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Over to You: Learning to present voluntary sector and volunteering research Armstrong House, Manchester Technology Centre, Manchester UK 23 April 2013 Demystifying Dissemination: Publishing in academic journals…. and other options Dr Mike Aiken Co-editor, Practice Papers, Voluntary Sector Review Visiting Research Fellow, Co-operatives Research Unit, Open University, Milton Keynes MK 7 6 AA UK mike. [email protected] ac. uk
Getting the message across Researchers from IVAR, CM and community organisations, London, July 2011
1. What is ‘Dissemination’? • ‘To sow or scatter abroad to propagate, to diffuse’ (Chambers 20 th Century Dictionary, Edinburgh, 1983) • A transitive verb: you have to disseminate something.
Dissemination: a straightforward approach? • • Imagine there is a thing called ablarada. You research ablarada. There’s a result at the end called zanar. You present zanar to the people - like a newly baked cake – & that’s dissemination! • The world is a happy place and the sun shines. …but isn’t that a bit simple and linear?
Dissemination: a more complex approach? • Social research may examine the work of knowledgeable human agents (eg take research on a volunteers’ motivation to be involved in a charity shop). • The research process may create new knowledge but this is often more like a co-production and co-construction. • Volunteers already know quite a lot about what they do and why and your ‘results’ may be derided as obvious, contested as false, or celebrated as insightful and wise! • …so dissemination depends on your approach to knowledge building and what you think exists (epistemology and ontology in technical terms) and your research approach.
Cherán, Mexico: the village started its own development plan and invited researchers in to help their process (Friere, P. (1996) style) Groundrules for the groups Villagers as co-researchers in building community knowledge Aiken, M. (2013)
Participatory Research: Researchers and villagers as co-researchers in building community knowledge Children’s groups Women’s groups
Take an Action Research Strategy • In some kinds of applied social research ‘baked cake’ (the outcome) is being baked (and eaten) as you go along. • The ‘results’ are emerging in interactions between ‘researcher’ and ‘subjects’ in real time. • Eg A interviewee says to you: ‘I realise as we’re talking – we should be giving more training to the volunteers – let’s start that straight away. ’ • The insights are immediately applied. • In this example the ‘dissemination’ may be occurring within the research process and not at the end as a product. See: Burns, D. (2007) on systematic action research; Coffman, J. (2010) on strategic learning; and reports by IVAR www. ivar. org. uk).
So: ‘What is dissemination? ’ is not always straight forward • Dissemination does not always appear in academic books about research (eg the excellent Bryman, A. (2001) Research Methods, Oxford: OUP) or guides to doing a Ph. D or MA (eg the excellent Cryer, P. (1996) The Research Student’s Guide to Success, Bucks: Open University Press). • Yet for practitioners in the voluntary sector what emerges during and from research may be very important – they have spent a lot of time with us as researchers. • And yet there can be that disappointing experience at the end of research project full of stürm and drang and fierce debate that the final report causes no ripple and is not read?
2. Different ways of thinking about dissemination • Let’s go back to the ‘baked cake’ metaphor: one standard dissemination tool is the report – 65 pages with executive summary and appendices –important and usually obligatory. • But in addition in social research with voluntary sector organisations ‘eating the cake as you go along’ may be happening – we often don’t acknowledge this! • Eg The feedback of the charity shop manager to your question 12 a which doesn’t quite work but for interesting reasons. • Eg The informal reflections over a coffee with staff and volunteers at the end of the day’s ‘research. ’
Examples of building in on-going reflection a specific part of your research • Eg Writing a reflective email/letter to the charity shop a few days after your research visit which summarises some factual points and offers some of your early insights. • Eg Running a learning workshop during or after the research. • Eg Undertaking a joint presentation at a conference, seminar or AGM with people from the charity shop you researched. • Eg Presenting draft ideas to a board meeting or staff meeting. • Eg Writing a magazine article for the organisation’s newsletter. • And making the debate part of your & their data.
Community Engagement • UK academics and universities – are assessed on ‘community engagement’ strategies and actions. • ‘Community engagement’ - hard in nuclear physics but easy in research on voluntary organisations or volunteering. . • Most of us are already ‘engaged’– as part of our personal life and professional interest. • We are informally ‘disseminating’ and sharing from research and action. • Contact, the community engagement officer/ team in your local university or the institution you are studying in. Your engagement & dissemination may be valuable to them. • In an era of measurement regimes: don’t forget to count these formal and informal interactions in your profile!
3. And what if I do have a cake to present! Some example of dissemination activities: • The research report. • Presenting at practitioner conferences. • Talking at a staff seminar or regional conference workshop. • Articles in local magazine or third sector magazines. • Short news items in current affairs or political magazines. • Articles and letter in local papers and on local radio. • Website, social media, on-line discussions, blogs, U-tube etc • Exhibitions and displays. • Publishing a short booklet, leaflet or literature review (see NCVO’s Pathways to Participation).
