Practice research remains a hot topic and we wanted to add a super speedy twitter layer to our network to promote events and share news. If you have a twitter account please link to @4junegroup.
Some thoughts from applied ethnomusicology and research development offered by Dr Muriel Swijghuisen Reigersberg
On the 20th May 2016 I had the great pleasure of presenting at the Coventry Impact Summit on practice research and impact. The summit aimed to:
(a) understand how to improve the impact of research;
(b) raise awareness of impact-generating practices and techniques
(c) consider how one might translate this learning into discipline-specific practice in order to deliver stronger impact;
(d) facilitate the sharing of experiences and expertise.
The event happily included a number of representatives working in the arts and humanities as well as interdisciplinary and STEM fields. The audience in attendance was a healthy mixture of academic and professional services staff from a variety of disciplines.
Using non-specialist language, I explored my own academic practice research methodologies in my presentation “Method is Impact is Outputs: Non-linear Approaches to Impact Generation to Practice Research”. I high-lighted some of the debates that are circulating in practice research spheres, whilst showing that ethnomusicologists can be practice researchers and some of us are especially capable of generating Impact.
Although being affiliated to a Psychology department, I am not a psychologist, but an applied, medical ethnomusicologist: for simplicity’s sake, an anthropologist of music who uses applied, culturally appropriate methods to promote wellbeing through the making of music. Colleagues of mine, particularly in the USA, work on projects related to HIV, Malaria and water sanitation.
I believe that some of our collaborative, performative, ethnographic approaches might be useful to other forms of practice research, as a way of evidencing impact and documenting the research process.
My own research question was: How does Christian choral singing impact on the construction of Australian Aboriginal identities? To answer my question, I facilitated an Indigenous Australian choir in Hopevale, Cape York in Australia, singing at prisons, Indigenous rehabilitation centres, for tourist audiences and for community events as well as regional artistic ventures, such as the Queensland Music Festival. We performed. We practiced together, and I researched with the help of my singers. I found that if done in culturally appropriate ways, choral singing has a positive impact on identity constructs. It showed the wider world that, in the words of one of my singers: ‘more than drunks come out of Hopevale’.
The choir and I appeared on radio and in the local news. We even made a little bit of income which was set aside in the bank for future choir initiatives.
My method: choral facilitation, led to outputs: performances, concerts and rehearsals, a radio appearance, mentions in the local news and invitations to perform at festivals.
The impact: wellbeing for the singers and their relatives in rehab or prison and a heightened awareness of Australian Aboriginal diversity amongst tourist audiences in Outback Australia.
About my impact: impact did not occur after my research. It occurred during my research and in turn led to new questions arising. The Impact was non-linear. This non-linear creation of impact is not well-understood by the sector at large currently. Practice researchers have a role to play in helping shape better policies and administrative procedures by sharing their views constructively on this subject.
To conclude, practice researchers should consider ethnography, auto-ethnography and philosophy as ways into investigating impact and co-creation. In ethnomusicology we have addressed the challenge of writing about music (i.e. the textual/ experiential debate) by using philosophy. Hermeneutics, phenomenology, existentialism and intersubjectivity in particular have allowed us to explore how the co-creative process of performance leads to the creation of new knowledge and how best to convey this new knowledge on paper. Philosophy has encouraged ethnomusicologists to question to what extent it is possible to comment accurately on other people’s experiences of creative practice (an exciting area of enquiry in neuropsychology too) and to think about what this means for studies of impact.
This philosophical background combined with musical practice is then supported by the ethnographic evidence: interviews with performers, audio visual examples of performances and the co-creative processes. Where possible ethnomusicologists then validate their interpretations of the co-creative experience by involving musicians in the academic analyses. If the researcher is the creator, then auto-ethnography is employed. We share with our co-creators what we have written about them and the processes of creation, ensuring that the presentation of this new knowledge avoids ethnocentric biases and acknowledges context-specific responses to creative processes. In some cases, ethnomusicologists have also been drawn to poetics and creative writing as a means of representing their intersubjective, embodied musical experiences on paper.
These approaches not only allow ethnomusicologists to problematize the concept of ‘impact’ as it pertains to practice research and its outputs, but within the written ethnography and ethnographic method there lies ample opportunity to discuss with artists and musicians how the creative process might be understood to be impactful beyond the academe and how this might be best evidenced, using appropriate techniques that are discipline-specific.
