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Session Overview
RT: Research 1
Friday, 04/Nov/2022:
9:00am - 10:30am

Location: EQ-112

60 seat flexible

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The Impact of Impact: Contending with the Risks and Rewards of Public Engagement

Kate Miltner1, Sophie Bishop2, Ysabel Gerrard2, Kishonna Gray3, Elena Maris4

1University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom; 2University of Sheffield, United Kingdom; 3University of Kentucky, United States; 4University of Illinois Chicago, United States

Despite long-standing perceptions that public engagement can act as a “distraction” from “serious” scholarship, universities, funding bodies, and other academic institutions are placing importance on the public relevance of research with increasing frequency. Framed as “impact”, “knowledge exchange” and/or “public engagement”, researchers across a range of disciplines are increasingly encouraged– and sometimes required– to participate in media relations, community engagement, and partnerships across private, public, and third sectors. In an era of reduced funding for research, especially in the humanities and social sciences, these activities can be extremely remunerative for researchers and the institutions that employ them: in the United Kingdom, for example, a department will receive approximately £750,000 for every Impact Case Study they submit to the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a national, competitive evaluation process that determines government funding for universities.

However, in the political context of increasing attacks on scholars by right-wing actors and the perniciousness of misogyny, homophobia, and racism in online contexts, the risks of publicly promoting one’s work can carry personal risks– and costs– for researchers. This is particularly true for early career or precarious scholars, especially those who are from marginalized groups and engage in scholarship that critiques or threatens dominant power relations and/or the status quo.

Featuring researchers with experience in media relations, government advising, and industry partnerships, this roundtable will offer a space for panelists and attendees to discuss key issues relating to public engagement. Topics will include the importance placed on public engagement and impact activities, the different genres and activities that are defined as “impact”, the entrenched perception that public engagement is self-promoting behavior, the risks that come with public engagement for scholars from marginalized groups in particular, and strategies for protecting oneself while engaging in impact activities.

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