RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2012

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247 Social and Cultural Geographies of Impact (1): Impact Statements / Critical Pathways to Impact
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Christopher Bear (Aberystwyth University)
Mia Hunt (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Sarah Mills (Loughborough University, UK)
Amanda Rogers (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Rebecca Sandover (University of Exeter)
Chair(s) Christopher Bear (Aberystwyth University)
Sarah Mills (Loughborough University, UK)
Timetable Thursday 05 July 2012, Session 3 (13:10 - 14:50)
Room David Hume Tower - Faculty Room South
Session abstract This session will explore the emerging social and cultural geographies of ‘impact’. Whilst currently understood (or conceived) in terms of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), this session aims to unpack and expand understandings and conceptualizations of impact, generating discussion and debate through two innovative sessions. The first session will host very short, critical ‘impact statements’ (short papers or think pieces) from a range of academic and non-academic participants at AC2012.The second focuses on the ‘impact of impact’ on academic research, contextualizing debates on impact through a series of postcard prompt questions and small group discussions: What is ‘impact’? How do we evidence ‘impact’? How do those outside the academy understand ‘impact’? What are the stakes of ‘impact’ for postgraduates? Overall, this session seeks to generate a forum for discussing, debating, supporting and listening to ideas about ‘impact’ as we navigate through the current landscape of geography in higher education and research institutions.

'Open' Session: Beyond the podium and the PowerPoint
- To promote discussion on ‘impact’, giving designated time to ‘voices’ from across the academic and non-academic spectrum through short ‘discussion’ papers or think pieces
- To create a space for researchers working on issues of public importance wanting to engage with wider audiences beyond ‘the
academy’
- To broaden the perspectives and approaches represented at the conference through including non-academic speakers
- To incorporate ‘outside’ engagement and inclusive participation through twitter feed

A short introduction will set-the-scene, contextualize the ‘impact’ debate, inform participants of the structure and introduce the live twitter-feed that will be run by a designated committee member across the two sessions.