My belief is that the combination of approaches used in ethnomusicology is transferable to other areas of practice research and if this approach resonates with you then I would be interested to discuss this further so do contact me.
Dr Muriel E. Swijghuisen Reigersberg is Research Development and Policy Manager in the Research Office and a Visiting Research Fellow in the Music, Mind and Brain Centre, Department of Psychology, at Goldsmiths, University of London
On Wednesday 25 November, City University invites you to join a group of panellists to discuss the relationship between practice and research centring on John Croft’s article ‘Composition is not Research’ (Tempo, 69/272 (April 2015), pp. 6-11) and a response by City’s Head of Performance Ian Pace. Croft called for an end to the integration of composers into existing research structures of universities, and a return to the idea of ‘research equivalence’ instead. The December 2015 issue of Tempo will feature two articles in response, one by composer Camden Reeves, the other by City Head of Performance Ian Pace, entitled ‘Composition and Performance can be, and often have been, Research’. There are links to a number of other responses lower in the blog.
- Christopher Fox (Professor of Composition at Brunel University and editor of Tempo)
- Ian Pace (pianist and Lecturer in Music at City University)
- Miguel Mera (composer and Head of the Department of Music at City University)
- Annie Yim (pianist and DMA student at City University)
- Christine Dysers (PhD student in Music at City University)
- Camden Reeves (composer and Head of Music, University of Manchester)
- Jonathan Croft, ‘Composition is not Research.’
- Piers Hellawell, ‘Treating Composers as Researchers is Bonkers.’
- Luk Vaes, ‘When Composition is not Research.’
- Lawrence Dunn, ‘Squaring the damn composition-research circle.’
- Martin Parker Dixon, ‘Composition can be research (some comments on John Croft’s recent article).’
- David Pocknee, ‘Composition Is Not A Jaffa Cake, Research Is Not A Biscuit: A Riposte to John Croft.’
- Huib Schippers, ‘The Marriage of Art and Academia: Challenges and Opportunities for Music Research in Practice-based Environments.’
- Christopher Fox, ‘Music for a Dis-Uniting Kingdom?’ (Including some reflections on composition as research).
Further event details. Contact: Sam.MacKay.email@example.com
upcoming Media Practice Research Symposium forms part of the long-term ambition to support innovative and creative practice research in Goldsmiths’ Department of Media and Communications and you are welcome to participate in this free half-day event.
Our Media Practice Research Symposium has leading researchers and colleagues sharing experiences of practice research across a wide range of creative and professional media practice.
Our Guest Speakers: Dr. Kion Ahadi (Creative Skillset), Joanna Callaghan (University of Sussex), Prof. David Hendy (University of Sussex), Prof. Diane Kemp (Birmingham City University), and John Wyver (University of Westminster).
Abstracts & Speaker Biographies – Media Practice Research Symposium
Date: Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Start/End Times: 1.00pm – 5.00pm (followed by drinks)
Venue: Room 314, Professor Stuart Hall Building (links to map), Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths
Everyone is welcome though space is limited; register your attendance click on this link to Eventbrite (links to Eventbrite).
Enquiries to Richard MacDonald, Department of Media & Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org (links to email)
As a reminder of our symposium, all of the materials from the event are now available to download. The slides, notes and podcasts are organised by session and speaker. You are welcome to share the materials and please reference the speaker and event.
