Bristol Conversations in Education: The other side of excellence: Failure, research culture and the role of academic governance systems

28 October 2020, 12.00 PM - 28 October 2020, 1.00 PM

Dr Gemma Derrick, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University

This is an online event - please register via the link below to receive further details

This event is part of the School of Education's Bristol Conversations in Education research seminar series. These seminars are free and open to the public.

Speaker: Dr Gemma Derrick, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University

Academic culture, knowledge production and the systems used to govern it, reflect a discourse of success. Within these discourses, research is used to benefit society, knowledge is produced and therefore open for utility when it gains publication, and we celebrate researchers that win prizes, grants and promotions. However, behind this discourse of positivity lies a culture that is highly polarised and committed to promoting one image of success for both outputs (research) and its actors (researchers). In addition, this culture is riddled with behaviours and biases that work to embed gender, racial disparities among its actors, and methodological and geographical disparities in the knowledge that is produced (outputs). As a result, the research reward cycle promotes both governance systems (such as peer review) and gatekeepers (peers, evaluators) as well as a sole threshold of academic excellence by which to measure success. This results in labelling outputs and actors that fail to mirror this success as failure. Whereas, there is a renewed commitment towards addressing disparities and building a kinder, more equitable research culture, this is achieved by measuring individuals against a sole idea of what success is, and concluding why individuals were not able to achieve this threshold, therefore ‘failing’. An alternative view, is to explore examples of failure to understand how the system fails the individual, rather than how the individual fails.

Using preliminary work by the Research Phoenix team, this presentation explores how a ‘failure lens’ can strengthen funding peer review evaluation processes. This alternative lens explores how academic governance systems work to create, emphasise and embed common disparities in research and how to make research culture more inclusive, holistic and kinder.

This event is hosted by the Centre for Higher Education Transformations (CHET)

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Christie Smith

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