• Applied Research

    For some time, I have pondered the difference between the applied research we carry out within the cultural sector and the academic research carried out within Higher Education. As a practitioner/ consultant researcher I have always sought to ensure my research is as robust and rigorous as it possibly can be and have experienced much cynicism about this when working with academics. At international conferences my work has sometimes been presented as case studies rather than 'real research' and this has constantly frustrated me. Recently, I have had the opportunity to reflect on these experiences when undertaking my professional doctorate at Middlesex University, and a meeting I attended today triggered some thoughts relating to this.

    Kurt Lewin wrote in 1946 "Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice." My belief has always been that research is of the greatest value if it makes a difference, if it produces something, changes something ....my interest lies in research that will make a difference. Applied research is designed to solve practical problems not to develop knowledge for knowledge's sake; it is immediate and direct in its impact and is often time sensitive. It is commissioned and therefore designed to meet a client's objectives and needs. But perhaps most importantly, it has consequences and will generate action. The responsibility of the consultant researcher is therefore to ensure that the research is valid and reliable and that conclusions are sound.

    Today I realised that the times are a-changing ..... recent developments within the research councils mean that the old approach to knowledge transfer has now been replaced with knowledge exchange .... 'pathways to impact' require funded research to prove social, cultural or economic impact and so we now find ourselves as practitioners being courted. Partnership working is being encouraged and academic researchers are under significant pressure to generate funding. Is a hybrid model beginning to emerge? Will we see more partnerships and collaborative research programmes that are genuinely working to overturn some of the preconceptions about the relative value of different forms of research? Will we see more effective and equal partnerships between the sector and HE which will bring mutual benefit and will assist the cultural sector in generating stronger and more robust data and evidence?

    1 Comment

    • 1. Sep 26 2012 12:55PM by Sarah Zoutewelle

      Interesting that this has come up for you, it is the focus of an article I'm working on for a care magazine. I"m challenging the idea that art interventions need to be measured by conventional research means, or made to feel inferior if they are only evidence based or case studies. I'll be arguing that art's, role rather than trying to fit into the existing systems, is to renew those very systems. So it will be a plea for artists and art organisations to communicate more clearly what their methodology is, communicate better across disciplines, and claim their position as a group which has something significant to add to the collective knowledge of other disciplines. That's me on my soapbox, I'll climb down now and am looking forward to meeting in November. cheers, Sarah

Burns Associates

Development Consultancy


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