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

Launch of report “Engaged Research - Society & Higher Education
Working Together to Address Grand Societal Challenges”

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.  Today’s report (13 January 2017) launched at the Mansion House Dublin by Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the Irish Universities Association, shines the spotlight on engaged research and establishes a new framework for this vital work.  

'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

Engaged Research emphasises the active involvement of the public, product and service users in the research process. This joined up approach has seen members of the public gathering data on biodiversity in rural Ireland, researchers developing interventions with and for young adults living with diabetes and efforts to create new products for our ageing demographic.

Today’s report on Engaged Research is produced by Campus Engage with the support of the Irish Research Council.  The report provides a stakeholder-informed and action oriented framework for engagement between civic and civil society, industry and professionals in research at higher education institutions; ensuring high quality and impactful research. The report also provides 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, the go-to country, for collaboration on international engaged research initiatives

'All stakeholders stand to gain from their research in a way where each can share their insights and expertise. It is essential to understand that good quality research can improve the quality of all of our lives - through new ideas, products and processes, expert evaluation, evidence and invention.' Professor Don Barry, President, University of Limerick.

In recent years there has been an implicit shift in the emphasis of current EU funding streams from research to research and innovation.  

The Irish Research Council, through a number of specific funding actions, strongly promotes engagement as part of the research process. As a result, researchers in our Universities and IoTs 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.' Dr Eucharia Meehan, Director, Irish Research Council.

The European Horizon 2020 programme (valued at almost €80 billion) promotes engagement measures and outputs across its priority areas. Science with and for Society seeks to build capacity and develop innovative ways of connecting science to society across all disciplines. Its aim is to allow all societal actors including researchers, citizens, policy makers, business, civic and civil society organisations to work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of European society.

'Research is critically important to making compelling cases for change; the challenge for community and voluntary groups is to develop a way of presenting a compelling mix of qualitative and quantitative research that fully reflects the social and economic impact of the work that they do'. Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive Officer, The Wheel. 

Pictured L-R: Professor Philip Nolan, Chair, Irish Universities Association; Dr Eucharia Meehan, Director, Irish Research Council; Deirdre Garvey, Chief Executive Officer, The Wheel; Professor Ray O'Neill, Chair, Campus Engage.