A few weeks ago, on a bit of a whim, I created a LinkedIn group, called the Research ‘Impact’ helpdesk, with the simple purpose of providing a peer to peer help desk function to researchers and intermediaries looking for guidance on achieving research ‘impact’. I’m the member of a few other groups on linkedIn, but none of these operate with this ‘helpdesk’ function in mind, and so I thought there might just be some potential here.
The bare bones
This group is for researchers and intermediaries globally to share and receive advice on achieving research ‘impact’, with an explicit focus on research communication and engagement. The idea being that through peer to peer exchange you can gain advice and expertise on how to present your research, engage with stakeholders, plan for policy influence, monitor your progress and much more.
There is tremendous potential in drawing on all voices and experiences in the mission to make research travel, rather than just relying on a few ‘expert opinion formers’. ‘Expertise’ is everywhere, but often it can be overpriced, untapped and inaccessible, especially when you are simply looking for someone to answer your simple questions with straightforward answers. It often troubles me that some research organisations spend so much money calling on perceived experts, when often the answers can be provided for free. This, coupled with a desire to see researchers and intermediaries speaking to each other more, and solving their challenges together, led me to the idea of the helpdesk.
The group initially began life as the Research Communication and Engagement Helpdesk, but I decided to change it for three reasons (1) It’s far too long!, (2) I don’t think the link between communication, engagement and research impact is always that obvious to the research community and I wanted to try and emphasise its potential here, and (3) it makes sense to try and cover the whole ‘value system’ under ‘research impact’ and recognise that communications and engagement are not the only elements that will bring success, and that other things must be considered in an interconnected way (i.e. credibility, context, research quality etc).
What has happened?
Well, in truth not a great deal. The group has amassed around 30 members without much effort on my part, but no discussions have taken place yet! It’s tempting to follow my initial gut reaction and to give-up on this whimsical idea, but that would be a little foolish, especially as this is the first time I have tried to publicise the group beyond my own LinkedIn connections.
One of the troubles I have is that most of my connections on Linkedin are with those people who sit on the intermediary side of the fence, rather than the researcher side. This does mean there is some real ‘expertise’ on research communication and engagement for researchers to tap into – so researchers why not take advantage of this! I’m really keen for this group not to be part of the dreaded ‘echo-chamber’ that just provides ‘the usual suspects’ somewhere new to hangout. RESEARCHERS, INTERMEDIARIES, PEOPLE FROM BEYOND AND PEOPLE FROM BEYOND THE BEYOND, PLEASE TAKE NOTE BY JOINING AND EMBRACING THIS GROUP AND SHARING LIBERALLY (Bit full on right!).
Join the group: here
I’m pretty confident that if the group grows and becomes more diverse the helpedesk will start to function as is intended (fingers crossed). And this article represents an honest effort to try and get more people involved – from which ever world they occupy. In truth, I’m not really sure if we can start to build a sharing and caring community from scratch around a linkedIn group like this (I know the odds and rational are not in my favour!), and I’m hoping the www.researchtoaction.org audience can help. If not, it’s an interesting experiment all the same, with a genuine objective of trying to help people in a focused way!
Help me facilitate the group
The helpdesk is intended to be a ‘social good’ that reaches out across boundaries and networks. In order to achieve this we need people who reside within different networks to make the group travel and meet its full potential. If you have a thirst for sharing and helping people and want to be a part of an ad-hoc ‘steering’ group with admin rights, let me know so we can get things moving. Please do help! In theory, the group should manage itself, and if we can get enough people involved at the ‘steering’ group level, facilitation of the group should not to be too time consuming. This whole idea is about “crowdsourcing” help, and that should be reflected in its structure and approach.