In early June, the ARMS/PraxisAuril Knowledge Exchange (KE) Tour kicked off in London with representatives across 12 Australian Universities, as well as the University of Otago and the Telethon Kids Institute – and what a fabulous group of engaged and thoughtful colleagues they were.
The Tour was led by Dr Mark Hochman, ARMS Business Consultant who ensured that the group stayed focused and that our hosts provided relevant and diverse information around Impact, Knowledge Exchange and the Concordat for the Advancement of Knowledge Exchange in Higher Education in England which has been recently released for consultation. The group was also supported by the wonderful Grace Mulraney whose amazing logistical support meant that the participants could concentrate on engaging and not worrying about travel or accommodation or meals!
At a very high level, there are a number of similarities in the Knowledge Exchange and impact measures implemented by Research England and the Australian Research council. A brief comparison between the UK Ref and KEF assessment and the Australian EIA requirements is summarised below:
Whilst there are several similarities between the UK and the Australian impact agendas, there are also a few key differences. The most significant difference being the fact that UK institutions receive funding based on impact performance as well as funding for engagement and knowledge exchange activities. As such, there is a growing professional cohort of impact managers and knowledge exchange brokers who are supporting the strategy, education and reporting requirements of UK institutions.
One of my reflections of the tour is that all of the universities we visited are responding to the impact and knowledge exchange agenda in different ways: from implementing new reward and recognition programs; changing academic position descriptions to include an engagement and translation stream; to driving behaviours through internal budget allocation; and universities who are consciously and deliberately “are not embarking on the ‘KEF Industry’”.
Further to this, an increasing range of organisations that support the UK higher education sector are developing a number of online tools and services to support impact. For example, Emerald Publishing has developed an Impact Literacy Workbook as well as an Institutional Impact Health Workbook and Grow Kudos will be releasing Kudos Pro which supports researchers to “engage broad audiences and increase the impact potential of your research through better communications” next month.
In Australia, there is no current specific government funding allocation for either performance, or to support related knowledge exchange activities. Although the Australian impact and engagement assessment is less onerous on the sector compared to the UK, this assessment still places pressure on institutions to accurately report on these outcomes. Subsequently, additional pressure is placed on researchers as they are increasingly expected to respond to all of the parts of the research ecosystem - from the design and delivery of research, to leading engagement and translation activities often with no increased funding or performance recognition.
Interestingly, the HE sector in the UK is much more actively engaged in conversations both cross-institutionally and with the government on the subject of KE and Impact than is currently happening in Australia. This is perhaps a key area where ARMS, and its members, can increase collaboration and knowledge exchange in partnership with research management professionals in the UK through ARMA!
I can see lots of opportunities for the HE sector in the UK and Australia to work collaboratively around developing systems and processes for supporting, capturing, reporting and assessing KE and impact activities and outcomes in a global context. And so, I return to my workplace with renewed enthusiasm for my profession and for the opportunities we have as Research Administrators to help researchers conduct (and translate/or communicate) research that has the potential to make real-world impacts.
As Australian Universities are determining how to prepare for another round of ARC Engagement and Impact, it was timely that ARMS in conjunction with PraxisAuril convened a Knowledge Exchange Tour of the UK. The Tour was designed to specifically support understanding of the UK models of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the soon to be implemented Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and how both these frameworks were being applied to drive and sustain as well as measure industry engagement with academic institutions and the enduser impact of research.
I was fortunate to have the support from the DVCR Flinders University to attend this unique and valuable study tour and be provided with the opportunity to not only learn about the UK systems and frameworks but to also form deeper professional relationships with colleagues from across the Australian research landscape.
Our tour started in the heart of London. To introduce the key administrative frameworks and contextualise the breadth of information that we would be provided as we visited different Universities across the UK, our first port of call was with Research England. This Government organisation has oversight and responsibility for funding and engaging with English HE. This includes: providing grant funding to English universities for research and knowledge exchange activities; developing and implementing the Research Excellence Framework in partnership with the UK Higher Education funding bodies; overseeing the sustainability of the Higher Education research base in England; managing the £900 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund; and administering the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). Link
Research England is also a key element of UK Research Innovation which brings to together 7 Research Councils from across the UK, Innovate UK as well as Research England, to support the UK in world leading research and innovation. At the recent ARMS/SRAI Hawaii Conference I had the good fortune to hear Research England, Executive Chair, David Sweeney as the keynote presenter and I highly recommend having a read of his presentation powerpoint.
