Connecting Epistemologies: Final Event audio, powerpoints and storify

On 28th October 2014 we held an event to launch the final report from the Connecting Epistemologies project. The report can be downloaded from here on the blog.

The event was about reflecting on the project and putting it in the context of work done by AHRC and by other researchers.

We opened with a talk from Sue Carver, from AHRC. Her powerpoint presentation is available to download from this link CC presentation Without Notes Oct 2014 and the report she was discussing, Support for Arts and Humanities Researchers post-PhD can be found here

Peter Matthews (Stirling, @urbaneprofessor) then presented the findings of Connecting Epistemologies. His powerpoint can be downloaded by clicking ECR PPT and the audio from his talk is here.

All the issues and ideas he was discussing are more fully explored in the final report.

The final speaker was Bryony Enright (Bristol, @bryonyenright), dicussing ECR experiences as part of a much broader project she is working on for the Connected Communities programme. She concluded with a four part typology of ECR identities that generated much interest and debate in the room and is well worth listening to and reading about. The audio from her talk is here and her slides Bryony presentation

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The session concluded with an general discussion, with many points raised by the audience- they are captured in the the tweets from the day as a storify here

Finally One audience member mentioned an ECR network at UCL that might be a useful model for dealing with some of the issues raised at the event

Connecting Epistemologies: Final Report!

The report from our project, working with 11 ECRs to understand their experiences of working on the Connected Communities programme, is available here:

Connecting Epistemologies Report

The executive summary of the report is below. We hope the report will be downloaded, discussed and disseminated widely and we welcome feedback! Leave comments on the blog, tweet to us or drop us an email.

Helen Graham, Katie Hill, Peter Matthews, Dave O’Brien and Mark Taylor


Early career researchers (ECRs) are a vital part of the higher education landscape. However their experiences are often underrepresented in discussions about higher education. They occupy an uncertain position, often not securely settled into permanent academic jobs nor having fully completed their academic training. They are, however, essential to the on-going success of research in the UK, as part of Research Council funded projects.

This report contributes to recent attempts to rectify the under representation of the ECR in academic and media discussions. It focuses on a specific group of ECRs, those working on projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme. Connected Communities has funded over 280 projects, with over 400 community partners. The programme aims ‘to understand the changing nature of communities’ and to ‘inform the development of more effective ways to support and catalyse community cultures and behaviours’. The programme has been especially interested in funding methodologically innovative approaches, in particular those drawn from the arts and humanities.

Given this context Connecting Epistemologies sought to explore both the methods and the experiences of ECRs within Connected Communities. The project consisted of a research team who were themselves all ECRs (based on the RCUK definition) and reflected the variety of academic practice captured by the term. They also represented a range of methodological approaches, from quantitative studies of culture through to participatory work with communities.

The research took place between May and October 2014, with an initial workshop and later the involvement of eleven ECRs who were at a variety of career stages. The ECRs all worked with a member of the project team to record their experiences based on questions they developed and using methods with which they were comfortable.

The findings of the report are captured by four themes that paint a picture of the ambivalence of the ECR experience as part of the Connected Communities programme:

• The precariousness of ECR life
• Academic identity
• The role of the Connected Communities programme
• The ECRs’ research methods

All of the participants described their commitment to their work as academics. For some, Connected Communities was seen to have provided a space to very productively bring together different aspects of their lives as researchers, educators, professionals, practitioners or activists.

Others had experienced sacrifices as part of this commitment. For this group, questions were raised as to the suitability of many of their methods for an academic career within the rigid disciplinary frameworks of the university. This could be especially problematic for some ECRs working with participatory or co-creation methods as part of an RA role on a bigger project, in contrast to those that had consciously chosen these approaches.

The uncertainty around the ECRs’ academic lives is connected to the emergence of a new kind of academic and a new version of the meaning and practice of research. This practitioner is no longer the individualised researcher, but is rather a connected and communicative knowledge broker, translating between different worlds of academy, community and often also policy or general public. This identity is shaped as much by Connected Communities as it is by the ECRs’ recognition of the importance of academic impact and the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The Connected Communities project had offered the ECRs the support and the space to develop both this new identity and their methodological innovations. As a result, the Connected Communities programme was seen in a positive light by all of the participants. However, the ambivalence displayed in the other areas of some of the ECRs’ contributions to the project was present in their understanding of the programme. This ambivalence stemmed from their uncertainty as to whether being part of this specific research programme would contribute to job security over the longer term, whether as an academic or not. This was more of an issue for those who had experienced a straightforward academic trajectory, had a clear disciplinary affiliation and traditional ideas of ‘career’. In contrast, those who had a professional background, activist motivations, or who were more relaxed about the different forms their future work might take, saw Connected Communities as providing a relatively secure and high status space to develop their practices.

