Connecting Epistemologies: Methods and Early Career Researchers in the Connected Communities Programme

Lead Research Organisation: City University London
Department Name: Sch of Arts

Abstract

The Connected Communities (CC) programme has been designed to be methodologically eclectic, reflecting both the range of approaches found in the various disciplines constituting the arts and humanities, as well as the cross-research council basis for the funded projects. Methodological eclecticism can be an obvious strength, offering the possibility of synthesising a range of approaches, generating diverse forms of data and answering complex questions which cut across traditional academic disciplines. However, there are risks with this approach, risks which are grounded in the uneven distribution of power and expertise within academic research projects. This research will explore these risks in two ways, in co-operation with a specific community: Early Career Researchers (ECRs). The project will run a series of events that will involve ECRs in the research process looking at differing methodological approaches within Connected Communities. It will also gather data on the ECR experience, via a mentoring scheme.
Connecting Epistemologies will begin with an event that will showcase and develop ECR understanding of research methods for doing community research. It will then run a targeted mentoring and data collection programme over the course of four months. Finally it will run a workshop with the participants and the research team to prepare materials for a final event. The final event will be targeted across the range of academic disciplines involved in community research, which will present the findings from the data collection phase as well as papers offering further reflections on the methodological challenges facing community research.
ECRs are a community defined and created by the funding council, giving the research a clearly bounded group to work with that has three important characteristics. 1) They are quasi-elite community (skilled but peripheral and precarious). Elite communities have not been made a substantive focus of the CC and this project would contribute to the gap in the CC work. 2) ECRs are a community with specific needs who would potentially benefit from the follow on funding to understand their role and position within the CC programme 3) ECRs working on CC projects are often at the front line of trying to navigate different disciplinary logics with community collaboration.
The peripheral but elite nature of the ECR community creates an opportunity to explore and to challenge the assumptions underpinning the Connected Communities programme. The programme was designed to be collaborative. This project will raise questions about collaboration, as it focuses on an elite community who are embedded in methodological traditions that give greater or lesser status to collaboration. The project, when asking what the methodological circumstances necessary for collaboration might be, can also ask when collaboration begins and ends. In particular it will raise questions of power and control over data and lived experiences. How do lived experiences become data? How can these be presented? Who has control over them?
These questions are explored by understanding the lived experiences of the ECR community, by the recruitment of 10 ECRs. They will be recruited by an event that seeks to raise awareness of the range of methodological possibilities associated with community research, but also to challenge the Connected Communities programme's assumptions that these may all be complimentary. The recruitment will be driven by the work of the community partner and members of the project team who have focused on participatory and collaborative research methods.

Planned Impact

This project is focused on the quasi-elite community of ECRs within the Connected Communities programme. There will be impact for policy makers and managers within the AHRC and RCUK, particularly those involved in steering the Connected Communities programme. This aspect of impact will be conducted through the report and via the final event, which will invite the relevant staff and decision makers to attend.
Most crucially the impacts of Connecting Epistemologies will be distinctly long term and will be felt by the community targeted by the project. Connecting Epistemologies seeks to reconfigure the understanding of community within Connected Communities, to allow that programme to recognise the existence of a community, in this case ECRs, who maybe part of the researchers that are assumed to be external or outwith the communities subject to research. Thus Connecting Epistemologies, as conceived in the case for support, is as much to do with the intellectual and personal development, via reflective practices, of the participants as it is to do with producing academic outputs. As a result of this focus it is estimated that the impact for both the project participants and the project team will be important in ways that will only become clear later on in their careers. The experience of being the researched, rather than the researcher, for the participants, alongside the experience of academic mentoring and project management for the project team.
Furthermore the disseminated impacts of the project on the team and participants will diffuse in complex ways across the Connected Communities programme. This diffusion will be hard to estimate, but it is expected that those members of the project team involved in ongoing Connected Communities projects will bring their leadership, management and understanding of methods back into those projects. The participants will bring a further developed understanding of both the experience of being researched and of their own methods and methodological practices into their Connected Communities and future academic, or indeed non-academic, work.
The understanding of impact presented here may seem focused on academic and policy beneficiaries. However this is the point of Connecting Epistemologies, which is a self conscious attempt to question the boundaries of community and academia that are implicit within the Connected Communities programme. This questioning extends, therefore, to the idea of impact.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project explored and captured the narratives of early career researchers working on the Connected Communities programme.
Exploitation Route Anyone working on ECR experiences and policy, as well as those working on Higher Education more generally.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education

URL https://earlycareerresearchers.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/connecting-epistemologies-final-event-audio-powerpoints-and-storify/