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Engaging the experts

by Elizabeth Nelson Gorman, Public Engagement and Communications Officer, ADRC-NI

Public engagement is central to the ADRN. After all, the data we use for research belongs to the public, so the public has not only a right to know what is done with the data, but also a right to be involved in the shaping of the research that uses this data. This is also critical to ensure that research using public data is done for public benefit.

One way to do this is to engage with organizations who have become experts in their field, and who represent groups of the public who care about a specific issue. This is the driving force behind our engagement with the voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

These groups will have many years of experience working in a specific area – youth issues, women’s movement, mental health, justice, to name but a few – and a deep understanding of their subject area, how it affects their stakeholders, and where the gaps in evidence lay. Designing research that addresses those evidence gaps could not only potentially provide VCSE groups with much-needed evidence to inform advocacy and service delivery, but would also ensure that the research community is using public data to address society’s most pressing issues, the commitment we have all made to work for the public benefit.

One of the things we’re really interested in at ADRC-NI is the development of research partnerships between the VCSE sector and academics. Research using this method – often called co-production – means we get the expertise of a career researcher with a deep understanding of data and its power, with the intricate and nuanced grassroots experience of a VCSE group in touch with its core constituency.

To make this happen, we’ve been working closely with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), an umbrella organization for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Andrea Thornbury, Project Coordinator at NICVA, explained that “for some time NICVA has been involved in bringing together the VCSE sector with academics through our work with the Science Shop and ARK.  This is another great opportunity to develop and further co production relationships between the two sectors and NICVA is delighted to be supporting the ADRC NI in developing these research partnerships.”

The research that results from these partnerships – and often the partnerships themselves – have incredible transformative potential.

That’s why we’ve been working hard to make sure that our systems match our ambition. One of the other central tenets of the ADRN is safety and security of data use, so we need to ensure that any work that expands beyond the experience of university researchers has proper systems in place to make sure that the public’s data is still safeguarded at the highest possible level in accordance with law and best practice.


Written by Elizabeth Nelson Gorman, ADRC-NI Public Engagement and Communications Officer and published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Published on 21 December 2016


Page last updated: 15/06/2017