The landscape of research in universities is changing. Among government funders, as well as other research agencies, there is a clear trend to seek interdisciplinary collaborations; there is a routine expectation to demonstrate impact and engagement; there is an emphasis on learning, experiencing and understanding work beyond disciplinary boundaries; organizations have set up collaborations with universities on a one-off or longer term basis; placement schemes exist to enable people to spend time working in other organizations and we see an increasing emphasis upon coproduction, working with communities and policy-related research.

Traditionally, academic research has involved bounded practices based on sets of justifications according to which the production of quality, as well as progress and recognition within a discipline, are based. These practices are important to protect the distinction of disciplines, the integrity of their practices and attraction to those who wish to be schooled in their ways of knowing. These are increasingly subject to factors such as funding criteria and pressures; variations in value attributed to different knowledge and methods; roles of consultancies and other knowledge producers and an increase in the existence of intermediary organisations, both inside and outside universities, who work to interpret and apply the results of research with consequences for the production-transmission-reception-application process.

Overall, we find a movement taking place from knowledge which is bounded by disciplines, to a process in which justification is shaped in different conditions of application. The implications of this vary across disciplines from physical to social sciences and the arts and humanities where ideas of evidence and insight vary. A greater understanding is needed concerning these variations and their implications for future practices. As a result, this research, involving interviews with those who have experience in the broad area of participative inquiry, will focus upon the following questions:

1) How are the boundaries  between justification and application in different forms of practice negotiated and understood and what implications does this have for ideas of value?

2) How does the context within which knowledge is produced relate to the content and potential consequence for action, particularly when it comes to recognition of different knowledges?

3) What is the role of various forces in shaping the direction and process of knowledge production, reception and deployment?

4) What issues inform effective knowledge exchange?

People involved

Tim May

Tim is Professor of Social Scientific Methodology at the Sheffield Methods Institute. He is the international methodological advisor to the SMLIP and is working on the role of boundary agents and the circulation of knowledge and decision-making in research practice. His interests lie in interdisciplinary working; collaboration with non-academic partners; policy-related research; management and organizational change; methodological innovation; reflexivity in social research and social life; philosophy of social science and social and political theory. He has written widely in these areas and also worked with many organisations in the public and private sectors.

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Beth Perry

Beth is a Professorial Fellow at the Urban Institute. She is the Director of the Sheffield Manchester Local Interaction Platform and sits on the Mistra Urban Futures International Board. Her research focuses on urban governance, transformation and the roles of universities, with an emphasis on socio-environmental and socio-cultural transitions.

Beth Perry joined the Urban Institute in September 2016, following her appointment as a Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Following degrees in European Studies and Modern Languages (BA Hons, University of Manchester) and European Integration (MA, University of Bradford), she joined the Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF) at the University of Salford and became its director prior to moving to Sheffield.  During this time she completed her PhD which focussed on the relationship between universities and the knowledge economy in the context of multi-level and multi-actor governance. Since 2010 she has been the UK Programme Lead for the Mistra Urban Futures Centre, with headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden and sits on the International Board.

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Victoria Habermehl

Victoria is a Research Associate in the Urban Institute and works on the ESRC Whose Knowledge matters? as part of the international MISTRA Urban Futures. Her research to date has focused on Latin American Cities where she researched how the economy is understood and reshaped through crisis, narratives of economic informality and everyday economic practices such as economic solidarity initiatives, autogestion and popular economy. She has a PhD in Geography from the University of Leeds,  focused on organising in-against-and-beyond crisis in Buenos Aires, Argentina, through the economy, state and territory. She has previously worked as a Research Associate at University College London in the project ‘Economics in the Public Sphere’ and at Brunel University in ‘Timescapes of Urban Change’. She is part of the Contested Cities international network.

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News, events and blog

Transdisciplinary projects using co-production (questionnaire dialogue box)

Do you have experience of co-production in partnership with a university? If so, we'd like to hear more about your notions of good leadership.

Who leads, for what purpose and how? The question of leadership in coproduction is often assumed or ignored. Jam and Justice researchers want to understand where people with experience of co-production agree and differ on what constitutes good leadership. To help us study this effectively, we've prepared a survey intended for those who have been part of co-production projects involving a university partner.

Those outside the confines of research communities and who are frequently marginalised from public consideration need to be more involved:” says Mistra Urban Futures’ Tim May, in an article recently published by the

Report from a Workshop with Early Career Researchers at University of Sheffield, 4-5 December 2018

--Tim May, Beth Perry and Charlotte Spring (with thanks to participants who gave their time).