A disciplined approach to disciplines

by Alex Hulkes

If you were to guess what proportion of the ESRC portfolio reflected thinking from, or somehow related to, more than one discipline, what figure would you come up with?

We tried this experiment in ESRC, and came up with a figure of around 60%, but that was based on gut feel. Happily, ‘gut feel’ isn’t the basis for our decision making. Neither are dowsing or entrail reading, and someone has lost the corporate copy of the I Ching. Continue reading

What actually is a PhD?

Hannes Titeca 150px.jpgHannes Titeca is an ESRC-funded PhD student at the University of Exeter.

It is only as I enter the second year of my PhD that I now feel able to start answering this remarkably simple question.

Throughout my first year, I found myself constantly updating the few expectations I did have. I feel that this illustrates a more general issue of young people, as part of the wider population, not knowing enough about what doctoral study involves and how it relates to research, universities, and academia more generally. Continue reading

How to collaborate with local government – lessons from LARIA

Jasmin 150pxJasmin Fox-Skelly is a freelance science writer based in Cardiff. She writes for publications such as New Scientist, BBC Earth and Sky at Night.

Jasmin recently spoke to academics who attended the LARIA conference in May, asking them about their ‘tips for collaboration’ with local government.

Earlier this year the ESRC funded five academics from UK universities to attend the Local Area Research and Intelligence Association (LARIA) conference.

LARIA is a membership body for analysts and policy officers working in local government across the UK – the city, metropolitan and borough councils that deliver public services to citizens in a particular area. The LARIA annual conference is an opportunity for people working in the public sector (local government, local authorities and councils) to come together and talk about what research they are doing, what challenges they are facing, and share tips and guidance on best practice.

The ESRC-sponsored academics attending the conference were able to learn about how ‘the other side works’ – in other words, what research needs public sector organisations have, what sort of research they do, whether there are any differences or similarities in the way they work, and if there are any opportunities for collaboration. Continue reading

Academics in ivory towers? It’s time to change the record

James_Georgalakis 150x150James Georgalakis is the director of communications and impact at the Institute of Development Studies and is director of the ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative for International Development Research.

Here he asks: are scholars really so out of touch with the real world or do we need to look again at this tired narrative that doesn’t reflect the reality of modern academia?

Explaining my work as a director of communications and impact in an academic institution can sometimes prove challenging.

A case in point was a recent conversation with a new acquaintance about work that went something along the lines of: “So, what is it you do again. Something about research isn’t it?” To which I replied: “Yes, that’s right. I work with academics helping them make sure that their research is put to good use – you know, informing policy, changing attitudes – so it doesn’t just end up in some journal that no one ever reads.”

“Getting them out of their ivory towers, then” came the reply, at which point I nodded vigorously and gave them a knowing smile. Continue reading