On the 29th of March an event was held at the University of Lincoln for early career researchers (ECRs) from across the Midlands. This British Academy ECR Network event aimed to support ECRs that would like to conduct research with industry.
Following a series of presentations around various aspects of working with industry, the afternoon session consisted of experienced researchers sharing their experiences of working with various types of industry. There were three panels of researchers, with presentations on a) innovative ways in which arts work with industry, b) building relationships with industry to sustain research, and c) engaging with public sector organisations. Dr Coral Sirdifield from CaHRU was part of the latter panel chaired by Dr Lauren Smith, speaking about how she has engaged with the Probation Service throughout her research career to date.
Coral spoke about how she had initially drawn upon past relationships from her previous role as a Senior Administrator within the probation service and made connections at conferences that she had attended as a Research Assistant. Through these connections she was able to develop funded studies, and she went on to present the findings from these studies at various events. Doing these presentations then enabled her to build further relationships with people attending those events, and through this, to widen her network.
Coral also discussed the importance of considering higher and lower-level gatekeepers and their pressures and priorities when developing ideas for research projects as a way of making initial contact with industry go well. She also discussed the importance of considering the methodological approach within any proposed research study carefully – ensuring that participation is straightforward, and that as far as possible, project designs are flexible to allow you to respond to changing pressures that the industry partner (as well as University staff) may face. She emphasized that it is key to collaborate with stakeholders from the project design stage where possible – to ensure buy-in to project ideas from the start, and to explore any existing sources of data. Finally, she stressed the importance of ‘closing the circle’ – ensuring that findings are not only shared with an academic audience, but are also with the people that took part in, and supported the research, and that researchers listen to feedback from stakeholders. Coral feels that this is particularly important for ensuring that relationships that have been developed with industry can continue to develop further in the future.