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School of Geography

Impact and Public Engagement

The School of Geography engages with a wide range of research users, policy makers and the public to ensure that our research has major impact – in scope and significance – from the local (often in east London) to the international.

Our approach involves (i) establishing and sustaining collaborative frameworks for research; (ii) applying research in practice through committee membership and engagement with policy makers and practitioners; and (iii) broadening the audiences that engage with our research. This approach is underpinned by our impact strategy and has been supported by funding from Queen Mary’s Centre for Public Engagement, Queen Mary Innovation and Enterprise and AHRC Creativeworks London.

Impact strategy:

  1. To embed impact in the research process through staff training, knowledge sharing through impact seminars and internal peer review of grant applications
  2. To enable impact via the School’s targeted Research Theme Funding
  3. To develop the role of (a) the Research and Teaching Officer to generate and archive information on and evidence of impact and (b) the Marketing and Communications Officer to target press releases and publicise research via the website and social media
  4. To promote and support applications for internal and external Knowledge Exchange funds
  5. To consolidate existing research partnerships with external organisations and to use Research Theme Funds and the School’s expertise to generate new partnerships
  6. To identify and support key areas for current and future impact across all research themes.

Collaborative frameworks for research
The School’s research is often undertaken in close collaboration with users with whom we establish meaningful, mutually beneficial and sustained research partnerships. Research funding has been awarded to partnerships with research users, including with the Museum of London Archaeology Service (AHRC), the Geffrye Museum via Centre for Studies of Home (AHRC and Leverhulme Trust), and PhD studentships via ESRC/NERC CASE and AHRC CDAs since 2005 with the Geffrye Museum (5), V&A Museum of Childhood (3), National Maritime Museum (2), Hunterian Museum, Kids Company, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Ragged School Museum, Arcadis UK, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Runnymede Trust, and Sandwell and Barking & Dagenham Primary Care Trusts. The SMART PhD programme and MSc Integrated Management of Freshwater Environments enhances training and develops collaborative applied research projects with the agencies on the advisory board (including Atkins, Environment Agency, Natural England and Wessex Water).

Our collaborative research with museums has been showcased in a short film made with Mile End Films and funded by the School of Geography and Queen Mary’s Centre for Public Engagement:

The School pursues a range of opportunities to contribute to public, private and voluntary sector initiatives, including membership of key advisory committees, working groups and other public bodies. Examples include Miles Ogborn’s work on the Research and Collections Committee of the National Maritime Museum; Geraldene Wharton’s role as Chair of the River Restoration Centre’s Board of Directors; Angela Gurnell’s leadership of the hydromorphology assessment work package in the FP7 project REFORM; and Alison Blunt’s role as trustee and Council member of the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers).

Reaching a broader audience
Queen Mary’s geographers operate across the range of popular media in order to broaden the audience for research. Highlights include Simon Reid-Henry’s book Fidel and Che (Hodder and Stoughton, 2009), Alastair Owens’ Living in Victorian London film for BBC London; Angela Gurnell on ‘Nature’ and ‘Saving Species’ on BBC Radio 4; Jane Wills on ‘The Moral Maze’ and ‘Whatever happened to community?’ on BBC Radio 4; and David Horne in Geology Today, Astronomy Now and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Feedback to research collaborators and users, including policymakers, has been via workshops and public lectures on: work-life balance in the new economy to employee networks, unions and IT employers in the UK and Ireland; economic restructuring and livelihood protection to governmental and civil society organisations in Slovakia and Poland (Adrian Smith); and estimates of diabetes prevalence for the US Centre for Disease Control (Peter Congdon). On-going work with museums and galleries translates research into displays for a broad audience, including exhibitions on geographies of home at the Geffrye Musuem (from AHRC, ESRC and Leverhulme Trust funded projects) and the display on pleasure gardens at the Museum of London directly informed by Miles Ogborn’s research on Vauxhall Gardens.