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BPS Policy Unit

Refocusing our strategy – research and impact

05 November 2018 | by BPS Policy Unit

Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard blogs on her new role as the Society's Head of Research and Impact.

Head of Research and Impact. Wow. What an opportunity to refocus our work as a learned society on key issues for academics and researchers. After more than 20 years advising and driving forward the strategy for the Research Board from a policy perspective, I am delighted to take on this fantastic new role.   

One of the most important features of this new position is that it presents a unique opportunity to heighten the role of the BPS as both broker and agent for psychology knowledge exchange and impact. This goal will lie at the heart of our new research strategy. 

Over the next couple of months this will be my focus, working alongside key colleagues such as Professor Daryl O’Connor (Chair, Research Board) and Kathryn Scott (Director of Policy). It is time for us, in our role as a learned society, to adopt a modern approach to supporting research under the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and forthcoming Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), and support the evolution of its use in policy development, innovation and societal change.

Whilst open science has provided the means to allow greater access to research, the availablity of research does not mean that it can be easily understood. A wider understanding of research is essential to enable greater reach and impact on policy development in key areas. Engagement and communication should be seen as an inherent part of the research process, from initial design through to output. 

Our strategy will focus on empowering researchers to adopt a relational approach to impact and support the development of their influence networks, with stakeholders seeking relevant knowledge that meets their needs and sheds light on real world issues.

The strategy will include a series of ambitious initiatives to enable the generation of high quality research outputs, demonstrate the impact of psychological evidence and support academic and research psychologists. I will be reviewing the activities and opportunities already on offer from other leaders in the field, and coming to speak to Departments of Psychology. 

There is an additional role for the Society to be its own knowledge agent through funding its own research to provide the evidence base to inform and influence key policy developments. For policy influencers to see the BPS as a trusted provider of that type of evidence, which can underpin effective policy change, would be a huge evolution in the level of impact we can achieve. 

We also need to ensure that our outputs and their evidence base are of the highest standards. In advocating that policy must be based on robust psychological evidence, we need to be able to hold our own work to account. The establishment of our own quality assurance framework will be a key strategic development to enable us to confidently add our voice to these champions for the smarter use of evidence in social policy and practice.

As some of you already know, I am a Chartered Psychologist and an Associate Fellow as well as a long standing member of BPS staff. I strongly believe that our strength lies in the synergy of member and staff expertise – so please do let me know your thoughts on what kinds of support the BPS should be offering to academics and researchers. Are there any particular areas that we should prioritise? 

I am also be keen to hear your ideas together with any examples of good practice from elsewhere. Please do get in touch


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