The last time I looked up from my desk, it was January. Now, June is fast looming. How the f@!k did that happen? On the one hand, I'm worried that I've lost the first 5 months of the year. On the other, maybe it's not such a bad thing given our current circumstances. Whatever the case, it's as good a time as ever to look back over what's been going on since the start of 2021. And this is what I've been up to:
The first part of the year was definitely spent immersed in REF - that's the Research Excellence Framework for those of you not in the UK higher education world. Working with a range of universities, I helped to edit research impact case studies, or descriptions of how research has created change in the world beyond academia. While impact has been a core concept of UK research for at least a decade now, there's obviously still a lot of learning to do. It's been great to see the range of research projects out there and the efforts that many researchers are making to translate their work to create real-world change. And now, lots of universities are developing more accessible information about these projects – for public audiences and for policy makers - so that more people can find out about that research.
Surveys, interviews and focus groups
Alongside the editing, I've spent quite a lot of time talking to people, gathering views and opinions to inform two different projects: how impact is reviewed by funding panels; and how technicians are costed into research grants, for the TALENT project. I've done quite a lot of consultations over the years and it always amazes me what a range of perspectives are out there! It's great to be able to listen to people's opinions, test out your own and then use all that to develop new ideas that might then improve things. It might take a bit of time, and sometimes a lot of effort, but it's very well worth it.
In a year where I've not been feeling very sociable, I have managed to be part of a few different networks. I'm delighted to be part of WorkVisible's Workout, a fortnightly online gathering where we share ideas and practice our sketching. It's great to have an escape from the day-to-day focus on words and let my mind wander into a more creative realm. I've also become part of a national network of Active Partnerships, representing a client, where we share good practice and learn about living longer better. It's a really supportive group, all about encouraging change.
A big part of the year has also been spent organising and running Green Aspirations's Virtually Great Scottish Spoon Hoolie. This weekend gathering for spoon carvers has been going for 5 years and 2021 marked our second virtual event. What it lacked in physical togetherness was made up for in spades by the truly international cast and participants, bringing together trainers from Sweden, Germany, France, Israel, the US, England and Scotland with participants from as far afield as Australia! With 4 sessions of 5 concurrent workshops, and up to 75 people online at any one time, together with plenary sessions and a quiz, it was a full-on weekend. But with only minor technical challenges, it was also full of fun. So much so that we'll be back online next year, as well as in person.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, it's always good for me to reflect on what's been going on, to think about the projects I'm doing, how they fit together, how I can learn from them, and what I can do better. And this periodic log of projects helps me articulate better what I want to achieve from my work. For me, it's about helping people to solve problems so that together we can make a real difference - be that helping people to articulate things in different ways for different audiences, using people's opinions to shape ideas and recommendations, learning from what others have tried, challenging people to think differently, or even facilitating online spoon carving. So, bring it on, 2021. I'm ready for the rest of you!