Over the last few years there has been a huge increase in the amount of work that Arts and Humanities researchers have been doing collaboratively with external partners. These kinds of collaborative projects require very different skill sets than traditional desk-based and archival research. The Creating Living Knowledge report, published by the AHRC’s ‘Connected Communities’ team began drawing up a typology of the new range of skills required to manage co-production.
These skills are shared across the partnerships in co-produced research, rather than sitting clearly ‘in’ or ‘outside’ the academy (see pages 73-78).
- The Catalyser (who prompts and disrupts)
- The Integrator (who synthesises)
- The Designer (who connects and creates a plan)
- The Broker (who negotiates relationships)
- The Facilitator (who enables conversations)
- The Project manager (who addresses progress and risks)
- The Diplomat (who handles inter-institutional relations)
- The Scholar (who connects the project with existing knowledge and ensures rigour)
- The Conscience (who asks how the project is benefitting communities)
- The Accountant (who manages the money)
- The Data gatherer (who conducts the empirical/archival research)
- The Nurturer (who keeps an eye on all participants)
- The Loudhailer (who promotes the work)
However, there are another group of people who have also been sharing some of these roles in co-produced projects – the employees within the university who provide administrative support for projects. The research professional services staff are the ones who have encyclopaedic knowledge of funders and funding programmes, who have endless networks of contacts, who untangle complicated contracts, who proof read grant applications, and who process payments. Often they find themselves facing very novel demands (you want an acrobat? you want to insure a group of school children while they dig up a field? you want to define a copyright contract between an academic and sixty members of a community choir?). Plus they have to balance these with existing institutional requirements and practices.
Connected Communities is working to build a network amongst the research professional services staff in universities to help them meet these changing demands. This is a hugely important step in improving the ease of partnership working. We are delighted to see that the difficulties of managing co-produced research is being recognised and supported. And if you work in a university in one of these roles then take a look and consider attending their inaugural event on the 11th July.