KEI Profiles

We asked colleagues involved in KEI projects to give us their top tips, and explain what the benefits have been for them.

The institutions and communities I work with bring a fresh and rich perspective to the phenomena I study and I feel rewarded by a real sense of relevance and contribution to social change.

Tania_Burchardt_747x420Dr Tania Burchardt
Associate Professor in the Department of Social Policy and Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) 

What kind of knowledge exchange activities have you been involved with?
I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities for both broad and fairly high-level knowledge exchange, and for deeper and more intensive activities. The joint workshop we organised last year with the International Monetary Fund on social protection in a changing world would fall into the first category. That provided a platform for a wide range of LSE research to feed into the IMF’s development of a strategic framework for their engagement on social protection. The day had a real buzz about it and several people remarked on the constructive – though often challenging – nature of the discussion. At the deeper, more intense end of the spectrum, my colleague Polly Vizard worked with Age UK to hold a series of events for practitioners on supporting the nutrition of elderly hospital inpatients, using findings from our research. We heard first-hand about some of the logistical problems for ward staff in providing the right food at the right time with the right assistance and we were able to share our insights about identifying patients most at risk.

What have the benefits been for you?
As a social policy analyst, doing research that makes a difference is one of my main motivations. So for me knowledge exchange is not so much a supplementary activity as a crucial part of what I do. I find it stimulating – and often challenging – to try to translate research findings into forms that can be communicated to the relevant actors, whether they are policymakers, practitioners, or intermediaries such as journalists and people working in NGOs. And through engaging with these people I am often humbled to learn that I have only seen one part of the picture – there are more aspects of the problem to be researched and understood.

What would be your advice for those thinking of undertaking a KEI project?
Go for it! There is lots of support at LSE – from Research Division, Public Affairs, Press Office, academic colleagues – so you don’t have to do it alone. You may be surprised to discover that there are more people out there with an interest in your findings than you thought.


 

John_Collins_420x747Dr John Collins
Executive Director, LSE International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU)

What kind of knowledge exchange activities have you been involved with?
I run a research and policy engagement unit, the International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU), which is housed in the LSE US Centre. We focus on directly engaging policy debates to formulate, develop and support more effective approaches to managing the illicit drug issue globally. We work in Ireland, supported by the LSE KEI fund, to bring the evidence around decriminalisation of consumption to policy discussions. Through our local partners, the Ana Liffey Drug Project we have produced a major report, held townhalls meetings, helped develop documentaries for the main national TV channel and provided expert advice to government figures and the official working group on decriminalisation. We work in many other international environments as well as UN forums. My colleague, Alexander Soderholm, who is a PhD in the Department of Social Policy, and I just returned from a field visit to Myanmar where we were part of local policy discussions as part of a major Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project that IDPU is a partner on. This project looks at the interaction between illicit drug economies and peace building in the borderlands of Myanmar, Afghanistan and Colombia. It very much builds on the work we have done in Colombia over the past five years encouraging new policies beyond the ‘war on drugs’ model. For example, we hosted an event in January 2016 where IDPU launched a major new report, After the Drug Wars. The event was attended by President Santos, who officially signed and endorsed the report, and his entire cabinet who discussed the report and its findings. Meanwhile, at the UN level IDPU presents at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs every year and gave a presentation to member states during the negotiation of a major international agreement on the future of drug policy in 2016. Meanwhile, Alexander is building a major research network initiative around drug policies in the Middle East and North Africa, while my colleague Charlotte Eaton is organising a really unique photography exhibit at the LSE Festival highlighting the human impact of President Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines. In Afghanistan our colleague David Mansfield has distilled extremely pointed research on the impact of US bombings of heroin labs to the point where his report was discussed at the most senior levels of the US and UK militaries. We’ve also just launched an entirely open access journal with LSE Press, the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, the first of its kind globally, in partnership with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. It’s a very exciting year ahead!

