How one's research can make a difference

[2017-05-12] How do I, as a PhD student, meet the requirements and expectations of my research academic and social impact? In a workshop on May 31st, Anna Sténs, historian and innovation ambassador at humfak and Bodil Formark, historian and research coordinator of the External Relations Unit, would like to invite PhD students to see the potentials in their dissertation projects.

Anna Sténs and Bodil Formark Photo: Per Melander, Umu 

Bodil Formark tells that she was contacted by the director of FADC, Annika Egan Sjölander, in her job as External Relations Officer (ER) and Contact Person for Humfak. They talked about how there are more relevant themes in addition to career planning that could be interesting to address. The idea of ​​impact came quite quickly on the agenda. About how doctoral students can get the tools and skills to see what impact their research can have both inside and outside the academy.

“Impact is currently such a buzzword that seems to be mentioned everywhere and because Anna, as an ambassador of innovation, is part of the collaboration structure at humfak, we want to design a workshop that will enable doctoral students to grasp what the impact concept is”, says Bodil Formark, and continues:

“Then it is also fits well in relation to the latest research proposition from the Swedish government: Knowledge in collaboration, which emphasizes the importance of research as a benefit for society more clearly than before. Doctoral students are therefore a group that will most likely be more actively involved in this research policy. Then it is good that during their doctoral education they get a chance to learn how to articulate what impact their research has, in relation to the target groups and what social issues their research is likely to bear”, says Bodil Formark.

The workshop will contain different parts where it initially will be about contextualizing the concept of impact.

“Impact is included in a conceptual string, including collaboration and innovation. How are these concepts linked together? Why is it so much talk about these terms right now? How do different research funders relay to impact? We also want to use the workshop as an opportunity to discuss what this development means for the challenges and opportunities for researchers within the field of the humanities”.

Bodil Formark says that if something has become clear, for example within a development project on impact, currently being conducted at the External Relations Unit, is how necessary it is to think broader about which professions within the academy that have competence in this field. The workshop has therefore invited Elin Andersson, who is a Communications Officer at the EU project Fair Tax at the department Legal Forum, Umeå University. In the course of her work Elin Andersson has looked into the in the concept of impact.

"In the afternoon, we will get more hands on where we find out what wills, skills and experiences that exist in the group and how to get inspiration from others. Especially from researchers in the UK, where impact already has been weighed in as one of the factors in obtaining research funding”, says Anna Sténs and continues:

"We will look at how other researchers within humanities have described the social impact of their works. The available research databases provide the opportunity to find cases that are very close to one’s own research area. It can inspire and make it easier to see and describe the effects your own research has or can have”.

Both Anna and Bodil further emphasize the importance of starting from the questions: Why do you research your topic? What drives you? And about how much of impact that already exists in the humanities and how to capture, create awareness and articulate it.

"As far as we know, this is the first time this workshop is held for this target group at Umeå University. And we are convinced that, for example, the exercises that Anna designed is something that would work for doctoral students at the other faculties as well", says Bodil Formark.

The Workshop will take place at Wednesday May 31, at 9.15-16.00, at HB201: Research that makes a difference? On the academic and societal impact of research

Editor: Per Melander

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