Symposium programme (including names of attendees): Symposium programme (0.16MB)
Welcome & Introductions by
Pat Loughrey (Warden, Goldsmiths): Pat Loughrey: Podcast (85MB)
Ben Johnson (Research Policy Adviser, HEFCE): Ben Johnson: Podcast (49MB)
Mark d’Inverno (Computing, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise, Goldsmiths): Mark d’Inverno: Podcast (34MB)
Different Perspectives I
Talk 1. Anne Tallentire (Art, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London):
Anne Tallentire: Podcast (133MB)
Talk 2. Steven Hill (Head of Research Policy, HEFCE):
Steven Hill: Slides (3MB); Steven Hill: Podcast (148MB)
Talk 3. Bruce Brown (Design, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Brighton): Bruce Brown: Podcast (146MB)
Different Perspectives II
Talk 4. Lauren Redhead (Music, Canterbury Christ Church University):
Lauren Redhead: Podcast (114MB)
Talk 5. Stella Hall (Festival director and consultant): Stella Hall: Podcast (151MB)
Talk 6. Sally Mackey (Applied Theatre, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama):
Slides – Sally Mackey (12MB); Sally Mackey: Podcast (116MB)
Talk 7. Janet Hodgson (Centre for Fine Art Research, Birmingham City University) and Helen Wickstead (Art/Archaeology, Kingston University): Janet Hodgson and Helen Wickstead: Podcast (180MB)
Q&A Panel chaired by Andrea Phillips (Art, Goldsmiths):
Q&A Panel: chaired by Andrea Phillips: Podcast (366MB)
Breakout Session I: Present and Future:
Breakout Session I: Present and Future – All groups (0.05MB)
Breakout Session II: The Environment:
Breakout Session II: The Environment : All groups (0.05MB)
Plenary session chaired by Simon McVeigh (Music, Goldsmiths):
Breakout sessions: Synthesis (0.08MB)
Dr Rachel Hann, Lecturer in Scenography in the School of Arts at University of Surrey invites your submissions to ‘Practice Matters’, an online section of Studies in Theatre & Performance (STP):
My attendance at the Goldsmiths event confirmed two things. Firstly, that I was not alone in wanting to move on from the defensive positions cultivated over the last 20 years. The proposal to focus on the future chimed with my own belief that the argument that ‘practice matters’ had been won (at least administratively). Secondly, the move away from the micro-politics of practice as/through/based/led was particularly welcome. I am therefore an out and out convert. ‘Practice Research’ works for me. It focuses on the wider issues related to how researchers share, apply and critique knowledge borne of practice.
Equally, the discussions on June 4th were particularly timely. My colleague Dr. Victor Ladron de Guevara (Plymouth University) and I had undertaken a similar debate at the Theatre & Performance Research Association’s (TaPRA) annual conference nine months prior. An outcome of this discussion was to approach the editors of Studies in Theatre & Performance (STP) and set up a new section devoted to sharing and promoting Practice Research projects. Details of our vision were outlined at the start of the year in our formal announcement published within the journal (Hann and Ladron de Guevara 2014). Our agenda was simple: in order for Practice Research to evidence its knowledge claims, we require a peer-reviewed archive of related projects.
The result was ‘Practice Matters’. An online section of STP that would host a range of media content that clearly evidences excellence in questions of documentation and communicating research imperatives, as much as it offers new critical insights and original approaches. Importantly, Victor and I had both undertaken PaR PhDs at Royal Holloway and the University of Leeds respectively. We were both among the first to graduate, based on this particular methodological approach to doctorial study, having argued our findings through practice and, most importantly, had these findings assessed through a combination of, what Robin Nelson describes as, ‘complementary writing’ and documentation of the practice. This ‘portfolio of evidence’ was fundamental to our experiences as PhD students. While in Theatre & Performance documentation has remained a point of contestation following Peggy Phelan’s famous dictat that performance ‘cannot be saved, recorded, documented’ (1993: 146), for the purpose of my doctorate exam multi-media material was gathered and ‘effectively shared’. I use the language of the REF’s definition of research here deliberately. For, I would argue, the system of submitting Practice Research portfolios in ‘boxes’ for the eyes of a panel of experts only would appear, to me at least, contrary to the ethos of research. Research should be shared. In sharing research we enable others to grow their own perspective and, ultimately, that of the discipline overall. Reducing this ‘sharing’ to a few lucky enough to witness a conference presentation, performance or other temporal event denies the project a sustained legacy: one that may feed future researchers work and enter into the ‘discourse’. If, as individuals such as Nelson have argued, the ‘know-how’ of practicing a particular craft or action can produce new disciplinary knowledge, then their relegation to an administrative exercise seems negligent.
