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What can we do with the wisdom of many?

Building on Jisc’s heritage of seeking to understand and involve members in issues that directly affect them, our new digital research community will explore how technology and innovation can help improve current research practices.   

Active and well-connected communities of practice tend to be more responsive when engaging with opportunities and challenges in their field of expertise1. Keen to nurture and expand such civic muscle, Jisc has spoken to people who have been involved with setting up the group to hear how they think this community will support research.

Helen Clare,  Jisc’s senior e-infrastructure strategy manager says:

“Policy and  technology are  both changing so quickly.  Bringing this community together seems the most effective  way to respond, learn from  one another, and  influence the  research  agenda.  

We see this way of working in organisations such as the Alan Turing Institute and Vitae which is a global leader in supporting the professional development of researchers, bringing together interdisciplinary and cross-functional groups from research communities.”

Responding to change

The new digital research community group is part of a wider response to engagement with those working in research to explore issues around the use of technology, and to support the sector in responding to  such things as the  recent  UK Government’s research and development roadmap,  National Data Strategy,  UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s corporate plan  and the announcement of  a new research funding agency. 

“The community  will provide a safe space  for professionals who are active within the research process. It will help them assess technology solutions that can enhance research excellence and efficiency, as well as the culture, skills and processes to achieve these objectives,” 

says Victoria Moody, research strategy lead at Jisc.

One of the focus points of the new research community will be how digital technologies can be better deployed in response to the fast-changing research sector.

This theme was also widely recognised at the Berlin Science Week (1 – 10 Nov 2020) where a number of senior scientists argued that the era of ‘big data’ has overturned the classical model of how science works, and budding researchers right down to the school level need to be taught how it has upended discovery2.

A more inclusive research culture

An advocate for reviewing digital competencies, Anne Boddington, professor emeritus of design innovation and former pro vice-chancellor for research, business and innovation at Kingston University says:

“I’m particularly interested in how we can best create equitable access to research, collaborative research tools and agree the key contemporary skills and competencies for the academic community including those that are currently neither recognised nor rewarded, but that might stimulate a more generous and inclusive research culture. Look at the evidence of what happened during COVID.

I would also be keen to explore within the community how we can build a simple set of open access resources that mean we could eliminate digital poverty, irrespective of the scale or wealth of the institution or their geographical location”

The community will work according to the principles of open research where people can connect and have the freedom to share ideas and common practices to inspire and learn from one another.

A place to develop a common language

Keen to bring her view to the community is Rachel Cox, engagement and policy project manager at Vitae, who says:

“It’s about developing a common language which spans across research groups, institutions, disciplines and the research sector. The Vitae Research Development Framework (RDF) developed in 2009 describes the wide-ranging knowledge, intellectual abilities, techniques and professional standards expected to do research, as well as the personal qualities, knowledge and skills to work with others and ensure the wider impact of research.

When we developed the framework, one of the aims was to establish a common language for the development of researchers. We looked at how we express those competencies in a way that can be recognised across disciplines and institutions, as well as beyond academia.

This new digital community could be a place to develop a common language and practice with a focus on digital literacy in research.”

The community will be bringing together people working at the coal face of the sector, as they are best placed to highlight challenges and come up with innovative solutions. 

As Cox concludes,

“When you hand the reins over to people who are engaged and excited, they can create amazing things”.

For more information about the digital community group for research please do join our webinar - Shaping future research environments: digital challenges and opportunities - on Tuesday 15 December. The event is free, but booking is required.

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