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Stimulating engaged research through changes in the promotions process

This is part of a series of curated insights for Reformscape, a new tool from Project TARA.

The Open University is an interesting example of how changes in assessment can contribute to a broader strategic goal. It also offers inspiration for how to create a participatory change process.

Between 2012-2015, the Open University took action to strengthen their knowledge exchange with society. One of the solutions they devised was to introduce a new knowledge exchange-focused career track for academic faculty. Assessment criteria for promotions were revised to include, for instance, contributions to business, community, policy, practice or product/service development; leadership in knowledge exchange; and contributions from knowledge exchange to the university’s teaching and learning. 

This change was informed by action research conducted with staff at all levels of the organization. Involving staff revealed that they had a relatively narrow understanding of ‘engaged research’ and the ‘communities’ with whom they could exchange knowledge. Therefore, the change process focused on formulating broader definitions to deepen future engagement and capture their breadth in promotions, in line with the strategic knowledge-exchange mission of the University.

The follow-up surveys and evaluations of the program were published in a peer-reviewed article to promote both internal and community-wide learning.

Curious to know more? Read Open University’s background material in which they documented their process and results.

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