Vicky Ward

It’s been all go here at the St Andrew’s branch of the Embedded project over the past few months. A flurry of activity early in the year included a  webinar and co-production workshop. These focused on our work to identify the key features of embedded research initiatives.   

Since then we’ve been working hard with designer and illustrator Chris Redford to produce an illustration of the ‘landscape’ of an embedded research initiative, and to create some practical resources that can be used to inform the design and implementation of embedded research initiatives.

​We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that these resources are now available.

The resources outline the 10 key features of embedded research initiatives that we identified through our literature review and scoping work. These cover features such as the intended outcomes of the initiative, how researchers are supported to belong to different organisational spaces and communities, and the different activities that go into an initiative.

Rather than providing a ‘road map’ for how to set up and implement an embedded research initiative, we have instead tried to provide signposts or pointers towards the things to consider. These resources are an aid to dialogue and discussion about embedded research, rather than an instruction manual or blueprint of how to do it.

So why did we decide to take this approach? Well, a lot of it comes back to the co-production workshop we held earlier this year. During the workshop, lots of embedded researchers and their partners told us that initiatives tended to be emergent rather than fully planned, and dynamic rather than static. They talked about needing to change and adapt their plans, activities and relationships over time, often through ongoing conversations with partners, and suggested that there wasn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to embedded research.

These insights also influenced how we represented (visually) the landscape and features of embedded research initiatives. You’ll notice that the overall theme is of a garden. This reflects the kinds of metaphors used by workshop participants, which often focused on the natural world: for example, trees, ponds and ferns to represent the key features, growth to represent the emergent and changing nature of initiatives, and nurturing and tending as a way of developing and improving.

Given these discussions, it wasn’t hard to come up with the idea of a garden with different areas or zones for each of the 10 features. It was a little trickier to come up with garden themed metaphors for each feature! How would we represent the contractual and informal aspects of ‘belonging’, for instance? And what sort of image might convey ‘proximity’?

We will leave it for you to judge how well we have managed to do this, but we hope that the illustrations and resources will provide food for thought and prompts for discussion for anyone involved in planting or cultivating an embedded research initiative.

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