Getting Your Voice Heard. Our Challenge to You!

Written by Dr Kathy Barrett, University Lead for Research Staff Development 

Is there anyone out there who does not want to be heard?  As an academic finding a way to engage others with your work is vital.  When we sit in a research seminar listening to an eloquent and illuminating speaker we typically enjoy the experience so much more than we do with those who haven’t quite mastered the art.  When we read a beautifully crafted description of research, be it a paper, monograph or book, we derive almost as much pleasure from the writing as we do from the content.  My experience of such papers, and yes, even as a scientist I have read some like this, is that I have instantly wanted to meet the author. How many of us wish that we could be that speaker or writer!

The Research Staff Event 2017 is all about finding the secret to effective communication, with fellow academics about your research, with others within the university setting about how we work together and with the wider world about the work we do and the benefits of that work to society.  There will be workshops at the event addressing a wide variety of areas and modes of communication.  There will be something to suit all, and also to explore new methods that could be your key to unlocking the door to more effective communication and new audiences.

To add an extra challenge and enhance your opportunity to put your learning into practice we are including a competition for the best communication produced on the day.  The challenge is to produce an example of communication that gets the message across succinctly and effectively.  In the afternoon workshops we invite you to work towards producing this example.  It could be a series of tweets, a blog, a film, a written text, a busk, a public address, a film or anything else that can be submitted and viewed in two minutes or less.

The criteria for judging your competition entries are that your communication piece be engaging, informative and compulsive.  Judging will happen at the event by our panel of experts and prizes awarded to the winning team.  After the event we will upload all competition entries onto the event website so you can all view them.  We may even run a people’s choice version!

Workshop places are limited.  To ensure that you are able to submit an entry in your preferred medium, register for the Research Staff Event and your choice of workshop now!  Deadline for registration is 10am on Wednesday 23rd August.

After the event we will be offering up to £2,000 through our King’s Community Fund for projects aimed at getting your voice as research staff heard within King’s.  This could be, for example but not limited to, research into how we communicate, events or policy making.  More information about the fund and a workshop on internal communication that will be held before the application deadline will be posted after the Research Staff Event on our website and in our newsletter.

What to Expect at the Research Staff Event 2017

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui, Research Staff Development Officer

Getting your voice heard and understood is a fundamental part of life for most of us. As a research staff member, it couldn’t be more essential as your ideas, views, and the research you are undertaking will not only leave an imprint on King’s, but also on communities and societies across the UK and beyond. The Centre for Research Staff Development is delighted to welcome you to the Research Staff Event 2017, an event dedicated to inspire you to express your views and expertise creatively and effectively in a broad range of contexts.

What can you expect at the Event?

  • Keynote talks on various topics including historical contributions that researchers at King’s have made to society and how their voices were successfully and less successfully heard and how experts and universities are responding to the current post-truth climate in which individuals and groups that are most effective at misleading are often the ones to come out triumphant.
  • Workshops that will encourage you to consider different areas that you can apply your voice in, including ensuring that research staff are represented in communications across King’s, public engagement, consultancies and entrepreneurship, building your academic profile, and debates.
  • Workshops that will help you grasp novel skills to express your views and knowledge in a variety of ways, including using social media, writing for non-expert audiences, film, public speaking, and creative channels, such as competitions, fairs, festivals and busking.
  • At the core of the event will be a debate on the motion: This House Believes that King’s Listens to its Research Staff.  One team will debate for the motion, while another team will debate against it. If you don’t sign up to participate in the debate, you will still have the opportunity to view the debate as a member of the audience and ask the debating teams questions.
  • Working with colleagues from across disciplines to test your newfound communication skills gained in workshops to create an entry for the Event competition and enter the running for the competition prizes.

Why should you attend the Event?

  • It will offer you novel perspectives on areas you can promote your voice in using tools and communication streams you might not have considered before.
  • It will allow you to learn ways to amplify the collective voice of you and your colleagues as King’s research staff community.
  • It will hone your existing skills and allow you to gain new transferable, communication skills that you’ll be able to apply to whatever career path you pursue.
  • You will have the opportunity to build your network by meeting colleagues from different disciplines and engaging with professional services staff from various departments at King’s to find out how they can support you.
  • To break up your day-to-day routine and have fun! With the chance to mingle with new friends and potential future collaborators over lunch, participate in (or observe) an exciting debate, and challenge your skills in the competition, this event will offer something of value for everyone, no matter what your strengths or interests may be.

Learn more about the event and register here. The deadline to register is 10am on 23rd August. Workshops will be filled on a first come, first serve basis so you are encouraged to register early to get a place in your choice of workshops.

In case you need additional incentive to attend, here are some highlights from last year’s event to give you a taste of the enjoyable and stimulating day that we have lined up for you.

Public Engagement – But Why?

Written by Dr Nigel Eady 

“So what is it you actually do?” It’s a question that many researchers get asked by friends and family, at parties, over a meal, or almost anywhere. How do you respond? Which version do you give them – the big picture, sounds interesting but is far from the day to day reality, or the fine detail, might send them to sleep version? Is this public engagement? Well, it certainly could be, but most people would define public engagement much more broadly.

I would describe it as ‘any process through which people interact with research’. Personally, I think, the more interesting types of public engagement involve as much ‘listening’ by researchers as they do ‘telling’. Giving people information is important, but having a dialogue, a two-way conversation, can be even more useful, for both parties. You might even think of engagement as being a broad spectrum of approaches.

In recent years, public engagement has moved from being under the radar, to being required explicitly by funders, see the 2010 Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research and RCUK webpages. Whilst some would definitely debate whether it is really a part of normal research practice, it is only going to become more important. The requirement for impact case studies as part of the Research Excellence Framework is another important factor.

One important reason to do public engagement is that much research is conducted with public money, and people therefore have a right to understand how that money is being spent and what it’s achieving. But if that’s not sufficient for you to consider engaging people, here are my 5 top reasons for engaging publics.

1. Enhance your communication skills

For five years I ran various projects to help researchers engage people. It showed me, time and again, that the discipline of having to explain your research to someone else is invaluable for teaching you to communicate more clearly, simply and engagingly.

2. Ask better research questions

As well as communicating better, it’s remarkable the number of times that the questions people ask about your research lead to fresh insights, even new avenues of research.

3. Attract funding

There are many small funding schemes for public engagement. In fact we have one ourselves! By successfully winning funding for activities, not only will you learn how to write a persuasive funding bid, you will also demonstrate to potential, future funders your commitment to your research.

4. Increase your enjoyment

Any form of engagement can be a welcome relief from the rigours of defending your research to your peers! It can also be a helpful reminder as to why you do what you do.

5 .Strengthen democracy

Engaging people with research has a key role to play in opening up decision-making. You can involve people who feel disconnected from society and build trust in public institutions. It’s also an easy way for universities to respond to social need, in particular, at the local level.

Don’t just take my word for it! There are many more reasons to do public engagement. Who knows, you might just feel a little bit more comfortable when you’re asked, “So what is it you do?”