New peer network promotes the art of collaboration

“The artists’ involvement was a key element in the shift to a culture of collaboration that values the active involvement of participants in research, from the beginning to its dissemination.”

New peer network promotes the art of collaboration. November 2023

The final feature in our series highlighting the outstanding work already underway to improve the research culture at Leeds sees Dr Jon Ward and Benedetta D’Ettorre, of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (AHC), outline how a project they’ve been leading on is helping promote and value diverse forms of research activity.

The overarching aim of our Research Culture Strategy is to enable more of our colleagues to produce leading research inclusively, equitably, openly and supportively.

The strategy states everyone in our research community must feel valued and empowered. Only by creating an environment more conducive to supporting mutual growth, encouragement and understanding can we best address the unique global challenges facing the world today and into the future. 

Our Research Culture Strategy identifies four key objectives we aim to deliver during the next five years. One of these focuses on valuing diverse forms of research culture. 

Research is delivered by many colleagues – from inside and outside the University – working on a range of activities. To ensure everyone is appropriately recognised, rewarded and valued for their contributions, we must expand our traditional definitions of success to include innovative research methods and outputs, while continuing to value established approaches. We must diversify funding sources to ensure sustainability and measure research impacts responsibly.

Strategic, shared impact

Our project aims to develop a culture of collaboration among researchers exploring artists and arts organisations, bringing together academic colleagues attached to different projects, groups and centres in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, AHC and the wider University.

Being a research-led University, we have the privilege of operating in the same field alongside other researchers exploring working with artists and arts organisations to impact on their practices. This helps develop sustainable artists’ careers and arts organisations. However, this work often happens in silos – demarcated through school or disciplinary boundaries. 

For example, we’re aware of colleagues undertaking work in related areas in the Schools of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, Sociology and Social Policy, and Geography, but we don’t always have the capacity to promote strategic, shared impact across research projects, groups and centres.  

To try and tackle this issue, we established a peer network with academic members from six different schools and two faculties, alongside representatives from professional services.

Two postgraduate researchers were recruited as assistants. With regular mentoring, they worked to develop connections in the University and leadership research skills, helping them understand the benefit of this project for career development. 

They also worked on a public event to invite colleagues to share their research with artists and arts organisations, and to address shared challenges in the artist-led sector. They collaborated with artists to develop workshop activities for the event that engaged stakeholders to identify practical applications of research. 

New approaches

The artists’ involvement was a key element in the shift to a culture of collaboration that values the active involvement of participants in research, from the beginning to its dissemination.

The public-facing event was initially backed by external partner organisations, such as East Street Arts and Yorkshire Visual Art Network, which are already engaged with doctoral students in the team. With further support, it became a one-day participatory conference. 

The partners funded other network members to experiment and collaborate with artists, to create tools to disseminate research within the wider sector. These events facilitated networking between artists, arts organisations and academics. 

Through these initiatives, we were able to cultivate a research culture based on collaboration between different projects, improving leadership skills across all career stages and delivering new approaches to public dialogue and community-led research.

Further reading

Helping our research community fulfil its potential

Embedding equity, diversity and inclusion in our research culture

Inside Track | Helping transform lives through open research

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