VSSN meets the ESRC

On 30 January the ESRC hosted a meeting with the VSSN Steering Group to discuss closer working relations. Peter Halfpenny, Pete Alcock, Cathy Pharoah, Jeremy Kendall and Angela Ellis-Paine attended on behalf of VSSN. Astrid Wissenburg (Director of Communications and Information), David Guy (Head of Knowledge Transfer) and Amanda Williams (Impact and Policy Manager) attended on behalf of ESRC.

The meeting kicked off with the ESRC outlining the main elements in their current business plan, stressing the importance of knowledge transfer and impact. Discussions moved on to ESRC’s third sector engagement strategy (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/Images/ESRC_Third_Sector_Engagement_Strategy_tcm6-25436.pdf) including concerns for: enhancing the evidence base; capacity building; co-production of knowledge; relationship building with the third sector.

Peter then gave a brief history of VSSN, highlighting its origins as an ESRC seminar series and outlining its main areas of activity. He went on to outline a number of key areas in which the Steering Group felt the ESRC could offer its support to VSSN, including:1. Early-career researchers: supporting the development of our growing early-career (‘new’) researchers network through, for example, helping to fund a two-day ‘summer school’. 2. Twice yearly day seminars: helping to reach out and attract more disparate researchers working across a range of disciplines. 3. Journal: support for the development of a UK-based third sector journal, to be developed as part of the VSSN membership package.

In return, the ESRC outlined several areas in which they were seeking cooperation from VSSN:

1. Understanding of research expertise: making use of the research directory to identify experts in the field; 2. Access to international third sector research and networks through VSSN partners;3. Good practice case studies of user engagement in research and evidence of the impact of research within the third sector;4. Links from ESRC Society Today website to VSSN’s website;5. ESRC Concordat meetings: inputting into the Third Sector research agenda items within ESRC Concordat (governmental and NGO) meetings;6. Third sector representatives within ESRC governance: nominating representatives for ESRC’s governance committees. 7. Promoting third sector engagement: utilising mechanisms within VSSN to promote third sector engagement elements such as placements.

The VSSN Steering Group is currently considering each of the elements outlined by ESRC to see how we can best take the agenda forward. If any of our members have views or ideas we would be pleased to hear from you – please email our Secretary, Angela, at secretary@vssn.org.uk

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