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Engaged Research – a joined-up approach to tackling the big issues

Posted: 17 January, 2017

All across Ireland, academics are actively working with the public, NGOs and government on ‘engaged research’ projects that aim to solve many of the great social issues of our times and DIT colleagues have been involved in a wide range of projects.

L_R) Prof Ray O’Neill, Chair, Campus Engage; Prof Philip Nolan, Chair, IUA; Deirdre Garvey, Director, the Wheel; Eucharia Meehan, Director, IRC.

A new report shines a spotlight on engaged research and establishes a new framework for this vital work. 

The Report - entitled “Engaged Research – Society & Higher Education Working Together to Address Grand Societal Challenges” - is produced by Campus Engage with the support of the Irish Research Council.  It provides a framework for engagement between civic and civil society, industry and professionals in research at higher education institutions; and a series of recommendations for higher education institution leaders, research funding organisations, and policy-making bodies to promote excellence in engaged research and to make Ireland the benchmark for collaboration on international engaged research initiatives.

“The Framework provided in this Report on how to deliver engaged research is the first of its kind, and completely unique. It is informed by the public and researchers, for the public and researchers! It is directly responding to our national and EU Government policy to make higher education outputs more responsible to the public and agile to societal demands”. Prof Ray O’Neill, Campus Engage Chair

The Irish Research Council strongly promotes engagement as part of the research process. As a result, researchers in our Universities and Institutes of Technology are now making more explicit the connections between their research and its capacity to generate new products, processes, services to address societal challenges, and impact issues of public concern.

“Engaged research, based on proven good practice, is truly a ‘win-win’ for all stakeholders. It is no longer acceptable for research participants to be seen simply as research subjects – participants have much to contribute to shaping the right research questions and methodologies, and assisting in the analysis and interpretation of results.” Eucharia Meehan, Director, Irish Research Council.

Dr. Catherine Bates, Project Co-ordinator of the DIT “Students Learning with Communities” programme, worked with Campus Engage on the Report.  Speaking after the launch, she said “It was really positive to work with colleagues in Campus Engage and across the Universities to produce the report.  Through the consultation process with DIT colleagues and our community partners we arrived at a consensus on the rewards, challenges and enablers of community-engaged research and some great examples of collaborative research projects between DIT students, staff and community partners  are included in the report, from tourism to spatial planning, and from visual communications to product design. “

The Campus Engage Engaged Research Working Group consulted widely during the process of writing the report, culminating in a series of workshops with over 320 participants, across the country during September and October 2016. A full list of all participants is available on page 89 of the report.