In this first session, we will be inviting 5 minute ‘impact statements’ (think pieces or discussion monologues) through a CFP for this session. With a slightly more traditional ‘chair’, and ‘discussant’ at the end of the session, this first session will try and represent a range of voices from academic and non-academic participants on ‘impact’. Furthermore, the call for papers will highlight a broad range of potential topics: critical, reflective, positive, negative, participatory, creative, interpretive, and ensure that it is not a ‘closed’ session. We are very keen to hear from postgraduate voices about their experiences or interpretations of ‘impact’.
Linked Sessions Social and Cultural Geographies of Impact (2): Answers on a Postcard?
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2012@rgs.org
A Place for Curiosity in the Age of Impact?
Richard Phillips (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Should scholars and scientists concentrate on being useful, or should they be guided primarily by curiosity? This stark choice--between usefulness and curiosity--has been mobilised implicitly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in proposals to assess academic research on the basis of its social and economic impact. In this commentary, I ask whether there is still a place for curiosity in the 'Age of Impact'.
What is the impact of histories and geographies of science?
Anna Carlsson-Hyslop (Cardiff University / Lancaster University, UK)
How can research on the histories and geographies of science have impact in today's society? I would like to discuss this using as a case study my research on the development of storm surge forecasting formulae at the Tidal Institute (TI) in Liverpool between 1919 and 1959. My PhD examined developments in how and why scientific research in this area has been supported and funded, and the impact of these arrangements on the types of knowledge produced. During the one year ESRC postdoctoral fellowship I have recently been given, I plan to consider in a critical way how such academic work can have ‘impact’ and what ‘impact’ means in the humanities. My strategy to answer these questions is to carefully learn more about public engagement and collaboratively develop methods of communicating my research to specific groups, including contemporary scientists, Liverpool residents and visitors to the city, and especially policy makers.
Outcomes: A view from Scottish Government
Katriona Carmichael (Scottish Government, UK)
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Impact and the RGS-IBG
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How bad research might achieve strong REF impact
Jonathan Mendel (University of Dundee, UK)
A 2010 BIS-commissioned report on 'The Shape of Jobs to Come' will serve as a case study of research impact. This example from BIS’s work will be used to show how extremely poor quality research could nonetheless achieve excellent impact – according to likely REF metrics – and how this process could continue unimpeded in the medium-term. I will raise concerns about whether including impact in the REF might reward poor quality research that is marketed well to government and media.
Impact: a masterful blow or walking hand in hand?
Rachel Pain (Newcastle University, UK)
I reflect on responses to the impact agenda of individual Universities, the REF, and Geography as a discipline. I will engage a sweepingly generalised dualistic characterisation of these as (i) elite, masculinist modes of public geography that entrench academic power, versus (ii) lower-key, collaborative alliances that may destabilise it.
Accidental impact
James Kneale (University College London, UK)
How does research on nineteenth- and twentieth-century drinking become Select Committee evidence? Does this kind of accidental impact ‘work’ in the way we might expect it to? Or might it be more useful to use it to reflect on the way it makes visible possible connections between academia, government, and the press?
Impact for postgraduates: in search of the Holy Grail?
Jennifer Turner (Aberystwyth University / University of Leicester, UK)
As a doctoral student, the word impact is a constant pressure on everyday life, owing to the demands to consider it in terms of funding, publishing and future career. I offer a consideration of the way in which early-career geographers understand and engage with the institutional demands upon their research, in order for them to reinforce their academic power in an environment which is demanding ever more.
Deadly Impact: The Construction of Expertise and Responsibility
Lakhbir Jassal (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
There are three impact points I wish to flag in relation to my PhD research, situated within the cultural and political field of necrogeography/geography of death: academic expertise; industry expertise; and participants’ expertise. Firstly, the construction of expertise is critical when researching a dying field in geography that needs impact through academic resuscitation. Secondly, industry expertise is important when learning from the ‘death-care’ profession and sharing knowledge that seeks to impact the industry. Finally, participant’s (living and dead) help create the researcher’s subjective expertise by embedding knowledge and duties of moral responsibility. What makes impactful research is personal and political knowledge shaped by the construction of expertise by academia; industry; and lives involved in the research process. Postgraduate impact should therefore be measured by personal growth as students, experts in training, and as responsible citizens active in the lives of others
Brokering knowledge for a broad audience
Ruth Wolstenholme (SNIFFER (Scotland & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research), UK)
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Policing Research and the Geographies of Missing People
Penny Woolnough (Grampian Police, UK)
"Research impact? I would say research has impact if, for example, it helped me at two in the morning when I am risk assessing and allocating resources regarding a missing vulnerable adult?" – quote from a Police Control Room Inspector. As researchers, how can we achieve this? In this short input, using examples from ongoing ESRC funded research into the geographies of missing people, I will discuss the importance of engagement with end users, during the design, conduction and dissemination of research, to maximise impact.
Building resilience through community arts: A scoping study with disabled young people and young people facing mental health challenges
Hannah MacPherson (University of Brighton, UK)
This research project explores how community visual arts practice can help young people flourish and connect with their communities despite adverse experiences they may have faced. The research focuses on young people with disabilities and young people facing mental health challenges, and explores the potential ‘resilience benefits’ of visual arts for these people. The project involves a review of existing research findings in this area and a series of collaborative arts workshops in Brighton and Hove with young people with moderate learning disabilities and young people facing mental health challenges. Hannah Macpherson is PI on this collaborative AHRC funded connected community project. During the presentation she will explore some of the benefits and challenges of this sort of research which is constructed have a ‘direct impact’; and reflect on the difficulties of speaking to a ‘resilience agenda’ as it is conceived by both funders and an interdisciplinary team of researchers.
Impacting who, when, and for whose gain?
Jenny Pickerill (University of Leicester)
My main concern is who we intend to impact with our research and for whose gain. An advocate of participatory and activist approaches within academia, I understand impact as helping those with whom we work (whether directly or indirectly). Often for social geographers this can be marginalised or ‘hidden’ groups – those ignored by government policies or misunderstood by society. These groups (in my case grassroots eco-builders, low impact development pioneers, and Australian Indigenous activists) often request immediate support, immediate access to research results, and immediate impact. As such there is a timeliness to impact in participatory work. Any delay reduces the usefulness to participants and tends instead to be of greater gain to the academic – something for their CV rather than meaningful for the groups involved. How then can we encourage (and measure?) more focus on impact as helping others, whether that be working with them to advance their cause, or aiding recognition of their actions?
Reflections on the politics of ‘retaking impact proposals’
Deirdre Conlon (Saint Peter’s College, USA)
Over the course of a project examining the challenges and mitigating strategies implemented by asylum seeker support organizations in the US and UK, our research group (comprised by myself, Nick Gill, Imogen Tyler, and Ceri Oeppen) intentionally deliberated on the nature of public geography, impact ‘agendas’, our positionalities and aspirations in pursuing this ESRC-funded research. By reflecting on the series of open-ended conversations in which we engaged these matters, this critical impact statement seeks to examine what public engagement has come to stand for. Then, thinking through perspectives on autonomous migration and drawing upon Rachel Pain et al. who call for a ‘retaking of impact proposals’ (2011: 183), I consider how we might embark upon projects that imagine and realize impacts and public research more broadly as autonomous and imbued with possibilities for producing counter-public(s).
The AHRC Landscape and Environment Programme Director’s Impact Fellowship
Lucy Veale (The University of Nottingham, UK)
The Landscape and Environment Programme was one of the first strategic research Programmes to be launched by the Arts and Humanities Research Council soon after it acquired its royal charter in 2005. In 2010 Programme Director Stephen Daniels was awarded an ‘Impact Fellowship’. The aim of the research activities completed and events organised under the Fellowship has been to further enhance and develop the work already carried out by the Landscape and Environment Programme (2005-2010). The Fellowship has also used research on landscape and environment as a framework for demonstrating the value of arts and humanities research more widely. This statement, by the Impact Fellowship’s Research Fellow will explore definitions of ‘impact’ and review the achievements of the Impact Fellowship
Making is connecting: followthethings.com's shopping bags.
Ian Cook (University of Exeter, UK)
followthethings.com is an online shopping site, a database, a resource and a field-site for people who want to learn from, and to create new, ‘follow the things’ work. Last summer we had 5,000 reusable shopping bags 'Made in China': designed by us, made in the same factory as Tesco's, to the same specification, allowing us access to factory audits and shipping documents, track their travels on a container ship via an iPhone app, and allowing us to pass them on to you and anyone else, to continue their travels and lives. We made them to be taken shopping, to provoke thought about their contents, and for shoppers to take and upload photos and research on them on flickr. David Gauntlett has argued that creative, making processes can engage publics positively and sometimes more deeply in tricky, thorny issues. That’s what our bags are for re. trade (in)justice. Help yourself to one at the conference, and bring it along so we can discuss its 'impact' potentials.
Open Discussion
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