|From Benchmarking to Action Plans – planning for the future|
|Friday, 25 July 2014 11:53|
While DRUSSA’s 2014 Benchmarking Report has been finalised, published and is now widely available, this is far from the end of the benchmarking story.
Continuing the story
The nature of the benchmarking process is that we are seeking to measure and understand change over a period of time – not just the state of play at one moment in time. That is why responses to the 2014 Benchmarking Survey are most interesting by virtueof the responses from 2012 – that is to say, the real knowledge is found in the changes we’ve seen at the universities over this timeframe. It’s also why responses to a future benchmarking survey will help to give even greater dimension to our understanding of how Research Uptake is being built into DRUSSA Universities’ wider research agenda, and the great progress that they are making. This third, future Benchmarking survey is some time away – but, it’s important to integrate what we’ve learned so far in near-term activities, too.
Designing Action Plans
One near-term activity is the design and execution of Research Uptake “Action Plans,” which all the DRUSSA Universities have been working on. These Action Plans serve as the universities’ roadmaps to plot out specific activities they’re using to drive Research Uptake forward. To support the universities in this process, we’ve begun to hold tele-meetings with Leaders and Champions about their Action Plans – which of their goals they’re on target to meet, which ones have evolved over time, and which new goals might have emerged.
These tele-meetings are extraordinarily useful, as we’re able to discuss universities’ particular capacities as identified in the benchmarking process alongside some of the new targets they’ve set in the Action Plans. How do new targets and existing capacities line up? Which targets are like the “low-hanging fruit” (i.e. rewarding and achievable in the short-term), and which targets depend on a few prerequisites?
Planning these targets out (whilst accounting for the nature and pace of change so far) is all part of ensuring sustainability, and is why the Action Plans build on what’s come out of the benchmarking process. While our Action Plan tele-meetings are ongoing, some valuable knowledge has already emerged from our discussions so far. Some universities have found certain policy- and strategy-orientated goals (such as Communications, Outreach and Extension, and Research Strategies) easier to progress than they'd anticipated – due in no small part to a real breadth and depth of institutional support to embed Research Uptake more formally into research systems. Others have said that, through what they learned from other DRUSSA universities at the Benchmarking Event, they’ve been able to adopt new ideas into their own ways of producing University Research Reports – this is a great example of not just sharing knowledge across the group, but having it take root.
Sharing knowledge, adapting our approaches
The benchmarking process is about more than understanding the broad-strokes changes in Research Uptake – it’s also about understanding how we can plan for the future, too. There is good practice out there, which can impact upon our thinking – most importantly, there are concrete examples of how we can make change real. Developing the Action Plans is an important part of getting our shared knowledge into institutional practice.
Liam Roberts is Programme Officer: Policy, at the Association of Commonwealth Universities