What have the benefits been for you?
It is an extremely rewarding and interesting thing to do. I and my colleagues are of course focused on our various research interests, but we still have the freedom and the flexibility to step out and undertake work that is a complete gear change from primary research. Each then informs the other. I undertake historical and IR focused research with an eye to how it might help shape policy discussions and I’m more effective at communicating and engaging policy discussions because I understand the granular details behind them, whether it’s the historical development of a member states attitude or the normative ideas which underpin a specific policy. Knowing where a policy comes from and what social phenomena determined it helps us engage at a level that more directly addresses the concerns people have, rather than just abstract policy principles or ideas.

What would be your advice for those thinking of undertaking a KEI project?
I think it’s an absolutely fantastic way to broaden both the underpinnings and the impact of one’s own research. It’s certainly not an either or. I would encourage anyone interested to think what the potential public or policy implications of their work are, even if they’re not readily apparent. It extremely rewarding to see research that you pour significant effort into developing utilised beyond your immediate sphere of researchers and disciplinary peers. It also just sharpens the messaging and delivery around how you communicate that research, whether to colleagues, students or the broader public.


 Sandra_Jovchelovitch_747x420Professor Sandra Jovchelovitch
Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science

What kind of knowledge exchange activities have you been involved with?
With many including blogging, social media and appearances in traditional media, dialogue workshops with research participants aiming to devolve and validate findings, policy seminars with multiple stake-holders here at the School, providing expert evidence to the UN, UNESCO and local governments, to incorporating non-academic stakeholders in the design, execution and analysis of research (a very difficult but ultimate rewarding knowledge exchange process).

What have the benefits been for you?
To stay in touch with the world beyond academia and learn from non-academic audiences.  The institutions and communities I work with bring a fresh and rich perspective to the phenomena I study and I feel rewarded by a real sense of relevance and contribution to social change. My own research shows the importance of understanding and recognising different domains and forms of knowledge and engaging in knowledge exchange brings this full circle. 

What would be your advice for those thinking of undertaking a KEI project?
Consider the actors, institutions and communities which your research can potentially affect, seek a conversation from an early stage and if possible, work with them. Multiple stake-holder research partnerships are a challenging but ultimately rewarding process that can leverage citizens’ knowledge and expand the boundaries of our own scientific knowledge.  


 

Fanny Blanc
LSE London

What kind of knowledge exchange activities have you been involved with?

  • Events: roundtables, focus groups, site visits, seminars and conferences
  • Networking
  • Report writing and advertising
  • Blogs and website creation and advertising
  • Social media outreach
  • Film making and advertising

What have the benefits been for you?

  • Creation of strong partnerships, having a positive impact on our research both in terms of intellectual input and in terms of funding.
  • Development of reports (still referenced by our partners) in enough time for us to understand the point of view of others.
  • Building of an audience and dialogue about academic research (teaming up with practitioners has helped us draw our work in the real world).
  • Incredible learning experience, due to the diversity of outputs and activities and the people you can meet throughout projects.

What would be your advice for those thinking of undertaking a KEI project?
It is the best way to advertise your research and to reach an audience that will help you in the long run.


 

Dr José Javier Olivas Osuna
Coordinator, Debating Brexit impact at local level: a mixed methods comparative study

What have the benefits been for you?
KEI activities force us to get out of our comfort zone and to be more critical about our own work and how we present it. They also helped us understand the relevance of what we do, confirm some ideas and reject other assumptions we had.

Presenting social science research to the subject of analysis, in this case citizens and local stakeholders, is both challenging and rewarding. It pushes you to be more careful as you may have to face direct criticisms if you make mistakes.

Thanks to these activities our research has been widely read and discussed. A good academic paper may be read by a few dozens or hundreds of people. Our research outputs have certainly reached thousands of people directly or indirectly (thanks to media reporting, e.g. articles in local newspapers about our findings). Moreover we know that some policy-makers have read it and reacted to it. Our findings may shape their understanding of the issues analysed and potentially their decisions in the future.

The positive reactions to our work are also a great source of motivation (and even self-esteem, what we do matters)

What would be your advice for those thinking of undertaking a KEI project?
Make sure they get proper support. KEI activities usually require a great coordination effort and in order to make the most out of them it is important to understand how these non academic channels of communication work (e.g. understand the blogosphere, what makes a video catchy, what type of story is likely going to be reported by a journalist, how to approach a politician, etc.) LSE Communications Division can help those interested.