Archives for April 2009

Showcase Lowdown

Rowena Goldman Rowena Goldman | 15:59 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009

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A big thank you to everyone who attended the event A Collaborative Journey at Wallacespace on Monday 27th April. It was a fantastic day full of insight and exciting discussion that will continue to inform the relationship the BBC has with academia and research councils.

A 90 strong audience consisting of academics, BBC staff, innovation funding bodies such as the Technology Strategy Board and the wider media industry heard the head of BBC Research & Development put into context the importance of the collaboration between the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the value of knowledge transfer at this level to keep the BBC at the leading edge of innovation.

The day showcased the collaborative research projects supported through our pilot funding call. As well as displays from 7 projects highlighting outcomes and findings we also had project presentations in the Big Room from the following projects:

  • Claire Wardle: User Generated Content and its impact upon Contributors, Non-Contributors and the BBC (this session was blogged by one of the original lead partners, Robin Hamman, now at Headshift.
  • Heather Powell: Open Archive: The Miners Strike - A Case Study in Regional Content
  • David Gauntlett & Lizzie Jackson: Audience and Producer Engagement with Immersive Worlds (case study: Adventure Rock)
The final session of the day was a lively panel discussion chaired by Bill Thompson examining the challenges of partnerships between industry and academia, not least those around the issues of IP. There was much discussion about the value of the relationships themselves, ie, between individual academics and BBC staff, and that often the best, most surprising outcomes are ones that are not tied to pre-determined deliverables but are as a result of common interests arising out of ad hoc conversations.

Our current partnership model with the AHRC has been a pilot and very successful for that. It's allowed us to be pioneering in the way we work, accept that our learning journey has provided us with some key 'do's and don'ts' for collaborative working practices between two large and disparate communities, and at the same time delivered a bunch of terrific recommendations based on in depth audience behaviour analysis around areas such as accessibility, community, learning and user generated content. The research papers can be found below in PDF format. We are currently awaiting 1 more and will upload as soon as we have it.

UGC at the BBC
Alone Together? Social Learning in BBC Blast
A Public Voice - Access, Digital Story and Interactive Narrative
Children in Virtual Worlds
Virtual Worlds - An Overview and Study of BBC Children's Adventure Rock
Inhibited Exploration in Older Customers of Digital Services
Listener Online Engagement with BBC Radio Programming
Radio listeners online - A case study of The Archers
The Miners' Strike - A Case Study in Regional Content

A Collaborative Journey at Wallacespace, St Pancras: April 27th 2009

Rowena Goldman Rowena Goldman | 16:42 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

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On Monday 27th April the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme will, hopefully, bask in its finest hour as we showcase the collaborative research projects co-funded by both our organisations to an audience of academics, BBC staff, research councils, innovation agencies, government quangos and maybe the odd journalist.

Two years after the pilot funding call was announced we have a heap of insightful findings and recommendations to impart on a range of BBC activities and output around community, learning journeys, accessibility, fan behaviour, user generated content and virtual worlds. And as we explore ways in which knowledge transfer like this can impact on the BBC, there'll also be a panel discussion chaired by digital media guru Bill Thompson where we'll be trying to surface ways in which we can we can build on the existing partnership model we already have in place with the AHRC.

The event will be held at Wallace Space in St Pancras, London and will start at 11am. There are still a few (free) tickets left so please contact Louise Elliot at the AHRC on to reserve a place. A full agenda for the event can be found here: agenda.pdf

beebac - Knowledge Networks, Academia and the BBC

Brendan Crowther Brendan Crowther | 10:57 UK time, Friday, 17 April 2009

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I've been part of the team working on the knowledge exchange programme between the AHRC and BBC for over three years now. We're keen to support further collaboration between the BBC and academia beyond our pilot funding call so for the last eighteen months I've been involved in the development of a new knowledge network that allows BBC staff, academics and media professionals to share ideas and resources.

The best ideas come from combining different skills and points of view. Often the most valid contribution comes from those with a standpoint outside the core area of interest - insights that elude those standing closer to their subject matter. In short, different points of view lead to good conversations. To facilitate a model of collaboration between academia, the BBC and the wider media industry that reflects this philosophy we've created beebac.

beebac is a space where academics and media professionals can find people and projects that interest them. It is a network for BBC staff, academics and industry partners. It enables you to find people and projects you want to be involved with, explore areas of mutual interest and exchange ideas and resources. You can explore subjects that interest you by joining the relevant groups on the network or set up your own topics of discussion and invite others to join you. There are graded levels of privacy that allow you to choose who you share your information with and a powerful search engine that prioritises results by people and subject matter so you can find what interests you. There are a number of different ways of sharing and messaging other users that protect your privacy while allowing you to gain the benefits of working collaboratively
From a BBC perspective beebac is about having continued access to a massive community of professionals whose jobs are dedicated to studying the relationship between media, society and culture. It is also about exploring the responsibilities we have as a public service broadcaster that stretch beyond simply our output. From an academic point of view it's about getting access to the vast store of data that broadcasters have to offer and the opportunity to converse with media professionals who are in a position to make real use of research findings. From all angles it's about the opportunities afforded by networking with likeminded individuals and working in a truly cross-disciplinary manner. beebac is also the online home for the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme. We'll use the site to keep you up to date with everything related to the KEP, highlight upcoming events and funding calls and point you to other places on the web that we think are doing interesting things.

