The Politics of Co-production

The relationship between academe and the broader social sphere is changing rapidly as greater pressure is placed on academics to demonstrate the social relevance and public impact of their research.

For many academics the ‘impact agenda’ fueled a focus on the dissemination of research findings to multiple communities of potential users alongside a more creative approach to the use of social media but the core research process itself remained a distinct and largely autonomous academic exercise.

‘Impact’ was therefore largely a post-research consideration in a new model of ‘engaged scholarship’.

The increasingly salient concept of ‘co-production’, however, marks a shift towards a deeper or more complex form of impact with practitioners and potential research-users drawn into each and every stage of the research process.


Project aims:

By including collaboration between researchers and users throughout the research process, co-production aims, according to a British Academy report in 2008, ‘to dissolve the boundary between producers and users – all forms of expertise (among academics, practitioners, business and the public) are considered valuable and contribute to knowledge production’.

For researchers, the British Academy report suggests co-produced research ‘ensures that the research findings are subsequently taken up and exploited’.

Moreover, including the public, community actors or service users in the research process may, in principle, empower them by cultivating a number of personal or civic attributes (confidence, aspiration, ‘voice’, etc.).

Co-production promises, therefore, to be transformative not solely in research terms but in social terms: the engagement of citizens and social groups nourishes the renewal of democracy.

In this project we aim to understand how the benefits of co-production can be maximized through an improved awareness and management of the risks, trade-offs and limits of co-production as a way of conducting social and political research.

Through a systematic review of the literature and interviews with researchers and policymakers, we aim to understand the challenges of maximizing the benefits of co-production, and how they might be overcome.

More projects: ‘Just like us’: Politicians, celebrity and the politics of normality

The increasingly salient concept of ‘co-production’ marks a shift towards a deeper form of impact with practitioners and potential research-users drawn into each and every stage of the research process.

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