N8 Research Partnership Collaborates To Explore Potential Of Co-Production


A new programme to explore the potential of knowledge ‘co-production’ between researchers and non-academics has been launched by the N8 Research Partnership.

The N8 has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to work with industry partners, the policy community and the voluntary sector to examine how co-production can shape approaches to social sciences research.

The co-production of research stresses the importance of collaboration between academics and research users, changing the way social science research is conducted and applied.  This programme aims to explore how this potential can best be harnessed and thereby enhance the value of social science research to new and existing research users.

Closer working between researchers and the designers, deliverers and recipients of goods and services has the potential to generate insights which can better address the big challenges facing contemporary society.

The N8 already has a strong track record in creating pioneering research collaborations in science and engineering by forging strong links with industry and matching demand from the private sector with the world-class research carried out in the N8 universities.

However, this kind of collaboration is relatively under-developed in social sciences research. The ESRC funding will enable a multi-disciplinary team from the N8 to work alongside non-academics and practitioners.  The programme will be able to draw on the experience of the highly successful N8 Industry Innovation Forum, which connects leading businesses with research intensive universities and other key organisations involved in innovation.

The programme is being co-ordinated on behalf of the N8 Research Partnership by the University of Sheffield.

Professor Heather Campbell, Principal Investigator of the co-production programme (pictured), said: “This programme will help social science researchers gain a better understanding of the theory and practice of co-production and identify opportunities for co-produced research.

“The contemporary challenges facing society, such as climate change, an ageing population and economic growth, are complex and we need to harness the benefits of novel research approaches.

“By academic researchers and practitioners working alongside each other there is a greater opportunity for mutual learning and therefore better informed research – ultimately increasing research impact and broadening potential applications, as well as aiding the discovery and exploration of new intellectual challenges.”

Adrian Alsop, ESRC Director for Research, Partnerships and International, commented: “We’re delighted to be supporting this proposal as we recognise that to achieve excellence with impact, co-production arrangements of this kind are necessary as they provide the opportunity for collaboration between academic and non-academic researchers, which ultimately enhances the value of social science research across a number of pressing challenges facing society today.”

Activities planned as part of the programme include a workshop and a number of small scale pilot projects.

The workshop will take place on December 5, 2014, from 9.30am to 4.30pm at The Edge, Sheffield. The Workshop has been co-designed by researchers and non-academics with the aim of clarifying the key opportunities and barriers associated with the co-production of knowledge and identifying the issues and innovative practices which might be explored through the pilot projects.

Small group and plenary discussions will be stimulated by contributions from speakers with a variety of backgrounds including Professor John Forester from Cornell University and Martien Kuitenbrouwer, District Mayor for West Amsterdam and Director of the Programme for Public Mediation at the University of Amsterdam.

The outcomes of the research will be presented in a report examining the opportunities and challenges associated with co-production for academics and research users, and the results are expected to be published in 2015.