…The +ve and – ve: eg writing for a local community magazine…or academic journal? ! •
4. …and so: The Academic Article • Last and not least there is…the article in a respectable academic journal. • Respectability and credibility. • Long term accessibility to other researchers. • Building knowledge for a wider audience internationally. • Your profile and career – it is the gold bullion in the academic game.
Time for Product placement? Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN). • Our journal – Voluntary Sector Review - is organised by VSSN members and published via Policy Press. • Most work is undertaken by VSSN volunteers. • The major UK multi-disciplinary journal devoted to the voluntary sector in the broad sense. • Join VSSN and get 3 issues per year (about £ 30 for a student)!
Intermission ‘What makes a good VSR submission? The editor speaks!’ From Peter Halfpenny VSR editor [email protected] org. uk
Voluntary Sector Review: Aims • To publish high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers • To be an indispensible resource for those in and researching the sector • To be rigorous and stimulating • To be theoretically informed, empirically grounded and policy relevant (Peter Halfpenny 1)
Voluntary Sector Review: Scope • All topics relevant to voluntary, community and the wider third sector • All relevant disciplines • UK and beyond – illuminating cross-national comparisons • Research articles – 8, 000 words (5 per issue) • Practice pieces – 2, 000 to 3, 500 words (3 per issue) • Policy reviews – 2, 000 to 3, 500 words (2 per issue) • Book reviews – 800 words (number varies) (Peter Halfpenny 2)
The Decisions on Submissions • Reject (60%) – unrevisable – unsuitable for VSR • Revise and re-submit for external re-review (15%) – major revisions • Revise for internal re-review (15%) – moderate revisions • Discretionary revisions (10%) – minor revisions • Accept as is (<1%) (Peter Halfpenny 3)
Writing an Academic Article for VSR? See Peter Halfpenny’s Handout Halfpenny, P. (2013) The Good VSR Article… • Seven Deadly Tips covering: 1. Start 2. Review of relevant literature 3. Theoretical perspective / policy context 4. Methods 5. Findings 6. discussion 7. Conclusion
Pause for thought: Publishing Research: a cautionary tale and a question of ethics? • A true story: a £ 0. 5 million research project in an English University funded by public money from a UK research council. • Theme: public participation in the health service. • Major policy changes and development work locally in this area since 2010 involving a million staff, volunteers and policy makers? ? • The research project started in 2009 and findings will be available September 2014. • There are no interim outputs, reports, position papers, summaries or even a 5 line summary of emerging themes. An ethical issue? • However, in the interests of transparency, you are welcome to read the original tender documents from 2009 on-line. Gee thanks!
5. Writing Articles (academic or popular): Mike’s top tips • Skim back issues of the target journal/magazine. • If it looks similar to your idea in content and style…read a few articles in depth and deconstruct the formula: themes, order, language, length and format. Read the guidelines for submission. • Don’t ever write a popular article speculatively (even 350 words)! Write to the editor: a short synopsis, intended word length, your background. No more than six sentences. Ask if they are interested. • Try this with academic articles too – but send a 200 word abstract. • Select an article in a similar area to yours and use it as a rough model. • Set a timetable and strict stages (and break it! That’s life!). • If it is an academic article –it may take 10 times longer than you planned…and a year from start to submission!
An example: letter to ‘popular mag’ • To: …. XX • Subject: article on Mexico - Cherán & local participation • Date: . . XX Dear S…. I am a subscriber to Red Pepper and like the magazine. Would you consider a piece from me for the international section: approx 600 words. This would be on Cherán in Michoacán in Mexico - close to where I am living. I have been involved in the participative planning which the indigenous people have been undertaking to construct their own democracy. I think the article would relates well to community action and local democracy in the UK. It would cover these themes: citizen action, alternative approaches to democracy, communities under threat from the state, with lessons for UK readers. About me: I am a researcher who works on participation and democracy themes. I have a link to the University of XX. I have published in activist magazines such as London Cyclist and academic journals such as Social Admin. I worked in the voluntary sector for 20 years before getting into research.
6. Over to you: A dissemination plan in action Who to disseminate to…and in what ways? • Get into pairs. First, on your own: quickly think of an example of a research project (it could be the current idea, or research you have been involved in, or an imaginary project you would like to be involved in). • Write down the title of the research project. • Write down all the types of people and audiences that might need to hear about what comes out of this research (eg local councillors, single parents, volunteer organisers etc) • Write down the best dissemination methods you might use to reach the different audiences (eg articles, policy pieces, conferences etc). • Share this with you pair – can you help each other?
New Researchers: Learning to present voluntary sector and volunteering research. . . Manchester, UK 23 April 2014 Thanks!! Dr Mike Aiken Voluntary Sector Review mike. [email protected] ac. uk