22 SES 03 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
Today, academics and universities across Europe are increasingly being asked to engage with their publics in the design and conduct of research. Technological change facilitates public involvement; economic and political forces encourage greater accountability; and a new generation of researchers are seeking to participate in engaged and activist research. What does this mean for the knowledge practices of academics seeking to work in these ways? And what does this mean for the future of the European university?
In 2010, the UK Research Council established the ‘Connected Communities’ Research Programme. This programme, which has since funded over 300 research projects, is concerned with ‘researching community with, by and for communities’. It is characterised by research that is strongly interdisciplinary, with a particular emphasis on the contribution of arts and humanities researchers to projects that range from dementia care, to the creative economy, to adaptation to climate disruption. The core distinguishing characteristic of the programme, however, is its claim to methodological innovation – its commitment to funding and encouraging research that actively draws on the expertise, insight and knowledge of non-academic communities and organisations in the design, conduct and analysis of the research. Its core assumption is that the quality, usefulness and democratic accountability of research will be significantly enhanced by a model of embedded research co-production. It is the largest such research programme ever to have been attempted in the UK and is unique in Europe in its commitment to engaged and collaborative research.
The research practices in evidence across the programme are highly diverse, they draw on traditions of participatory action research, community arts, user-centred design, inter-professional working. They also demonstrate highly diverse practices of ‘community’ participation in projects – ranging from substantive collaborative and sustained activities with grassroots community organisations, to formal consultative processes with national umbrella groups.
This paper is concerned with understanding the knowledge work that is going on in this research programme and the sorts of identities this may be producing for both academics and ‘community’ participants. It draws on theoretical resources from the sociology of education (Young & Muller, 2010), from philosophy and action research (Eikelund, 2012), from critical participatory research (de Sousa Santos, 2007), and from inter-professional working (Edwards, 2007) to explore the ways in which different claims to knowledge and expertise are being made, negotiated and reconciled in these projects. From Young and Muller, the paper takes a concern with understanding and examining tensions between situated, embodied and contextualised forms of knowledge and more generalised and abstracted ‘ways of knowing’. From de Sousa Santos the paper takes a concern with the historical association of different ways of knowing with hierarchies of knowledge and power, and with whether this programme is disrupting or repeating such hierarchies. From Eikelund and Edwards, the paper takes a concern with understanding how groups and individuals mediate and negotiate these different forms of knowledge, through phronesis (Eikelund, after Aristotle) and through new forms of relational expertise (Edwards). These resources lead to the following research questions:
- How are different ‘ways of knowing’ being used and negotiated in the design and conduct of research in the Connected Communities programme?
- To what extent are these different ways of knowing being articulated in ways that disrupt traditional relations of power?
- What new academic practices and identities are emerging to mediate between these different ways of knowing?
In addressing these questions, we hope to better understand the practices of collaborative and engaged research that are beginning to emerge as universities and research funders across Europe are being asked to engage more closely with their ‘publics’ in the design and conduct of research today.
De Sousa Santos, B (ed) (2007) Another Knowledge Is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies, Verso: London Eikelund, O (2012) Action Research – Applied Research, Intervention Research, Collaborative Research, Practitioner Research, or Praxis Research? International Journal of Action Research, 8(1), 9-44 Young, M and Muller, J (2010) Three educational scenarios for the future: lessons for the sociology of knowledge, European Journal of Education, Vol 45, No1, Edwards, A., Sebba, J., Rickinson, M (2007) Working with users: some implications for educational research, British Educational Research Journal, Vol 33, No 5, 647-661
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