Building Up A Head of Steam

Rowena Goldman | 13:30 UK time, Monday, 26 October 2009

Like a builders brew deepening into a rich, golden hue, the AHRC/BBC R&D Knowledge Infusion Awards are now ready to be imbibed. Capitalising on a longer period of collaborative research in which eight joint teams of arts and humanities academics worked with BBC staff to deliver 8 wide ranging studies, five of the original eight received extra funding to delve deeper and more intensely into their chosen research subject. The result? A bunch of excellent insights and recommendations for the BBC which serve to further enhance the success of the formal AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme started 4 years ago.

The awards this time round went to Westminster, Bath, Cardiff, City and Leeds Universities working with BBC teams from Childrens, Learning, Information and Archives, BBC Yorkshire and the audio and accessibility teams and behavioural science centre within BBC Research and Development.

It's one thing to successfully undertake this cross disciplinary research between two organizations with vastly differing cultures and timescales, quite another to disseminate the findings in meaningful ways. For academia, the tradition has been somewhat more straightforward: conference papers, book chapters, presentations at academic symposia - and these are all recognized measures of success. For the BBC, however, measuring the impact of such knowledge exchange partnerships is altogether trickier since it involves 'softer' more intrinsic impacts such as the general creation of knowledge networks, a fluid two way knowledge transfer pathway, and the application of existing knowledge in new contexts. But with academia now charged by government to make research more relevant, both socially and economically, strategic partnerships like this one can go quite a way to delivering to this impact agenda. So what of the findings from the 5 KI Awards? The results are already tangible. For example,clear recommendations that there are design opportunities as far as Electronic Programme Guides are concerned has been identified by the University of Bath and BBC R&D. This is with respect to the motivation of older users in the drive to greater take-up of digital services amongst this age bracket. The study suggests that EPGs could record and share viewer selections, in an Amazon business model approach, so as to automatically predict viewer preferences and use these as the basis for advertising interactive content in this way. Overall, the emphasis on older viewers' motivations, rather than their cognitive or perceptual limitations, is a very important shift of focus and opens new avenues for accessibility research which will inform ongoing research in BBC R&D for a considerable time to come. University of Westminster has identified a real community of interest comprising academics and producers around the potential of virtual environments and this is a valuable resource in the exploration of public service virtuality. The study showed that older children need to be offered sociable environments online, but younger children find some interest in solo play in immersive media. All useful stuff in designing new virtual spaces for young people.. The BBC Blast study, Alone Together? from University of Bath brilliantly demonstrated, the first time around, the value of its partnership with BBC Learning in that it directly impacted on the Blast site re-launch earlier this year.

This time round, the investigation into comparable websites has produced a critical analysis of the ways and means through which Blast can fulfil its aims and objectives around what a learning environment should look like, and how design and management modifications can facilitate this. The data collected in this study has fed into the future design of Blast and provided a deeper understanding of the potential and actual audiences the site is trying to attract. Cardiff University's study into news provision for younger audiences, What do Children Want from the BBC? Children's content and participatory environments in an age of Citizen Media, has provided data around the 'transitional' audience - that's young people at the upper end of the Newsround target audience (8-12 year olds) and those just falling outside of it - and their own ideas about whether or not it's a good idea to have a news service specifically for their age group, and all the evidence suggests that there is. Open Archive: The Miners Strike: A Case Study in Regional Context, led by Leeds University and BBC Yorkshire, with BBC Information and Archive, has gone so far as to produce eleven short films made by a representative sample of people involved in the 1984 miners strike in order to assess ways in which public audiences and communities could interact, contextualize and deepen the value of the BBC's archive. The films are a clear demonstration of the potential for direct community engagement in the development of broadcast materials and in the active interpretation of archival materials working with this group. Excerpts will be used on the BBC Yorkshire site where geographically appropriate. So, that's a snapshot of some of the top level findings these studies have delivered. As they filter through the relevant echelons of the BBC and take hold in a variety of ways, they are further evidence that this model of engagement with academia is worth mutating, if not replicating. Conversations with academics from disciplines which can map directly onto BBC R&D's strategy and workplan are the real driver for future partnerships, and will include partnering with the research councils. We're delighted by the recent announcement that the EPSRC has greenlit funding for a feasibility study into an online collaborative knowledge exchange network between media professionals and academic researchers. This is to be led by Professor David Gauntlett from the University of Westminster together with Dr. Lizzie Jackson from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication
The AHRC and the BBC will be key stakeholders. The potential of a formal framework to engage with the whole range of the UK's creative industries, as represented by the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network and its relevance to R&D's portfolio is a rich seam worth exploring. The idea, for example, that early stage R&D can be made available to content providers across a range of creative disciplines is an exciting possibility. Time to put the kettle on.