Of course, I am aware that materials submitted as part of a Practice Research submission may include peer-reviewed articles and material hosted on accessible websites. But the ‘portfolio of evidence’, as submitted to the REF, exists for the most part as a whole object only for the purpose of this exercise. In order to assess the range of styles and approaches to composing these portfolios, it would appear that you need to be on the panel. In my role as a PhD supervisor, it is most frustrating to inform students when they enquire about examples of documentation (or the format of a portfolio submission) that there is currently a ‘throw-away’ culture when it comes to Practice Research. Because it is hard (expensive) to share multi-media content or politically problematic (see Phelan), it would seem that there has been a collective reluctance to ensure the long-term legacy of the particular conditions of knowledge borne through practice.
The main concern of, what I propose as, the ‘first wave’ of Practice Research was to win the right to conduct research through practice from the administrators (university management, HEFCE). The end game of this perspective is, I would argue, that it sustains a culture where Practice Research is conducted for the purpose of administration: for evidencing an individual’s research profile to be assessed, holistically, by exercises such as the REF. Consequently, the discipline at large remains in the dark. Unable to access and assess the material for the most part, the legacy and accessibility of these projects is reduced to hearsay. It is no wonder that with no clear archive of material from which to assess the claims of Practice Research more broadly, there remains a suspicion from our disciplinary colleagues: a suspicion that Practice Research lacks the intellectual rigour and significance of other (more well trodden) methods of research.
The current situation is not good enough. The Goldsmiths event confirmed the need to move beyond the administrative focus of Practice Research. Indeed, in the sessions I attended there were recurring themes on questions of accessibility and evidencing excellence. As scholars, we need to be able to assess a range of projects that clearly evidence their research imperatives. We need to collectively share our knowledge of these issues through processes such as peer review (a subject that Victor Merriman has outlined succinctly on this blog). Indeed, the question of peer review is paramount. While the REF panel is centred on this activity, peer review works best as a feedforward exercise: it is not best positioned after the project has been completed, but occurs as a procedural developmental tool. When done correctly, peer review is intended to make the work ‘better’. Practice Research is no different from any other scholarly area. We need to collectively share ‘good practice’ and sustain a narrative of excellence that our wider disciplinary areas can access and assess. We need to ensure the legacy of our knowledge insights in order to revoke the critique that Practice Research lacks scholarly integrity. The best way to achieve this is by promoting an archive of ‘portfolio’ examples. This is the premise of our section for STP ‘Practice Matters’.
In terms of the technical matters aligned with a multi-media archive, our perspective is that trying is better than avoiding the issue. Indeed, we have been in conversation with Prof. Yvon Bonenfant about his work on Experiments & Intensities (E&I) an online edited collection series published by Winchester Press (http://www.experimentsandintensities.com/). Collaborating with Prof. Bonenfant, we have an outline of the basic requirements involved in hosting an online platform and we are currently in discussions with Routledge (the publisher of STP) about the best way to proceed. For instance, we are aware of services such as figshare (http://figshare.com/), which offer much in terms of hosting and referencing individual items of media content. Nevertheless, what we are focused on is archiving the ‘full’ portfolio in a manner that allows the knowledge claims to be assessed. The narrative of the research project is paramount. Yet, it is also to be concise and to the point – we are not, necessarily, interested in two hour long videos (see submission statement below). It is likely that the interface will be straightforward in the first instance and focused on the clear communication of research imperatives. Equally, as outlined on June 4th, I do not personally conceive of Practice Research as being innately concerned with creative practice. Accordingly, while we understand that a well-designed and multifunctional interface is attractive to artists, our first concern is to focus on functionality and sharing the work as part of a peer review community.
Moreover, we recognise that each project will no doubt have its own particularities with regards the relationship between medium and content. We are open to suggestions in that regards, as outlined as part of our submission process. I would, however, suggest that the possibilities of an online format allow us to frame the idea of complementary writing with integrated media content. In particular, we might consider the notion of ‘integrated writing’ as a more holistic method of arguing how the content relates to the medium (and vice versa). While I personally am not keen on the use of video as the only curatorial strategy, the use of short video clips alongside and in dialogue with text (and other media) seems to me to offer one useful (and attainable) way forward. Importantly, our vision for the ‘curated portfolio’ submission is that, at the proposal stage, individuals submit a contextual and curatorial statement. It is vitally important that these documents offer a clear organisational principle and allow individuals to move in and out of particular sections. Ideally, a reader should be able to skip content in a logical manner, as well as pick up from when they left off. The experience should not be too far removed from the manner in which we are able to navigate a book. Nevertheless, the focus must remain on evidencing the knowledge claims. Additional information relating to a full documentation of a performance, for instance, is supplementary. The relationship between our mapping of these contextual and curatorial statements is outlined in the submission guidance included below.
