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17 October 2017
DRUSSA's Strategic Institutional Progress Workshop Print
Monday, 19 January 2015 11:38
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This article provides a brief overview of the DRUSSA workshop held in Cape Town in December 2014, where DRUSSA Universities reflected on their Research Uptake (RU) strategies and policies as well as their RU management and institutional capacity.

Looking back and planning ahead

The DRUSSA Strategic Institutional Progress event held in Cape Town in December was a fitting way to wrap up 2014. On the one hand, the event provided the opportunity to reflect on the year that had been, and the distance that universities have travelled so far in strengthening their Research Uptake (RU) systems and Research Uptake Management (RUM) capacity. But it was also an important opportunity to plan for the year ahead – applying the lessons learned to the design of new activities and initiatives.

 

Day One: Strategies and Policies

The three day event involved Leaders and Champions from 17 of the 22 universities in the DRUSSA community. The event focused chiefly on two connecting themes: first, developing the strategies and policies needed to institutionalise RU more fully; and second, designing systems for Research Assessment and Impact to evaluate how  research findings are generating impact, both inside the university and in wider society as well.

In the afternoon Prof. Yap Boum II (Director of the MSF Epicentre, MUST) spoke to the conference about the rollout of an RU communications and engagement plan, emphasising the critical need to integrate RU into the full research cycle from research proposal to its dissemination to interested and affected end-users. He also noted that for RU to become an integrated part of the research cycle researchers should be judged not only on their academic publishing output, but also on their record of making research accessible and engaging to the public.

"for RU to become an integrated part of the research cycle researchers should be judged not only on their academic publishing output, but also on their record of making research accessible and engaging to the public"

Day Two: Developing Research Uptake Plans

The second day drew on these strategic lessons and applied them to the uptake of specific research project outputs – what we’ve called the Demonstrator Research Projects. How might universities best support planning for and managing the uptake of particular research outputs in projects that are now underway or being planned? Who are the research users we want to engage with in carrying out the research and demonstrating the benefit of the research findings? Groups of delegates used these questions to help frame an RU strategy  and plan for a project their university is currently undertaking – they then workshopped approaches to ensure RU is embedded in the research project.

This took us to an afternoon discussion on Research Impact and Assessment (RI&A) and how universities can assess how and where  research outputs are having impact. This involved a presentation on detailed RI&A methodologies by Dr. Sara Grobbelaar (CREST, Stellenbosch University) which led on to animated discussion. A Demonstrator Research case study presented by Dr. Sunita Facknath (University of Mauritius) was an example of how, at project level, indicators were developed and used, to assess the progress and impact of the research  throughout the research cycle. Both of these presentations  provided the groups with methods and tools that can be applied: on the one hand to managing RU at the institutional level, and on the other to the RI&A of project-level research outputs.

"Through the Action Plans, each university sets out the full range of interrelating RU initiatives they are introducing"

Day Three: Consolidating Learnings

The workshop concluded with the three RU Action Plan groups meeting with their DRUSSA programme Coordinators to share, refresh and discuss the activities that each university has laid out in their respective Action Plans for the coming year. In the Action Plans, each university sets out the full range of interrelating RU initiatives they are introducing – the Plans are highly specific in their level of detail, and need to be measurable, achievable and timetabled as well.

By sharing what we’ve learned so far through the Action Planning process (in terms of  M&E - setting internal institutional indicators for success, scheduling cross-institution activities and securing the engagement of external stakeholders), we’re confident that each of the three groups go into the new year better equipped to implement and measure their RU successes.

In the penultimate year of the five-year DRUSSA programme, the main goal for 2015 is to continue working with universities to embed their RU successes into institutional systems even more deeply. Sharing learning across the community (in strategy, planning and M&E) will be a key part to this continuing process – and the Cape Town event surely got us off on the right foot for the year to come.

 


Liam Roberts (liam.roberts@acu.ac.uk) is a Programme Officer (Policy) at the Association of Commonwealth Universities

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