy – but the research office can nevertheless establish research uptake support systems, can set evaluation criteria, can guide researchers through the process of designing uptake across the research proposal, which can all help to shore up a research uptake culture. Some policies may deal with outward facing relations and ultimately with impact, while others relate more to internal management practices, performance, compliance, reward and recognition, measurement and assessment.
Although models may differ according to institutional context and the nature of your research culture (i.e. whether it is emerging or established, what the traditional role of university extension has been, and what past approaches and future targets may be concerning action research and stakeholder engagement), good research uptake strategies provide drive, guidance, support and structure. One issue you are almost certain to face from the beginning is one of “ownership” of the research uptake function and process. Who initiates which components? Who is responsible? How is compliance and quality assured?
Every institution must navigate the development of such processes with both ambition and realism – universities are complex institutions with sometimes highly autonomous functions which will not be easy to thread together. Recognising this, there is almost certainly untapped potential in coordinating several functions and offices to jointly support the research uptake agenda, which, when done well, will boost your university’s research visibility, as well as its quality.
In considering a research uptake strategic framework at your university, you can begin by asking some broad questions about how this syncs with your university’s wider strategy:
Step 1. Where does the university want to get to?
Step 2. Where are we now?
Step 3. What needs to change?
Step 4. How are we going to get there?
As discussed in Section 2C, the DRUSSA programme convened Research Managers, Deputy Vice Chancellors for Research and other senior leaders for the first time in 2012, with an objective to establish some principles of good practice concerning the establishment of research uptake strategy, processes and systems. The Good Practice Statements that emerged from this meeting are a useful reference for you as you consider what objectives you feel should sit at the heart of your research uptake system, and how the research office is situated to oversee (jointly or not) different components of research uptake strategy.
Given the range of actors involved in the research uptake process, the job of the research management office involves facilitating multiple actors (as well as leading and setting the agenda) to ensure coordination. It may be helpful to consider different priority focus areas according to three main factors, as originally identified by DRUSSA’s Sara Grobbelaar in her blog post on DRUSSA.net:
Supply/ push factors: staffing, training, information systems, physical assets, knowledge repositories, knowledge resources. These are areas of work that fall most squarely within the responsibility of the university itself.
Demand/pull factors: universities’ obligation to meet the expectations, legal, regulatory and governance requirements of their external stakeholders as well as external stakeholders’ recognition and use of knowledge produced at universities. These are areas of work that the university can strive to influence, but which are often sourced externally
Exchange factors: facilities (both physical and non-physical) to access, share and disseminate knowledge, as well as internal and external support for university-external stakeholder engagement. These are areas of work that can be established jointly between universities and their identified stakeholders.
Things to think about
In answering some of the questions in Steps 1 – 4 above, what are some of the most significant supply/push factor challenges you think your university faces? What are some of the demand/pull factor challenges?
How can you address these challenges through establishing areas of work that improve your exchange factors?
Things to do
Take a look at Page 17 in the DRUSSA Research Uptake Management Working Group report “A Framework for Strategy,” and in particular at the range of “Research Uptake Management Steering Mechanisms” it sets out. Discuss with colleagues in your research office which of these mechanisms you feel are most embedded at your institution, and which focus areas you feel could be improved to make the most significant difference.
Sara Grobbelaar, CREST
A review of practical frameworks and approaches towards stakeholder identification, analysis, and engagement, and communication plan development. Following practical advice on the “how-to’s” of the process of developing a stakeholder engagement and science communication plan,
two case-studies in Uganda and Mauritius are discussed.
An Uptake Strategy is a planning tool that will help you to meet your goals and objectives. It should complement your project strategy, and use the objectives and indicators that you identified in your logframe or theory of change. This “how to” guide can help support you in the process of designing and implementing your research uptake strategy.