Cardiff University
Cardiff University partnered with BBC Childrens: What do Children want from the BBC? Children's content and participatory environments in an age of citizen media

Westminster University
Westminster University partnered with BBC Childrens: Audience and Producer Engagement with Immersive Worlds

City University
City University partnered with BBC Learning: 'Alone Together?'



Leeds University
Leeds University partnered with BBC Yorkshire and BBC North Information and Archives

Bath University
Bath University partnered with BBC Research and Development

The Power of 8

Brendan Crowther Brendan Crowther | 10:33 UK time, Monday, 29 June 2009

If you see a particularly colourful newspaper lying on the desks of the 'great' and the 'good' over the next few months it could well be the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme's new publication, 8 (#8essays).

8pic5resized.jpg

8 is a way of sharing all the lessons learned from our collaboration with the AHRC and making sure that the research findings produced by the funded projects are made the best use of. It contains articles from the likes of Bill Thompson, Kathryn Corrick and Pat Kane on, amongst other things, media literacy, the ethics of play and digital inclusion. There are contact details for all researchers involved in the studies and an official view of KEP's aims from the lead AHRC and BBC partners. There's also a graphical representation of one of the projects - a collaboration between the production team working on CBBC's virtual word for children, Adventure Rock, and the University of Westminster - which shows the connections and influence a collaborative project builds over time.

The KEP is a pilot programme. It has shown that deep level academic analyses of BBC services are of incredible value to both the BBC and its audiences. It provides a key to unlocking the full business potential of digital media and has the potential to reshape how we deliver future content, in ways we can all be a part of. We hope that the KEP will act as a springboard for BBC Research & Development in its work to remain at the cutting edge of the collaboration and innovation agendas. This very much relies on our stakeholders being made aware of the programme and its successes. Our hope is that 8 will encourage them to sit up and take notice.

You can download a PDF copy of 8 here. If you'd like a copy of the actual newspaper please contact christianna.salako@bbc.co.uk from BBC R&D's Innovation Culture. The research studies themselves are all available in the box on the right. 8 was produced in association with the Newspaper Club.

Into Uncharted Waters; heading up Knowledge Transfer at the AHRC

Joanna Pollock | 11:37 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

Susan Amor is the Head of Knowledge Transfer at the AHRC. Here she gives her thoughts on the KEP partnership from her current position, while drawing on her experience as Knowledge Transfer Programme Manager responsible for the development of the scheme until I took over.

Jo.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and BBC Future Media and Technology (FM&T) have been working together since 2005 to develop a long-term collaborative strategic research partnership underpinned by AHRC's strategy to enable collaborative research and development in the arts and humanities. BBC FM&T were actively seeking to exchange knowledge and develop new research and development collaborations with academic partners in the arts and humanities to consolidate and extend the BBC's public value in the digital age. The AHRC is working to address barriers to innovation in the Creative Industries and this joint initiative with BBC Future Media and Technology is providing a valuable platform for scoping a framework for innovative collaborative funding programmes.

Since I joined the AHRC in May 2006, I have been directly involved in the scoping, development and delivery of the Knowledge Exchange Programme (KEP) leading for the AHRC and working in partnership with Rowena and Brendan at the BBC. I believe that the success of the AHRC/BBC collaboration and the KEP has been due to the inclusive shaping and dedicated relationship building by both organisations from the early, exploratory stages through to present day and this is essentially down the people involved although we didn't always get everything right first time!

Jo Pollock took over the AHRC lead for the collaboration in November 2008 and has quickly established and continued a close rapport with BBC colleagues through the Knowledge Infusion Programme and the end of programme showcase event 'AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme: a collaborative journey' held on 27 April 2009. This was an extremely successful day in many ways. One of the highlights was the panel debate 'Collaboration in the 21st century' which produced some very interesting insights and view points from panellists and event delegates. The event also provided me with the opportunity to meet up again with Rowena and Brenda and the KEP project award holders which has always been a pleasure.

The next stage is to evaluate the collaboration and the KEP and to identify the best means for taking our partnership forward strategically and in a sustainable way. I look forward to the outcomes of the evaluation and to continuing the close working relationship we have forged with the BBC.

Congratulations to all involved in the collaboration at the BBC and AHRC and to the KEP project award holders for producing such excellent and exciting outcomes from their joint research.

Susan.

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