Ed Miliband at Creative Energy Homes.
There was an air about him, one that perhaps comes from being a well-trained politician, or perhaps from being a familiar face seen often in the news. Ed Miliband walked into the researchers’ hub at the Creative Energy Homes, shook everyone’s hands and repeated their names as if trying to memorise each person.
He then surprised the PhD students by directly asking individuals what their projects are about – if you have done a PhD you will know this is almost a ‘rude’ question. Panic. They knew they had about 10 seconds to impress and they were not ready for it. Silence. The students took each a few moments to recompose themselves and eventually gave Mr Miliband convincing answers. Some speeches prompted more questions, others may have been pitched at the wrong level.
Ed Miliband, a high profile British politician who was the Leader of the Labour Party, the Leader of the Opposition and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, stopped by to learn about our research at the University of Nottingham. Having been the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2008 to 2010, the guest was keen to hear about the sustainability research that has been spearheaded under past and current Europe-wide projects. We introduced TURAS and other projects and answered his many questions about the importance of the work and the importance of international collaboration.
But what is the importance of research work? Well, I am an academic and I do a lot of it and I say: it is only as important as the impact it causes. Shelved research (excuse the pun for those with theses gathering dust – like me perhaps) is of no use at all.
When I was doing my PhD, a few too many years ago now, someone told me that you should always be ready to give a full public-friendly explanation of your research in 30 seconds because that is as much as you would get if you are approached by the media. And yes you will get approached by the media if you are doing interesting research. But often it is really hard to translate something that feels very familiar to you into something that is easily digestible (and usable!) by others.
That is why the TURAS initiative is so significant, because it has actively engaged policy makers and industry partners in transformative research undertaken with and by academics. TURAS enabled adaptive governance, collaborative decision-making and behavioural change, it forced researchers to ensure their work was accessible and useful in practice. The evidence of this induced change is the various tools, or TURAS solutions, created by the project and designed to generate real impact. Solutions tested in real communities with real problems and real people.
In 2010, Ed Miliband said during a conference speech “Every time we made progress we did it by challenging the conventional wisdom”. I believe that the only way to answer to the urban challenges we currently face is by working together, something we do not conventionally do. So I invite you to challenge the conventional and try TURAS solutions in your community!Keywords: research impact, sustainability, policies