I was recently invited to give a presentation to the N8 Research Partnership Board of Directors – the Vice Chancellors and their deputies from the eight universities that make up our N8 partnership – to tell the Board about the development, activities and achievements of the N8 PRP. This gave me an opportunity to reflect upon the journey travelled over the last 5 years or so, and how far we have come in that time in delivering on our aims and ambitions. On a range of fronts, the N8 PRP is now beginning to transform the ways in which researchers engage with policing partners in research co-production, as well as how policing practitioners utilise evidence that is rigorous and relevant.
Asked to single out three significant successes from our broad array of activity strands – never an easy task and always somewhat invidious – I highlighted the following which seem worth sharing:
First, I have been struck but the incredible successes generated from the ‘small grant’ scheme which has demonstrated how significant – curiosity-driven and application-oriented – research findings with considerable impact can be fostered with small levels of investment and a large dose of enthusiasm, commitment and institutional support from within a partnership framework that nurtures knowledge co-creation. By putting in place a rigorous selection process and supportive infrastructure – or ‘scaffolding’ (see my introduction to our Annual Report) – we have been able to assist the development and flourishing of great research collaborations, ideas and knowledge co-production between practitioners and researchers. It is gratifying to see how some projects have gone on to change frontline practices far beyond their initial test-beds and others have proceeded to capture follow on grants that will enhance knowledge, learning and practice (see here). Having funded eight completed projects (Summary Reports are available here) and four other projects that are ongoing, I am now looking forward to reading through the next round of applications (closing date 17 January 2019 – see call details here), which I am sure will be another outstanding crop of excellent ideas. The published summary reports from each small grant, rightly deserve wide readership – see here – and I look forward to the next batch in 2019.
Second, the Data Specialists CPD skills programme that was launched earlier this year – with a first cohort of 33 data analysts from all participating force areas – is a great example of collaboration between the Training and Learning strand (Lancaster) and the Data Analytics strand (Leeds) with significant support from Humberside Police, to identify a really valuable opportunity to develop skills and human capital within policing. This unique CPD programme brings together policing analysts and researchers and draws upon the latest techniques, methods and thinking in academia and policing. Following substantial positive feedback, the programme will be rolled out annually from early 2019 to the N8 PRP partner forces.
Third, the annual Policing Innovation Forum has come to constitute a major event in the calendar and a dynamic ‘engine’ of innovation at the heart of the overall N8 PRP programme, fostering new research-practice synergies, identifying novel research opportunities, stimulating knowledge exchange and driving innovation. They provide an engagement platform at which key partners around a particularly topical issue of policing – set by the Steering Group – are brought together to explore forms of innovation, partnerships and collaboration that are engendered by the very nature of the policing problem itself. The recent Innovation Forum on ‘Policing Mental Health’ was an excellent example of precisely such an urgent topic for policing and one which demands a partnership approach, as reflected in the debates and discussions (see here).
Additionally, it has been a real privilege for me, as a member of the Steering Group, to hear about the wonderful research work that is being done by our N8 PRP collaborative PhD studentships. The Steering Group has benefited from the insights that each of the researchers have received in terms of privileged access to data and people in the course of their studies. I look forward to reading the summary reports that these PhDs will generate over the forthcoming year or so.
Returning to the N8 Board meeting, it was gratifying to receive the level of support, encouragement and commitment from the N8 Board members for us to continue on our bold and ambitious journey. Whilst we have come far in building our solid relations and secure working practices and principles, we still have much to do. The Data Analytics Digital Service (DADS) has now been launched and we need to exploit the undoubted opportunities that this affords. There is still more do to in agreeing data sharing processes and protocols and in untapping the data resources to underpin research co-production. It is my genuine expectation that the Data Mobilisation event scheduled for 15th January 2019 in Leeds will help us do more of this in the future.
As we plan and explore opportunities for new funding to underpin the next 5 years of our development beyond the Catalyst grant, which comes to an end in mid-2020, I am heartened that the collective enthusiasm to sustain and enhance what we have developed together over recent years has grown brighter with each step along the journey and is reflective of the commitment and enthusiasm for research-informed change and enhanced collaboration across the partnership.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage colleagues – both practitioners and academics – to use the N8 PRP Register of Expertise either by registering a new entry or by regularly updating your existing entry. In my conversations with colleagues around the country from, for example, the HMICFRS, the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST), the Police Foundation and Police Scotland, as well as on my international visits, it is clear that they see this resource as a vital asset and portal through which identify scholars and practitioners working in particular fields of policing with whom they might wish to consult or engage. The more this becomes a useful tool, the more it will be a used resource.
Adam Crawford, Director