Now armed with our vernacular expanded with new acronyms and terms (KEF, the Concordat, REF, QR (Quality Research) Funding, GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund), UKRPI (UK Research Partnership Investment Fund), HEIF (The Higher Education Innovation Fund), HE-BCI (Higher Education Business & Community Interaction) survey, RED (Research England Development) Fund, etc…) our journey began in earnest. Onto the magical mystery tour bus and across England avisiting we went.
To provide a snapshot of the English research and reporting landscape and to facilitate a greater appreciation of the diversity of approaches that are being employed to manage the data collection, analysis and reporting requirements for REF and KEF, the ARMS/ PraxisAuril Knowledge Exchange took in visits to a wide range of Universities across England. These included University of College London, University of Arts London, University of Cambridge, Coventry University, Keele University, Nottingham University, University of Lincoln, and York University. Not only did this provide an indepth look and understanding of the differences being applied in the English Higher Education sector but the Tour participants had the opportunity to swap experiences and war stories about their own Universities preparation for ERA and E&I both in the 2018 round and the upcoming round, and from our colleague across the Tasman to learn about how NZ managed reporting.
On a more personal note, I found this study tour an exceptional experience for many reasons. But two key highlights were the professional relationships that I was able to form with both with UK and Australian contemporaries as well as the ability to learn more about the diversity of the Australian and UK approaches in supporting quality research knowledge exchange; strategies to have higher and more productive engagement with industry through research partnerships; and the pathways for research to have a positive impact on a myriad of endusers including community. My thanks to Grace and Mark for a well organised and productive tour – it made an amazing difference to my learning experience.
The study tour was an excellent opportunity to see how the last 15 years or so of significant investment from the UK government into building capacity and capability in knowledge exchange has changed practice and policy in the sector. The Australian sector has an opportunity to learn from this more integrated approach to research and knowledge exchange and at UTS we have already started to think about how we might develop an integrated knowledge exchange strategy. The tour was extremely well organised with a great mix of universities, and the hosts universities were very generous with their time, information and sandwiches! Martin Lloyd (UTS)
The ARMS/PraxisAuril UK study tour was a wonderful opportunity to understand how UK Universities are positioning themselves to meet the teaching and research needs of our changing world, and the challenges and opportunities of various measurement systems (e.g. TEF, REF an KEF) in articulating what they do well and where they can improve. The University staff we met were friendly, generous with their time, and open about the challenges faced by the higher education sector. Our tour group was collegial, good fun and keen to share their own knowledge and experience in different aspects of research strategy, management, measurement, and support. Finally, the programme had a balanced schedule of visits to provide a range of University perspectives. It was also extremely well organised with delegates able to focus on the tour content and networking. Thank-you Mark and Grace, ARMS and 2019 ARMS Study Tour delegates. Rachel Elliot (University of Otago)
The ARMS/Praxis Auril 2019 Study Tour provided a comprehensive lens on the development of assessment processes across the UK higher education sector, generating a depth of knowledge of assessment frameworks existing (REF) and emerging (KEF). The diverse study group enabled the learning to not only happen in the formal visits but in the bus and across social opportunities. The tour was well organised and curated by the ARMS team, ensuring we were able to experience a range of different higher education environments. A study tour I would highly recommend.” Isabel McNeil (Monash University)
The ARMS/PraxisAuril 2019 UK Study Tour was a wonderful opportunity to gain an understanding of their new Knowledge Exchange Framework. The program was excellent and I personally found the experience enriching and enlightening! The information gathered will be extremely valuable as we progress our preparations and strategies around supporting and reporting research engagement and impact.” Michelle Duryea (Edith Cowan University)
It was fantastic to see strong collaboration across the HE sector in the UK in the way they are working together to respond to the incoming KEF and Knowledge Exchange concordat from a policy angle. What was interesting was that operationally, there was great diversity in how individual institutions were positioning themselves to address the reporting requirements”. Otherwise “apart from the content learning aspect of the Tour, one of the highlights for me was being able to share institutional approaches to supporting impact and engagement with Australian and NZ colleagues. I now have a new network of colleagues I feel I could call on when tackling strategic or operational matters relating to engagement and impact.” Tara McLaren (Telethon Kids Institute)