March 2021: Research Consulting’s most international (and busiest) month on record!

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Last week, I shared a post discussing the unusually large number of interviews I have conducted over the course of March. It actually turns out that March 2021 was the busiest month in the history of Research Consulting, and, collectively, we have delivered 125 interviews across 30 different countries. Interviews and their thematic coding are a core part of our toolkit for developing insightful projects and reports, and an area of qualitative research where we have significant experience.  

In this post, I will talk you through what has been happening across our team last month and why it is so important for us to work across national boundaries.

Nobody is out of reach

Over the course of March 2021, our work for a range of clients has needed us to talk to academics, policymakers, research funders, research managers, charities and businesses alike. Across our team, we have been evaluating a research funding programme in Asia, supporting a UK public body with their international efforts, investigating expansion opportunities with a publisher and reviewing and evaluating knowledge exchange activities at leading universities. And this range of activities is, indeed, one of the main strengths of our company: we are active participants in the research ecosystem, and our work covers all aspects of the research lifecycle.

My key takeaway is that today, more than ever before, nobody is out of reach. While our team has always made use of videoconferencing tools, we were amazed by how quickly these were picked up by all of our audiences during the pandemic. Perhaps, the surge in online meetings has even had an equalising effect, as we were able to talk to people from an increasingly diverse range of backgrounds. Notably, this includes some senior international policymakers and funders, for example within the European Research Council, the UK Department for International Development and the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat).

International connectivity is key

As Research Consulting is based in Nottingham (UK), it is natural that about 30% of our 125 March interviews were with UK-based organisations. What is perhaps unexpected is that the remaining portion were with countries all over the globe: the figure below shows that we managed to touch all continents except for Antarctica over the course of only one month – this is surely a company record and required a degree of flexibility in terms of our working hours!

Countries involved in our March 2021 engagement events

To get to the heart of issues in higher education and research, it is essential to see these as part of international endeavours to improve the world. Clearly, some policy matters will be relevant in national contexts only, and the issues faced by different organisations will change based on their location and key stakeholders; however, there are always lessons to be learned from different research cultures. In this context, international connectivity is key, and, even during the pandemic, we have been joining impactful (online) conferences where people from all over the world openly shared their experiences and learning points.

A big thank you to the higher education and research communities

At a time where in-person interactions are difficult, we can only admire the resilience of the higher education and research communities. All those with whom we have engaged have generously shared their views and knowledge to help elevate the impact and reach of stakeholders in the global research enterprise.

Our ability to reach individuals all over the world, with the help of our network of international associates, is a huge asset, both for ourselves and those looking to work with us in the future. As a globally connected consultancy company, we can continually refine our thinking, draw comparisons between different research cultures and, ultimately, help our broad range of clients address their unique challenges.

Are you facing a complex issue that could be resolved by taking a (virtual) trip across the globe? Get in touch at! And, who knows, in 2021 we might yet get to interview someone working from Antarctica… it might not have a university campus, but it does have quite a few research stations.

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