Ultimately the question for research councils, universities and policy makers is how best to offer sustained support within institutional and funding frameworks for the passion and commitment of ECRs identified in this report.

Final event

Connecting Epistemologies: Methods and Early Career Researchers in the Connected Communities Programme FINAL EVENT 28/10/2014 City University London

Early Career Researchers (ECRs) face a variety of issues in the changing world of contemporary academia. To mark the publication of the final report from the Connecting Epistemologies project (available to download here on 28th October 2014), City University London are hosting an event that engages with questions confronting ECRs.

Connecting Epistemologies worked with a variety of ECRs, from PhD students and postdocs to early career lecturers, over the course of the summer to capture their experiences on the Connected Communities programme. The project explored their identities as academics and their methods and practices.

The afternoon will explore the way ECRs within Connected Communities may represent a new form of academic with a new form of identity; how they negotiate issues of precariousness; the skills needed to work as an ECR; and broader questions of what is legitimate as research, as methods, and as knowledge.

The session consists of three papers: one from the project team; one from AHRC reporting on the recent report Support for researchers in the Arts and Humanities post-doctorate; and one from Connected Communities Leadership Fellow Professor Keri Facer and project Post-Doctoral researcher Bryony Enright.

The session will then have a discussion on the future of ECRs within higher education and the arts and humanities.

All are welcome! To book a place email

Venue: Poynton Lecture theatre, City University London, Northampton Sq, EC1V 0HB

1.30pm welcome and coffee

2-3pm presentations

Keri Facer and Bryony Enright (Bristol) The shaping of a new generation? Early career researchers working at the interface between universities and communities

Connecting Epistemologies team: Understanding ECRs in Connected Communities

Sue Carver (AHRC) Support for researchers in the Arts And Humanities

3pm-4pm Q&A and discussion.

What are disciplines?

I’ve entered the Connecting Epistemologies project as an inherently interdisciplinary researcher. I started my intellectual journey as a historian, then went onto study town planning, which is inherently interdisciplinary, before finding myself doing a PhD in policy analysis/political science and now I’ve ended up being a lecturer in social policy. A winding journey across epistemologies and methodologies.

Town planning and social policy are both interesting disciplines because they are both, arguably, quite UK-specific (social policy more so than town planning, probably) and also defined by the profession they’re attached to. As this paper by Pendlebury and Davoudi on town planning highlights, much of planning’s early history as a discipline was structured by curriculums provided by the Royal Town Planning Institute. Other academic disciplines have older traditions and come much more clearly from the academy itself and provide specific epistemologies and methods for people to use.

So, why am I reflecting on disciplines? I’ve now started coproducing my part of this project with my two early-career researchers and an early theme that is emerging in different ways between the two of them is the importance and scope of disciplines. Academic disciplines are not just important for providing us with epistemological and methodological grounding, but also provide us with collegial support and a strong sense of identity.

Like all identities, they tend to be developed in opposition: “I am A because I am different to B”. Two particular aspects of this have emerged in my early conversations with participants. Firstly, is how we understand and get at that “difference”. This has also been a debate in another project I’m involved with. As someone with a background in interpretive policy analysis and, to an extent, participatory action research (PAR), the main question of difference is where does PAR as social science practice end and participatory arts practice begin?

My immediate thoughts are they are similar – they both try and create change in a very organic, participant-led way using a multiplicity of ways. They both have a strong focus on process in research rather than outputs and outcomes as well. But there is a strong disciplinary divide between the two. I wonder how much this is about the language used to describe research practice. I also wonder, and I mean to be critically reflexive on my own role as a social scientist here, how much it is about arts practice defending itself from encroaching ethnographic approaches like PAR who are trying to stake out new territory for the social sciences.

This brings me to the other issue that has emerged, the inherent “power” of disciplines. In a bigger picture sense, this links to debates around the “crisis of the humanities” and the growing dominance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Immediately, I feel a Foucauldian approach to understanding power-as-process is helpful here. One of the disciplines I’ve been in discussion about is very fragile – it is rooted in a history of gentlemanly amateurism and marked by temporary contracts and insecurity. Therefore bigger trends like falling funding, greater job insecurity, and de-professionalisation impact much more on this discipline. This, in turn, means that trends lauded by the Connected Communities programme as a whole, particularly community-led research, can threaten the nature of expertise and its inherent powerfulness in this discipline: if everyone can do it, why do we pay professional experts to do it?