In summary, I believe that the ‘second wave’ of Practice Research will be focused on questions of accessibility and quality. We need to share our findings more openly and we need to point to a clear narrative of excellence. In undertaking this not inconsiderable challenge, the idea is to evidence to our broader communities the innate value of practically borne knowledge, so that we, as a grouping of disciplines, can enter into a shared ‘discourse’. The idea that a Practice Research project has a shelf life is no longer good enough. Accordingly, we need to ensure that the new insights acquired through our collective processes of craft, action and dialogue are sustained beyond any one individual or event. The work – the knowledge – must be accessible by future experts and non-experts. Practice Research is not an administrative task. Overall, the future of Practice Research is access and signposting quality.
The material included below was published in Studies in Theatre & Performance, Issue 35.2. A further articulation of our vision for the section can be found in our original announcement in STP 35.1 (Hann and Ladron de Guevara 2014).
 ‘People might say things as, ‘if I could put it into words, I would have to dance it’. While I have considerable sympathy with this point of view, it can be unhelpful. […] I believe the complementary writing of artists might afford access to the complex process of making to non-specialists’ (Nelson 2013: 36-37).
 ‘For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’ (REF 2011: 48).
Hann, Rachel. and Ladron de Guevara, Victor. 2015. ‘Addressing Practice: Introducing a new section for STP’, Studies in Theatre & Performance 35.1: 3-6.
Nelson, Robin. 2013. Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Phelan, Peggy. 1993. Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, New York & London: Routledge
REF. 2011. ‘Assessment framework and guidance on submissions’, REF 2014. [accessed 14/07/2015] URL: http://www.ref.ac.uk/pubs/2011-02/
The University of Surrey are hosting a Practice as Research Festival at the Ivy Arts Centre this Saturday from 10.30am until late.
Speakers, sessions and performances include:
Practice as Research Now – A Roundtable with Professor Christopher Baugh, Professor Yvon Bonenfant and Dr Libby Worth
Arguments for a PaR Charter of Good Practice – A paper by Rachel Hann
The End of Choreography – Lecture & performance by Antje Hildebrandt
Whirling Dervishes, Intercultural Theatre, and Practice-Based Research– A workshop with Hannah McClure
A Duet Without You – Performance plus post-show discussion by Chloé Déchery
Two Earnest -Performance plus post-show discussion by Jaq Bessell
Admission free but booking essential at:
Victor Merriman writes:
The short answer is that the international academic standard for excellence – rigorous peer review – should be applied, and subject associations should be approached to test levels of interest in piloting PR peer review networks. This would have real advantages for the reliability of research assessment exercises, and benefits should accrue to those engaged in processes, outcomes, and – as appropriate – research outputs, also.
Drama and Dance (REF UoA 35) does not overtly rank journals or academic publishing houses for purposes of grading degrees of excellence, as is the case in some other disciplines. There is a peer group consensus that this is a good policy, enabling a broad range of work, and working circumstances, to be put forward for evaluation. It does also burden evaluation panels by requiring that they perform rigorous assessments of quality more or less ab initio, and inconsistencies in presenting PR outputs can, understandably generate systemic problems of evaluation, not least of consistency of judgement, and assessment narratives.
The problems appear to deepen where research underpinning Impact claims is under consideration, and chairs of sub-panels (Delgado) and main panel (Brown) have gone on record since the REF 2014 results were published, expressing frustration at the blurring of lines between Practice and Practice Research in outputs classified below the threshold required to support Impact claims.
Across performance sub-disciplines, the matter has attracted attention to the extent that in recent issues of Studies in Theatre and Performance (Routledge), a proposal to establish a section of that journal, ‘Curating Practice-as-Research’ (Hann and Ladron de Guevara, 35.1: 3-6, 2015(a)) led to ‘A General Call for PaR Contributions’(Hann and Ladron de Guevara, 35.2: 159-160, 2015 (b)).
HOW SHOULD WE PEER-REVIEW PRACTICE RESEARCH?
This brings into focus the matter of how peer review might play out in practice, and how its processes might be, themselves, demonstrably rigorous and reliable.
