In this post, Jenny talks about her involvement with research impact; how it came about, her experience, how her company works with universities regarding their REF preparations, and her plans for the future.
How did your involvement in research impact come about?
In 2010, there was some restructuring within my university. This led to me opting to take the role of Associate Dean for Innovation in my school. It was a new role sitting between ‘research’ and ‘partnerships’ which really appealed to me. This was because most of my own research had been in collaboration with the food industry. And ensuring that academic research is of value beyond academia is important to me.
At the same time, nationally, ideas were developing regarding research impact for REF 2014. So my dean suggested this was something I might take responsibility for in the school. The first meeting I attended was organised by PraxisUnico, now PraxisAuril. I gradually built up my knowledge and ran a number of workshops in the school for prospective impact case study authors and other researchers. This led to me being asked to share my knowledge with other schools.
How did your involvement in research impact develop?
In 2012 I moved university. Now I was leading research and innovation (including impact) in a large faculty. We had returns to REF main panels A and C. I also became familiar with the requirements of main panels B and D because I was involved in reviewing draft impact case studies in other faculties.
I was eventually asked to lead on research impact at university level. This followed by me becoming Research Impact Lead for University Alliance.
Tell me about the work on research impact you do through your company
I set up Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd in 2017. Working with universities to help them prepare their case studies for REF 2021 is an important area of work. We are happy to work on returns to all REF sub-panels.
One point I should make is that all our work is bespoke. We run workshops but our aim is to tailor them according to the needs of the client university. I don’t think we’ve ever run the same workshop twice! We also critique and provide feedback to authors on draft impact case studies at any stage of development. This is usually followed by 1-to-1 feedback by Skype or phone or face-to-face.
Can you say a little more about your typical workshop format?
Workshops are normally 2-4 hours in length and the number attending has ranged from around 5 to over 30. Attendees are usually case study authors, but sometimes people who may have a case study for REF 2027 are also included. Unit of assessment leaders, senior research leaders and impact managers may also be present.
Workshops tend to be very interactive and I encourage questions as I go through slides. And a good deal of time is spent in small group work so that attendees can practice recognising good (and less good) aspects of case studies. We tend to use REF 2014 case studies as the basis for this. Because some guidance for case studies has been modified and/or is clearer for REF 2021, critiquing REF 2014 case studies in the context of REF 2021 guidelines can be a useful learning experience.
Sometimes I am asked to prepare the workshop taking account of my critiques of the university’s draft impact case studies. Authors have reported that this is extremely helpful. Many authors are preparing a case study for the first time and they have to fit the work into an already very hectic work schedule. My aim is to get them confident about completing their case study.
Sometimes I run the workshop in the morning and follow this with 1-to-1 feedback meetings with case study authors after lunch.
Work seems to be going very well for you but what are your plans for the future?
Yes, it is going well and, importantly, I’m enjoying working with a wide range of organisations in different parts of the country.
As far as the future is concerned, I’m expecting this year to be busy as we head towards the REF submission deadline. As well as impact case studies, I work with universities on their environment statements.
Based on my experience of working within academia, next year I expect things to go quiet concerning the REF until the results come out in late 2021. But I believe that this time is a good opportunity for universities to consider their research impact culture. What I mean by this is how they are supporting the development of impact from research more broadly and not only focusing on case studies for the next REF or pathways to impact statements for grant proposals. This is something I would like to be part of in the future.
Related posts include: How should we balance the research impact ecosystem?
Jenny Ames had a 35 year career both as an academic and a senior university manager before establishing Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd in 2017. She has led on all aspects of research at faculty and university level. She was also founding Research Impact Lead for University Alliance. Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd was founded to initiate, nurture and sustain strategic partnerships stemming from the needs of society, the outputs of academic research and the expertise residing in universities. These partnerships involve universities and organisations including the private, public and charity sectors, civic society and communities.
Jenny is available to give talks, run workshops, lead brainstorming sessions and provide mentoring and coaching. She can advise on all aspects of REF 2021 preparations, and strategy development and implementation regarding research and cross-organisation partnerships. Jenny also coaches researchers on a 1-2-1 basis or by group coaching. She holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring Practice from Oxford Brookes University and is a Member of the Association for Coaching (MAC).