Community-engaged student research: online resources, real world impact

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CB_Community-engagedAV2012.pdf(400.3 KB)
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Bates, Catherine
Burns, Kenneth
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Cambridge Scholars Publishing
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The global economic crisis, the cost of socialising enormous bank debts and exchequer fiscal ‘corrections’ in the Irish economy (see Kirby and Murphy 2011), have sharpened recent debates on the role and functions of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in society. Key debates have centred on public sector pay and performance, and the contribution HEIs should make in building the knowledge economy and driving Ireland’s economic growth. However, HEIs also have a significant part to play in civil society. HEIs are often criticised for primarily serving the elites, the powerful and the economically privileged sections of society; but all citizens, groups and organisations should have a right to participate in HEI activities, and be facilitated to share their mutual knowledge and expertise, and to collaborate on the creation of new knowledge. Civil society organisations (CSOs) can become engaged in higher education, particularly in the research activities of HEIs, through the process of community-based research (CBR), often facilitated through a knowledge exchange or community liaison office. Civil society organisations include: voluntary and community organisations, residents’ groups, non-profit organisations, associations, pressure and faith groups, and trade unions. CBR - also known in Europe as “Science Shop”, from a Dutch phrase meaning “knowledge workshop” - involves students and/or academic staff collaborating with community partners to address local and/or societal research questions identified by CSOs. In this chapter, we argue that the bottom up CBR approach, facilitated by the use of on-line resources, enhances the ability of HEIs to meet their civic engagement obligations contained in the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (Hunt 2011). CBR also makes HEIs more responsive to society, enhances student researchers’ knowledge, skills and competencies, and contributes to community development. This chapter begins by introducing community-based research and its development on the Island of Ireland. We then outline and evaluate our experiences of using online resources in similar ways in two HEIs – Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and University College Cork (UCC) - to facilitate student recruitment to CBR projects, as well as supporting the involvement of community partners and academic supervisors. This is very much a discussion paper based on evolving work practices, rather than a definitive evaluation of a finalised product. Throughout the chapter we argue for HEIs using such digital resources as a way to promote and facilitate staff and student involvement in civically engaged research. We will conclude the paper with a brief discussion of our publication of completed CBR reports on our websites, in light of the open access to research movement.
Community-academic research links , Civil society organisations , Student research , Civic engagement , Community based research
Bates, C. and Burns, K. (2012) 'Community-engaged student research: online resources, real world impact' In: Quinn, A. M., Bruen, C., Allen, M., Dundon, A. and Diggins, Y(Eds.). The Digital Learning Revolution in Ireland : Case Studies from the National Learning Resources Service. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing