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Achieving and evidencing research 'impact'? Tensions and dilemmas from an ethic of care perspective

Evans, R. (2016) Achieving and evidencing research 'impact'? Tensions and dilemmas from an ethic of care perspective. Area, 48 (2). pp. 213-221. ISSN 1475-4762

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/area.12256

Abstract/Summary

While many academics are sceptical about the 'impact agenda', it may offer the potential to re-value feminist and participatory approaches to the co-production of knowledge. Drawing on my experiences of developing a UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact case study based on research on young caregiving in the UK, Tanzania and Uganda, I explore the dilemmas and tensions of balancing an ethic of care and participatory praxis with research management demands to evidence 'impact' in the neoliberal academy. The participatory dissemination process enabled young people to identify their support needs, which translated into policy and practice recommendations and in turn, produced 'impact'. It also revealed a paradox of action-oriented research: this approach may bring greater emotional investment of the participants in the project in potentially negative as well as positive ways, resulting in disenchantment that the research did not lead to tangible outcomes at local level. Participatory praxis may also pose ethical dilemmas for researchers who have responsibilities to care for both 'proximate' and 'distant' others. The 'more than research' relationship I developed with practitioners was motivated by my ethic of care rather than by the demands of the audit culture. Furthermore, my research and the impacts cited emerged slowly and incrementally from a series of small grants in an unplanned, serendipitous way at different scales, which may be difficult to fit within institutional audits of 'impact'. Given the growing pressures on academics, it seems ever more important to embody an ethic of care in university settings, as well as in the 'field'. We need to join the call for 'slow scholarship' and advocate a re-valuing of feminist and participatory action research approaches, which may have most impact at local level, in order to achieve meaningful shifts in the impact agenda and more broadly, the academy.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Human Environments
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:49148
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ethic of care Research impact Dissemination Participatory action research Feminist methodology
Publisher:Wiley

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