A reflection on working at Research Consulting

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Dr Angharad Roberts |

Dr Angharad Roberts joined Research Consulting in 2020, initially on a secondment to support the assessment phase of REF 2021 and more recently as a Senior Analyst.

Here she reflects on her role working across multiple projects and how Research Consulting is positively impacting large organisations and complex systems.

During my secondment to the assessment phase of REF 2021, I supported the work of two of the REF 2021 sub panels, focusing on English Language and Literature and Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management. These expert panels were convened by the UK’s Higher Education (HE) funding bodies to undertake a robust assessment of the quality of research in UK HE institutions.

It was a real privilege to be involved with this important work, which will have significant implications for the funding of research in the UK for years to come. It was also a particular pleasure to be working to support two academic areas in which I feel deeply rooted, having completed an undergraduate degree in English and a PhD in Information Studies.

As a Senior Analyst, I now work with colleagues on projects in a range of different sectors. I have been involved in nine main areas of work during my first six months in this role. Roughly half of these are university commissions, but I’ve also worked on contracts for a learned society, a professional association and a non-departmental government body.

Such a variety of sectors and subject matter means that the work here always has something new to offer. We work collaboratively on projects, routinely sharing complex tasks that require specific expertise or drawing on people’s experience of the sector or client landscape. It’s a very agile environment and there is a fantastic skill mix within the team.

We often find there are common threads that run through the projects. We may be undertaking quite different tasks – an evaluation, service review or conducting interviews – but there are recurring themes that emerge. In particular, it’s difficult to avoid noticing the impact of the pandemic on organisations and their activities over the last two and a half years.

Some of the projects have very clear links with my previous work, mainly in HE. My background is as a librarian and information specialist, but my career has also taken in academic administration, research strategy, policy and management, and analysis and visualisation. It’s good to work for a smaller organisation that is so adept and effective at supporting larger, more complex organisations in sustainably improving the way that they work.

One element of my role has been convening and facilitating focus groups, bringing together people with a common interest, area of expertise or shared concerns. It’s satisfying to run a session where people are engaging with each other and benefitting from the discussion. It’s particularly good when participants say that they feel the focus group has been helpful to them in some way, in addition to the value of insights gathered through these events for us as a consulting team.

I’m currently working on a project for the development of a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework for the UKRI Open Access policy. I’m pleased to have been part of the team which put together the initial proposal for this project. There’s always a sense of achievement for the team when a proposal has a successful outcome, and it’s satisfying to follow a project through from bid submission to completion.

Presenting back to the client at key milestones in a project provides a valuable opportunity to validate our approach and to highlight any gaps or challenges. We distil complex data into presentations which summarise the analysis and key findings, and draw out the most valuable insights and recommendations for the client.

Working on Open Access, and in the wider area of open science, presents exciting opportunities to contribute to initiatives with the potential to deliver real-world benefits. The speed of scientific advances – including the development of vaccines – in response to COVID-19 is arguably one of the strongest examples yet of how quickly science can progress when key findings are shared openly.

Open science also helps to improve transparency and accountability in research. I think Research Consulting has an established record of doing valuable work in the important field of open research and I’m glad to be part of it.

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