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13 December 2017
Institutionalising University Research Uptake – a Framework for Strategy Print
Monday, 15 December 2014 14:38

This blog provides an overview of a new report in the DRUSSA Handbook series. Entitled Institutionalising Research Uptake – a Framework for Strategy, the document provides guidelines and insights into how universities can incorporate Research Uptake into their broad institutional policies and plans.

The document was written by the Research Uptake Management Working Group (RUMWG).  The members of the Group have leading roles in implementing the DRUSSA programme and at the DRUSSA workshop held in Cape Town this week gave presentations about the process of writing an institutional research uptake strategy and having these draft strategies placed within their formal academic committee system for consideration and ratification.

 

Defining the field

In order to be clear about the scope of Research Uptake policies and strategies it is important to be clear about what research uptake at the institutional level involves. The report highlights a number of key aspects of Institutional Research Uptake:

  • Ensuring that the institution has capacity and facilities that allow it to engage and communicate with the stakeholders who can potentially use the research results.
  • Ensuring that the institution has capacity and facilities that maximise the conditions for the application of research findings with and for external stakeholders, to achieve outcomes that have a developmental impact.

 

Institutional Research Uptake Management  is a “purposeful, iterative process that addresses internal (researchers and institutional) and external (funders and beneficiaries) stakeholder requirements for research evidence. It involves including a dissemination and uptake strategy when planning, carrying out, evaluating and disseminating the research, so that the resultant knowledge and information is produced in formats and on delivery platforms that are accessible and appropriate for the target audiences

 

An institutional Research Uptake strategy is somewhat different to engagement and communication at a programme or project level. It is about letting the university’s stakeholders know about the broad portfolio of capacity and impact  – providing examples of how the university is fulfilling its socio-economic mission and vision.

 

By contrast, two recent case studies completed by researchers and featured on the DRUSSA website (you can see the articles here and here)  are about communicating science or research at a project level, where very focussed stakeholder analysis is an important part of deciding how to communicate about the research findings to those who are directly affected.

“Institutional Research Uptake Management is a “purposeful, iterative process that addresses internal (researchers and institutional) and external (funders and beneficiaries) stakeholder requirements for research evidence”

Policies and Strategies

Strategic Research Uptake therefore “invokes” a range of different policies that already exist within the institution.  These policies provide a framework for conceptualising and writing research uptake strategies. Policies governing Research, Copyright, Open Access, Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer and, Public Relations and Communications are relevant, to name a few. Because institutional Research Uptake is an overarching, and cross-functional management responsibility some universities choose to have a separate institutional Research Uptake Policy, or a number of strategies. Some DRUSSA universities are choosing to amend existing policies such as the ones above to explicitly reference Research Uptake as it pertains to the strategic execution of that policy.

 

Emerging issues

As with any new field there are a number of issues emerging in the area of institutional-level management of Research Uptake. Key amongst these are the ones related to the overlap between the communication and dissemination of academic research findings affected audiences – also called scholarly communication, ‘science communication’ or ‘knowledge mobilisation’ and the strategic communication activities of the university.  Very often the responsibility for incentivizing and monitoring research uptake lies with the Research Management Office, but the responsibility for communicating the institutional research uptake profile lies in the Public Relations office.  The skills required for communicating research evidence, and packaging it for different audiences are very important for effective Research Uptake, and although the PR office has staff with communication skills, they may not have the specialised skills required for science communication. There is a strong consensus too, that researchers need to include research uptake communication planning in their research from conceptualization to completion, and so need specialist communications support to call upon. Another key issue is that many universities are devolving their research management functions to faculty level. There is also the issue of how the incorporation of research uptake as a key academic function is incorporated into human resource policies, the academic curriculum and gender policies.

 

Steering mechanisms for Research Uptake

The Framework for Strategy document outlines a number of steering mechanisms that are being used in DRUSSA universities to embed Research Uptake.   The full list can be seen in the report, but included amongst them are the following:

 

  • Incentives for staff who publish in open access with creative commons rights  or participate in activities and events that make research findings accessible to identified stakeholders
  • Specialist Research Uptake administration posts are established
  • Training in Research Uptake communications skills is given
  • Research Information Management databases are established or adapted to include information to track projects with research uptake potential and obligatory research uptake communication requirements
  • Strong relationships with industry are maintained
  • Strong relationships with policy makers and policy influencers are maintained
  • Utilisation of outward-facing university facilities such a technology transfer centres and business incubators is effective

"Communication to optimise research uptake generally takes place on many different levels in an institution – from individual researchers, to Departments and Faculties to the university itself, both from the Communications office and the Research Management office."

Monitoring and evaluation

Communication and engagement with research users to optimise research uptake generally takes place on many different levels in an institution – from individual researchers’ projects and programmes, from Departments, Faculties Schools and Colleges, and from the university ‘s central research management and communication and public relations functions.   Given the diversity of research emanating from a university and the scattered nature of role players and offices, monitoring and evaluation is complex and it is critically important that there is an institutional research information management system in place so that monitoring and evaluation can be done at an individual, programme and faculty level as well as at an institutional level. Work is underway to develop indicators based on the specific objectives at each of these levels.

 

The full report can be found here and a presentation made at the recent meeting of DRUSSA Universities, outlining key aspects of the report, can be found here

 


Alison Bullen is a content manager for the DRUSSA website (alison.bullen@drussa.net)

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