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Rowena Goldman Rowena Goldman | 11:54 UK time, Thursday, 2 April 2009

As the eight co-funded projects under the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme have now started to deliver their outcomes across academia and the BBC we thought it would be a good idea to set up a blog to help communicate the findings as well as provide a platform for future discussion about knowledge exchange and collaborative research. We'll upload the research papers here soon but in the meantime we thought that now would be a good opportunity to tell you how we got here. It's been a thoroughly fascinating journey so far as we'll be highlighting at our showcase event on April 27th in London.

So where did the journey begin? The collaborative partnership between the Arts and Humanities Research Council and BBC Research & Development (a part of BBC Future Media and Technology) started over coffee in the American Bagel Company on Praed Street, Paddington in November 2005. I'd just come back after maternity leave and my then boss Matt Locke suggested I meet with the then head of Knowledge Transfer at the AHRC, Julie Taylor to discuss how our two communities might indeed transfer knowledge, ideas, and collaborative working practices for the good of all concerned.

With a roughly matched potential community of 26,000 arts and humanities academics and around 20,000 (at the time) BBC employees it certainly seemed a good fit in terms of numbers never mind the enormous wealth of talent, expertise and sheer depth of knowledge within academia. This knowledge had enormous synergy with areas of interest in BBC FM+T: Audience behaviour with regard to digital technology; the barriers and incentives to take-up of digital services; editorial challenges around user generated content; the opportunities afforded by mobile devices; children/young people as early adopters and the whole gamut of how multimedia plays out in people's everyday lives.

To start with we set out an exploratory agenda to discover how our two communities might collaborate on common ground. This took the form of a series of themed 'collaborative inquiry summits' hosted during the first half of 2006 which explored key themes such as mobile communication, user generated content and archive content. By the middle of that year we had enough evidence to suggest that a second, more formalised phase of the partnership would be beneficial and we set about building a business case for a formal strategic partnership between the two organisations under the AHRC's Knowledge Exchange Partnership.

Launched in January 2007, eight collaborative research projects were green lit which ran for between nine and twelve months. They have delivered a range of insights into the changing behaviour of BBC audiences as well as enabling the academic community to gain unprecedented access to the BBC. Once these papers have been made public they will be linked to through this blog. The success of the eight projects has resulted in a further injection of funding into five of the projects. This phase of knowledge infusion launched in mid January 2009 and digs deeper into particular aspects of the original collaborative research projects. These projects are due to deliver in late spring 2009.

As well as the pilot funding call we have also taken the ground-breaking step of embedding an academic from Cardiff University's School of Journalism, Dr. Claire Wardle into BBC Nations and Regions New Media in Birmingham. The placement runs for six months and started in February 2009. During her time there, Claire is working to disseminate the findings of her twelve month study into UGC and News - the biggest of its kind in terms of BBC UGC. Working closely with Laura Ellis, BBC Birmingham's Head of New Media, she is helping devise and implement a strategy for community producers across nations and regions.

So far this partnership has developed a range of new models of collaborative innovation for the BBC. Already there are tangible outcomes from the eight collaborative research projects which are being taken up by the partner divisions with whom the academics have been working closely and are also feeding into the BBC's top level strategic initiatives such as Media Literacy. The second round of funding will provide working proofs of concept and prototypes to compliment the body of research already produced. It's often said that innovation comes from the bottom where exploration happens. The AHRC/BBC KEP has shown that exploration, coupled with collaborative partnerships which are working effectively, can deliver great value for both sides. We are continually fine tuning that relationship to discover what other exciting territory this partnership might cover both now and in the future.



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