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Social Spaces of Research Communication: Investigating atmospheres in zones of trade

POPOV, BORIS,OLEGOVITCH (2015) Social Spaces of Research Communication: Investigating atmospheres in zones of trade. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Boris Popov PhD Thesis Corrected Version ) - Accepted Version


The roots of the ‘contentious’ relationship between science and society in the United Kingdom are frequently attributed to poor communication, if there is any communication at all, between academic researchers and various publics. This research explores how and why researchers working in various fields of science are practicing diverse roles in the process of research communication beyond academia.
The aims of the research were threefold. First, it aimed to capture researchers’ views on their diverse practices in communication of their research beyond academia and whether these reflected social spaces and associated atmospheres in which they were working. The second aim was to investigate the role of university boundary spaces (communications office, knowledge transfer/ business engagement, science outreach) in the communicative practices. The third aim was to ascertain how the recently integrated ‘impact’ component within the UK national Research Evaluation Framework (REF) may influence communication practices of researchers. In order to address these aims, a qualitative investigation was conducted based predominantly on semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis.

The research uses a qualitative methodology involving interviews with a purposely selected sample of relevant academic or academically related actors, mainly selected from a University Institution which forms the case study for this research.

Research communication beyond academia is found to be a diverse and contingent process constituted through interactions that are concurrently tangible and ephemeral between certain human and non-human actors. Researchers engage in a variety of activities for the purposes of research communication which are contingent on the interactions between animate and inanimate actors in the social spaces where engagement events occur. These interactions often rendered engagement spaces as trading zones, identified according to the outcomes for all the animate and inanimate actors involved. At the university level, there are boundary spaces which coordinate the formation of trading zones between researchers and publics; where research communication occurs through relations-focused and transactions-focused practices. The introduction of the ‘impact’ component within the latest version of the UK research evaluation framework can potentially lead to the narrowing of engagement practices due to valuation that is placed on the framework criteria.

The thesis makes an original contribution by demonstrating the value of an interdisciplinary approach combining theories and methods from social geography and other fields of research to the public understanding of science, public engagement with science and science communication. Furthermore, it provides new insights on the ways that researchers view their practices of research communication and how these relate to institutional and societal contexts in which they work.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:communication, research communication, science communication, atmosphere, impact
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Dec 2016 10:05

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