These thoughts are just based on the first few conversations I’ve had with participants and hopefully these are questions we can get some more substantial answers too over the summer of fieldwork and in the final workshop.

Reflections on the Connected Communities Festival

Four out of the five members of the research team (sorry, Peter) spent the first part of July at the AHRC’s Connected Communities Festival. We were all there in various capacities, representing the different projects that we work on, attending the various breakout and off-site sessions that were taking place, as well as representing the Early Career Researchers project itself.

We had a poster displayed in the Motorpoint Arena on the 1st and 2nd of July, which moved to the St David’s Hotel on the 3rd for the dedicated ECR day. The poster summarizes what we’re doing in the project, and the discussion that followed on the 30th of May. You can see the poster at the bottom of this post (with English and Welsh versions).

The poster led to a lot of discussion with people who were attending the Festival; if anything, there was more discussion with more senior academics than with ECRs themselves. This discussion often focused on how these more senior academics, as PIs and Co-Is, were able to balance their roles as both managers and as mentors: whether they were able to ensure both that the ECRs they manage get value from the projects on which they work, and that their participation on Connected Communities projects won’t hinder their ability to get longer-term academic jobs further down the line. This discussion encouraged us that this balance is something that people are conscious of; hopefully it’s not limited to the people we interacted with near the poster.

One of our team, Dave O’Brien, was asked to participate in the final day of the festival as a mentor for ECRs developing research projects. The day was intensive and demanding, with ECRs asked to do large amounts of research development, thinking and networking in a comparatively short amount to time. Dave’s role was to comment, support and assist the ECRs through this process and offer his experience on the several ECR projects of which he has been a part, as well as bringing the perspectives that have developed from the ECR project to the discussions. The day was a fascinating experience for Dave, being on the other side of both project development and ECRs’ perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of the Connected Communities project. The results of the funding decisions from the research development day will be announced early in 2015 and there will be come fascinating ECR-led projects taking place next year.

Our contribution to this year’s Festival was pretty cautious: some projects had large display stands with substantial printed material to take away; others organized a huge range of breakout sessions (as you can see from the programme); others balanced all of these activities with all sorts of activities off-site. We’re not sure yet what next year’s event will consist of, but we hope that we’ll be able to come to that with some substantive findings from the research process which is currently underway, and that those findings will feed into the way that Connected Communities will continue to work.

You can see Dave talking about the ECR project in the YouTube frame below.

ceposterenglish ceposterwelsh





Cultural Trends is inviting EARLY CAREER RESEARCHERS to submit to a special edition of the journal, which we hope to publish early 2015.


We also looking for an EARLY CAREER RESEARCHER to guest edit this special issue.



The ethos of Cultural Trends is that cultural policy should be based on reliable empirical evidence.


The journal’s emphasis is on empirical evidence and it champions the need for better statistical information on the cultural sector. Its readership is divided between academics, policy makers, funders, consultants and practitioners.

Cultural Trends is based on the assumption that cultural policy should be based on empirical evidence and it champions the need for better data on the cultural sector. It aims to:

•    stimulate analysis and understanding of the arts and wider cultural sector based on relevant and reliable statistical data;
•    provide a critique of the empirical evidence upon which arts and wider cultural policy may be formed, implemented, evaluated and developed;
•    examine the soundness of measures of the performance of government and public sector bodies in the arts and wider cultural sector; and
•    encourage improvements in the coverage, timeliness and accessibility of statistical information on the arts and wider cultural sector.



Submissions should have empirical issues at their heart – such as reporting on empirical results of research projects, discussing methodological issues in developing the evidence base for cultural policy, and/or reporting on developments in cultural indicators.


Submissions should be up to 5,000 words long and would need to be delivered in August 2014. More details about the journal and submissions are provided below


In the first instance we suggest that you submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to the Editor, Professor Sara Selwood ( no later than 30 June 2014. Please head you email, “Early Career Researchers”.


You will find a sample copy and more details about the journal at

Guidelines for submissions can be found at


Please note that publication in Cultural Trends is dependent on the outcome of peer reviewer.



Guest editor


If you would like to be considered for the voluntary post of guest editor for this special issue, please e mail the Editor with details of why you would like to be involved and what you could bring to the journal, together with a short CV (max 2 sides A4). Please head you email “ Guest Editor, Early Career Researchers”.


Experience of publishing reviews (in a peer-reviewed journal, in particular)  would be an advantage.


You may apply to both submit and guest edit.