A new forum for BERA
When we talk of research, we are probably assuming that Universities are the institutions that carry it out. But many who have been involved with universities are still passionately interested in research. Some want to keep up this interest, and others are researchers by occupation. They just don’t do research in a university context. Alongside all the changes in HE-based research, there is a growing base of research undertaken ‘outside of academia.’ So this is yet another way in which the world of research is changing. Two such researchers attending BERA’s conference asked for BERA to find a way of including independent researchers.
it has been a priority to respond to this change by establishing a forum for independent educational researchers, to provide a high quality context for communication, collaboration and colloquium
For BERA, it has been a priority to respond to this change by establishing a forum for independent educational researchers, to provide a high quality context for communication, collaboration and colloquium. But the first challenge has been to make contact through a survey with people who see themselves as independent educational researchers. Survey questions focused on how people defined their own working situations, the forum offer, preferred medium of communication, areas of interest and any connections with learned societies.
The survey has been completed by 35 respondents and its outcomes are summarised.
- Within the group, there was surprising diversity. The majority of the group, when answering the question about their situation, chose to classify themselves as ‘other’ when classifying their circumstances. So there is complexity within the group, and a greater diversity than anticipated. In practice, some researchers work on short term contracts ‘as required’ .One respondent worked for a local authority. Another’s status was ‘retired but still active, using research to support campaigns.’ Others are not working but are looking for work. A sense of isolation was expressed by some members of the group, with all the opportunities and challenges that go with their solitary status.
- 85% of those who responded to the survey were BERA members, taking part in the Special Interest Group structures. This suggests that independent researchers have needs that go beyond the SIGs which focus on specialist knowledge of a research area. Independent researchers need to share information and discuss their unique concerns. The strength of the SIGs is in providing specialist knowledge about a research area. Over 65% said that they were members of another professional body. All were in favour of being a part of the new forum.
- Overwhelmingly and surprisingly, 90.6% said that they wanted more than anything opportunities to collaborate and network. The preferred means of communication was heavily in favour of face to face with other independent researchers. The next most popular request was ‘access to funding information,’ with 75% requesting this. While some of this information might be provided elsewhere, the feeling expressed was that the information and opportunities were ‘institution-oriented’. Other requests were for meetings, events and online activities (blogs, webinars). All researchers expressed an interest in the areas covered by SIGs. And independent researchers may well contribute to the BERA blog in the future!
The new forum will have a launch event to be held on 22nd July 2015 and preparations for this are in hand. Please spread the word about this new forum to any independent researchers you know. More information is available from the BERA office, or email Carrie Birch, one of the convenors of the forum- firstname.lastname@example.org