Each discipline will have its own wisdom, practices and conventions which will be reflected in the ways in which this might be addressed. In the interests of furthering the discussion, I will outline an example of the nature and role of peer review in relation to a piece of Performance Practice Research, as follows:
Establishment of Peer Review Network: Subject associations – ideally in concert with HEFCE – would solicit interest in joining a peer-review network from Practice Researchers in a discipline. They would be selected on the basis of CV and statement of areas of expertise.
Identification of peer reviewers: A Researcher proposes a project, to be carried out over a specified period of time, notifies the network, which posts a call for peer reviewers, as appropriate (one PR researcher; one practising artist, for example).
Clarification of research context, and imperatives: Peer reviewers comment in blind review
Clarification of processes (to include research methods, documentation, and dissemination strategies): Peer reviewers comment in blind review
Engagement with process: Negotiable. Note that, depending on the nature of the work, this might make blind review impossible, and would require a more open, dialogical, process. It is not difficult to establish the rigour of such processes, as is the case for QAA panels conducting institutional audit, for example, and clear statements as to ensuring rigorous review would need to be made available.
Review of outcomes: Optional.
Review of outputs: Essential.
At the conclusion of the process, research processes and/or outputs which satisfy the conditions negotiated during peer review would be entered in an index of work done over a given period. This could be done by archiving what Hann and Ladron de Guevara (2015 (b): 159) refer to as a ‘curated portfolio’.
Once indexed, the quality of the work would be established, and, in the case of Impact claims, submitting institutions and evaluation panels could concentrate on establishing the case for impact, rather than revisiting possible problems around the status of the research.
One of the issues identified by Professor Bruce Brown, Chair, Main Panel D (REF2014) was the relatively low number of PR outputs submitted to the recent exercise (37%). He suggested that this might be because of a lack of confidence on the part of researchers, and, even more so, on the part of institutions, increasingly swayed by risk-averse research managers seeking to maximise institutional funding and reputation.
Perhaps the suggestions in this note will contribute to a debate by means of which the aspirations and practices of practice researchers and institutional interests come closer to each other.
Victor Merriman, Professor of Performing Arts, Edge Hill University
Use of photograph courtesy of Edge Hill.
Rachel Hann and Victor Ladron de Guevara (2015(a)), ‘Addressing Practice: introducing a new section for STP (Studies in Theatre and Performance, 35.1: 3-6)
Rachel Hann and Victor Ladron de Guevara (2015(b)), ‘Curating Practice-as-Research – A General Call for PaR Contributions’(Studies in Theatre and Performance, 35.2: 159-160).
I am delighted to be able to work with Goldsmiths to kick-start this hugely important conversation on the future of practice research in the UK. Practice makes a hugely vibrant and important contribution to our research base. Through its broad and impressive strengths, it contributes not only to the vitality of scholarship across all disciplines, but also to the wider publics, communities, societies and economies that engage with and benefit from the work of our universities.
We are, however, living in a time where practice research is being subjected to very real pressures. I want to outline three such pressures in this blog post, and offer some suggestions – or perhaps provocations – for how practice research can rise to the challenge of meeting these pressures head on and using them to shape a vital new vision for practice research in the UK.
The first challenge is the biggest: the pressure to demonstrate value for money. Research in all disciplines is operating in a context where continued success depends on competing for scarce resources. Governments, funders, universities and researchers would all agree that public investment in research should always aim to strike a balance between two needs – the need for intellectual pursuits to take place freely and openly, and the need for public funding to be spent wisely. While I don’t believe the balance has shifted greatly in recent years, I do think the tone of the public conversation has shifted towards viewing the wisest investments as those which generate a financial return.
I believe it is entirely within the gift of research communities, their representatives, their universities, funders and others to make a significant contribution to changing the tone of the conversation. Why is it okay for public money to be spent on undertaking research in new, untested, creative directions that may have no immediate positive impact on the public purse? Why is research in creative disciplines worth paying for? As a great believer in practice-based research, I have developed my own answers to these questions. But as your provocateur, I’d say that the practice research community needs to take all available opportunities to make the arguments for continued investment, and that a key part of this is that practice research must define for itself what excellent, valuable, impactful scholarship looks like.
