My research - my reach: Exploring your place in the bigger picture video transcript

Hello, my name is Neil Radford welcome to this keynote presentation on My Research My Reach exploring your place in the bigger picture. In this talk, I aim to share some of my thoughts with you about how your doctoral studies fit into the academic and wider contexts.

In the diagram here on the left-hand side, there's a picture of an atom and this represents the minute detail, the narrow focus, that you have to explore as a doctoral student. You have to go into that focus in great detail and great depth to become an expert in that area but, as your thesis develops, and as you try and explain that, you will also need to look outwards at the bigger picture represented here by the picture of a galaxy. You need to be able to do that to establish how your research is justified in your field and beyond.

So, how do you go about recognizing where your research fits into the bigger picture? In terms of the academic context, in the UK we are periodically assessed for the quality of our research endeavour, and the system of metrics that is used for that is called the Research Excellence Framework or REF. Subjects are organized into units of assessment and there are three important measures that are used to assess our quality. As a doctoral student, you can contribute alongside your supervisors to each of those REF measures.

So, as you produce publications, it's possible that they can be included in the REF as output. You might be involved also in the wider research around a theme with a group of researchers at your organization and in terms of the measure, it's about how much impact that longitudinal work has in the field. So you might be contributing and in fact some of our PGR students are, in this round of REF, contributing to the narrative of an Impact Case Study. In addition, doctoral completions, attendance at conferences, being part of networks and attending training, being involved in activities like the three-minute thesis, all of those activities can be included in research environment, so you've got an important contribution to make.

But what about outside of academia? Well, I've divided this up into four main areas - dimensions if you like: the idea of reach; the idea of impact; of audience and opportunity and I'm equating those four areas to four important but simple questions: how, what, who and where.

So let's deal with reach first. Reach is the extent or range of something's application effect or influence, so how far and how many. So it might be, how many citations does your work have and who is citing them. Are they people in the UK other people further afield so does your research have regional, national, international or global reach and importance?

In terms of impact, Mark Reid in his research impact handbook, which is a really good read by the way and well worth it, talks about impact is the good that researchers can do in the world. So the question there is, what benefit. In what way is your research providing benefit to your field, or to the wider context, and he talks about the types of impacts that are possible and he lists a whole range of them into including: raising awareness, economic, cultural, social, and policy impact and decision making and so on.

Then we come to who benefits. So who is the research for, who's going to be interested in this? Yes, it's going to be academics in the field but also a wider audience may well want to view your work or find it important for their activities. So it's about you recognizing who the potential audience is for your work might be and a way to think about that is who benefits.

Finally, is the "where" question, opportunity. Where is this going to take you to? Where next for your research? What are the potentials for commercial activities? What are the potentials for this to go further in terms of theory development in academia? Where's the innovation? Where's the impact potential on practice or on policy? So where's this going to take you to? And by thinking about those four areas and those four key questions, gives you an idea about how you can identify what your research looks like in the wider world.

So once you've done that, and you've got an idea about how your research fits in, why should you engage? Well, what I'm suggesting to you, is that you can actually improve your research through that wider engagement. There is, I think, a positive feedback loop. By engaging with different audiences, that can be small events, such as one that Eleanor Hardy talks about in her blog, where she's talking about a play reading with friends, where she's reading a play from the person that whose literature she is is looking at, and that play helps her to fall back in love with her research project.

By engaging with wider audiences, even in those small ways, but also in the much bigger ways, like conferences and networks and so on; you get feedback from that audience. It helps you to get alternative viewpoints, gets you thinking about your research in a different way, observing the different possibilities; it lifts your head up. And, what that does, by looking at those different things, is you get to see how your research fits into the world and it becomes better-informed research. And better-informed research is more likely to be interesting to wider numbers of people, get more citations, have more impact in the field and beyond. In other words, get to a wider audience, so there's that positive feedback loop.

So, in summary, what I've discussed is, I've encouraged you to look beyond the detail of your research. To think about reach, or how; impact, what, what benefit; audience, who, and where are the opportunities and to engage in the positive benefits of wider engagement. Thank you for listening.

My research - my reach: Exploring your place in the bigger picture video

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