Funding calls provide one framework around which collaboration can take place but they are not necessarily the only way that it can be supported, or the most sustainable. If the BBC is going to continue to work in conjunction with academia it is important to start building a community that can sustain itself and direct members to topics of interest as well as other like-minded individuals.

beebac is currently in beta testing and you can sign up here. Once you've received your authorisation email head to The Hub for up to date information on everything that's new on the network and beyond. beebac is a pilot project and it would be great to get the community to a stage where we can assess whether this model of collaboration between the BBC, the media industry and academia has a future. Please feel free to drop me a line once you're signed up.


What KT did next: Knowledge Infusion

Joanna Pollock Joanna Pollock | 10:53 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009


KT and me...

I came on board as the new AHRC Knowledge Transfer Programme Manager last November as the 8 KEP projects were drawing to an end. Having heard so much about this high profile partnership during my time in other posts at the AHRC I was excited to hear that Sue and Rowena were planning to make a further injection of funding available to extend existing projects. As I began to learn about just some of the fantastic findings and outputs that the research teams were producing, it became clear that the added value this Knowledge Infusion funding could bring was immense.

For AHRC, this was not only an opportunity to further support these teams in developing innovative research and knowledge exchange practices but also to highlight the real and demonstrable impact that the outcomes of such research can have for stakeholders far beyond our own community. It would be great if this supplementary funding means seeing actual policy change at the BBC to reflect these research findings, some of which have been revelatory.

Having begun to get to know the academic award holders for the scheme and see their final reports it has also become apparent just how beneficial its been for them to have had unprecedented access to BBC resources as a result of the KEP. Knowledge Exchange is a relatively new concept for AHRC and its communities and, in a competitive research climate, increasingly important as a key strategic area. I hope that we can support these projects, through the Knowledge Infusion funding and in other ways, in embedding not only their research findings but also their knowledge of working in this way within their own research cultures. If we can go some way towards raising the profile of our Knowledge Transfer Team's activities, encourage interest among our academic communities and raise demand from stakeholders in the user community I will be very happy. Lucky I'm not asking for much!

Jo Pollock

Some background...

The AHRC's Vision and Strategy 2007 - 2012 aims to position the AHRC to meet the opportunities and challenges it faces as a Research Council and to provide direction for the spending review period 2008 - 2010 and beyond. Knowledge Transfer forms a core element of this vision as outlined specifically in the AHRC's Strategic Aim 3:

'To strengthen the impact of arts and humanities research by encouraging researchers to disseminate and transfer their knowledge to other areas where it can make a difference'

KT, as the AHRC understand it, refers to the processes by which new knowledge is co-produced through interactions between academic and non-academic individuals and communities. This includes innovative activity brought about by the application of existing knowledge to new contexts. AHRC's interpretation of KT assumes that the new knowledge that is created through such engagements delivers significant added value for both the academic and non-academic partners.

An important element of AHRC's KT strategy is the need for us to build and sustain strategic partnerships and the flagship Knowledge Exchange Programme with the BBC, as well as supporting a number of fantastic projects, has been fundamental to our development in this area.

Knowledge Infusion funding - the call

Last November the AHRC and the BBC committed to making further joint funding available to support proposals to infuse co-produced knowledge and outcomes from projects funded under the Knowledge Exchange Programme (KEP) into both academia and the BBC. Applicants were asked to indicate impact for both project partners in the form of in depth, targeted or niche research arising from the original projects and which may also produce pilots or prototypes. Activities under this initiative will specifically embed the research findings of individual KEP projects in a way which spreads their impact beyond that initially envisaged at the project outset.

5 applications were successful in their bids for this supplementary funding;

What do Children Want from the BBC? Children's Content and Participatory Environments in an Age of Citizen Media
Principle Investigator: Cynthia Carter (Cardiff University)
BBC Partner: Roy Milani (BBC Childrens)
Activity: Examining BBC news provision for teenagers. What exists (and what should exist) for the delivery of current affairs for individuals caught between children's and adult content.
Key Deliverable: Report and events outlining recommendations/strategies for the provision of multi-platform news content for teens

Public Service Virtual environments and their Users
Principle Investigator: David Gauntlett (University of Westminster)
BBC Partner: Rachel Bardill (CBBCi)
Activity: Examining the different personas or "player orientations" that children adopt when in virtual multi-user environments and the drivers for their decisions.
Key Deliverable: Models of possible multi-user public service virtual environments

Easing the Inhibitions of Older Viewer's Exploration of Digital TV
Principle Investigator: Stephen Payne (University of Bath)
BBC Partner: Maxine Glancy (BBC R&D)
Activity: Exploring the behavior of older consumers with respect to Digital TV - their inhibitions and their reasons for choosing to engage with digital services or not.
Key Deliverable: Production of an EPG prototype for impaired users

Alone Together
Principle Investigator: Helen Thornham (City University)
BBC Partner: John Millner (BBC Learning Formal)
Activity: Examining BBC provisions for online learning environments and UGC. Looking at how teens view online creativity.
Key Deliverable: Direct feed into the redesign and re-launch of the BBC Blast initiative including reports, pod/vidcasts and seminars.

Open Archive Project - The Miners Strike: A case study in regional content
Principle Investigator: Simon Popple (University of Leeds)
BBC Partner: Heather Powell (BBC Information and Archives North)
Activity: Bringing together those in the North of England affected by the Miners Strike and BBC journalists to explore the ongoing ramifications that the reporting of sensitive events can pose to a broadcaster.
Key Deliverable: A website that allows the affected groups to select and curate materials to provide a web based account of the miners strike in its first year

Further Information

The research methods used by David Gauntlett and Lizzie Jackson of University of Westminster can be found at the Artlab site.

The new BBC Blast site, which includes the first stage of recommendations from Angela McFarlane's Alone Together study, can be found here.


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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