The second challenge is one that might feel more real to many researchers: the pressure to align practice-based research with institutional strategies. This, too, is about money, but it is also about much more – it is about the structures, cultures, strategies and managerial approaches within universities. How should university structures and cultures adapt, and make space, to allow practice research to flourish on its own terms? How can practice researchers engage more with wider institutional imperatives and demands? As your provocateur, I’d say that university managers and practice researchers need to talk seriously about what needs to change to enable practice research to thrive. This blogsite, and the associated discussion list, can provide forums for these conversations to begin to take real shape – let’s use them.
The third challenge is perhaps the one that perhaps feels closest to the heart of practice research: the pressure to identify and engage with a wider research ‘standard’ or ‘definition’ that comes from practising in a university context. Perhaps some researchers feel that the common accepted notions of ‘research’ should not, or do not, apply to them. Perhaps the language and terminology that research managers, funders and governments use in discussions and documents is unfamiliar, inapplicable, or simply unrecognisable. Perhaps the processes of documenting, communicating and translating new knowledge and insight are simply less important in practice research. Or perhaps engaging with these wider academic standards and demands is damaging to practice itself, and if ‘being a better researcher’ means ‘being a worse practitioner’, then it’s just not worth it.
As your provocateur, I’d say that the practice research community urgently needs to sort these issues out. Practice is undoubtedly worthwhile in its own right, creating value and impact through aesthetic appreciation or practical application in myriad ways. But I think it’s wholly justified to expect all practice researchers to make a lasting contribution to the body of insight into, and knowledge about, the structures, meanings and values of practice, and to communicate that contribution effectively. How best to do this? Well, it might take time to reach a settled answer, but your universities and funders are listening. Let’s get cracking!
Ben Johnson is a research policy adviser at the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
‘The Future of Practice Research’ symposium at Goldsmiths, hosted in partnership with HEFCE on 4 June 2015, gave an opportunity for researchers, practitioners and research managers to explore new ways in which practice research is extending, and to influence broad agendas around assessment, funding and impact in a period of constant change.
To those who made it to the symposium, many thanks for all your contributions! To those who didn’t, it was a full and fruitful day, and we decided to keep the conversation going with this blogsite. Building on all the vibrant work in our Practice Research community, we’re hoping this will lead to many new initiatives as well as provide a platform for debate and advocacy.
So do have a look at the materials attached inserted within a reminder of the programme for the day – currently you’ll find all the notes from the afternoon breakout sessions. Our podcasts and slides will be added shortly.
Further ideas, reactions, provocations? Let’s continue the conversation!
10:00 Welcome & Introductions – Podcast to come
Pat Loughrey (Warden, Goldsmiths)
Ben Johnson (Research Policy Adviser, HEFCE)
Mark d’Inverno (Computing, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise, Goldsmiths)
10:15 Different Perspectives I – Podcasts and slides to come
Talk 1. Anne Tallentire (Art, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London)
Talk 2. Steven Hill (Head of Research Policy, HEFCE) – Slides: Steven-Hill
Talk 3. Bruce Brown (Design, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Brighton)
11:15 Different Perspectives II – Podcasts and slides to come
Talk 4. Lauren Redhead (Music, Canterbury Christ Church University)
Talk 5. Stella Hall (Festival director and consultant)
Talk 6. Sally Mackey (Applied Theatre, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) – Slides – Sally Mackey
Talk 7. Janet Hodgson (Centre for Fine Art Research, Birmingham City University) and Helen Wickstead (Art/Archaeology, Kingston University)
12.15 Q&A Panel chaired by Andrea Phillips (Art, Goldsmiths) – Podcast to come
BREAKOUT SESSIONS – BREAKOUT SESSIONS: Synthesis
13:45 Breakout Session I: Present and Future
Where is Practice Research now and how might it develop in innovative ways over the next decade?
How can we best demonstrate excellence in Practice Research?
How should we peer review Practice Research?
How might we develop common languages and approaches across disciplines?
15:00 Breakout Session II: The Environment
How does Practice Research relate to the professional world, and how might we enhance such relationships?
How can we best support and nurture Practice Research within higher education?
What are the strongest ways to demonstrate the public impact of Practice Research?
How might we reassert the importance of Practice Research, both within the academy and to a wider world?