Over the past three months I have spoken to a number of ECRs through interviews and a focus group as part of the research Keri and I are doing on the CC programme (see previous blog here). This group, or community,
of new academics within the CC programme highlight some thought-provoking ideas around sustainability, legacy, emotion and skills within the CC programme and co-produced research more generally. First, it appears that many of the ECRs I have met have a background which extends beyond academia. In some cases this may be time spent as a curator, museum guide, full-time artist, volunteer, community worker or other practical or practitioner based jobs. Indeed, these are often jobs or full-time vocations and go deeper, or require more time, than hobbies, work experience or additional activities alongside studying – these people were embedded in and reliant upon non-academic, often community based types of work. Second, many ECRs I have spoken to as well as PIs and CO-Is have identified ‘other’ skills which are necessary for doing ‘this type’ of research – i.e. collaborative or coproduced. These skills include good communication, ability to listen, get on with a wide range of people, learn from others, making people feel at ease, being ‘socially capable’ and ‘having a good bed-side manner’. In many cases, these people suggested that although being a ‘good academic’ was also important, ECRs on CC projects don’t always have to look like ‘typical academics’ and ‘they don’t have to have ‘written loads of papers’.
At the moment these observations don’t go much further than just that; observations and rather wordy, longwinded notions of something ‘more interesting’. But, I intend to explore how/if the CC programme may be creating a space for different types of academics and what the implications of this could be for co-produced research and academia, as well as what this means for the legacy of the CC programme. For example, are ECRs on the CC programme publishing and developing their own research projects/bids and therefore developing a strong academic profile or, are they developing skills which are important for collaborative research but which remain undervalued or unrecognised more widely in academia. If so, how can the CC programme promote and strengthen the careers of the ECRs employed on CC projects as a means of enhancing the wider legacy of the programme and establishing a strong cohort of academics experienced in and dedicated to co-produced research in the future? These questions have important implications for the sustainability of co-produced research in academia.
Encouragingly other academics in the CC programme are also focusing their attention on the experiences and legacy of ECRs on the CC Programme. Dr. Dave O’Brian (City University London School of Arts) is leading a project called ‘Connecting Epistemologies: Methods and Early Career Researchers in the CC Programme’. Dave is working on this project along with Dr Mark Taylor (Manchester), Dr. Peter Mathews (Heriot-Watt), Dr Helen Graham (Leeds) and Katie Hill (an ECR from Leeds Love it Share it CIC). The project team seek to understand the uneven distribution of power and expertise within methodologically eclectic academic research projects through the experiences of ECRs who are delivering these research projects. They will be running an event which will showcase and develop ECR understanding of research methods for doing community research and are looking to work closely with 10 (lucky) ECRs on targeted mentoring and data collection. Get in touch with Katie Hill if you want more info about Dave’s project.