5.1 Collaborating to produce research
5.2 Collaborating to disseminate research and impact
5.3 RTPI influencing the direction of research
5.4 Securing additional funding for research
Members across most of the discussions highlighted the need to collaborate with other organisations. We also learned a lot about how some of these relationships might work through speaking to more than 20 representatives of different key RTPI stakeholders. The partnerships we engage must ultimately be guided by the RTPI's partnership strategy and joint working guidelines. However this process has given us a lot of information to inform future collaborations.
5.1 Collaborating to produce research
5.1.1 Commissioning research
The main way in which RPTI currently collaborates on research is by commissioning research on specific questions, normally to planning schools or consultancies. To date this has generally involved relatively small amounts of funding for projects (£5k to £25k, with more at the lower or mid-end of that range). It has generally been supplied by universities and consultancies, often in partnership.
We asked external stakeholders about perceptions of the RTPI as a research commissioning body. We were told that even where budgets were on the smaller side, there are advantages to working with the RTPI, which we should highlight. One is the opportunity of connecting with a large network (impact and recruiting planners for research). Some academics saw the RTPI's commissioning as particularly useful in allowing academic time to write up research for a practice audience.
We also heard about a number of additional ways we might commission research, including:
- Open calls: Inviting proposals within a set area or aimed at a set objective rather than inviting people to bid for specific research projects.
- Competition funds: Inviting a range of submissions on a given topic and awarding a prize for the best one. They could go to students or to everyone. They could be run by the RTPI or other organisations can be paid to administer them.
- Co-commissioning work: Working with funding bodies or other organisations to co-commission work. In the past we have jointly commissioned work with organisations such as the National Planning Forum and the County Councils Network.
- Funding PhDs: This would probably involve co-funding PhDs with clear links to our research agenda. ESRC run collaborative PhD schemes (e.g. with CIH), which generally involve the candidate working at the host organisation for a period. Some universities (e.g. University of Sheffield) also run schemes where students are embedded in organisations for particular projects.
5.1.2 Collaborating on research
The RTPI's 2012 research strategy stressed the value of collaboration in research in terms of greater impact and outcomes, as well as the fact that planning lends itself to cross-disciplinary working. We also heard calls for collaboration during this consultation, both from members and from external stakeholders. For example one suggestion was collaborate more with other built environment professional bodies on things like uniform data gathering, mapping public space and bringing together different professionals in research.
Collaborating on research also means drawing on our members and other planning stakeholders in all our research. We heard that this could help identify local nationally relevant case studies and to feed into research questions. A key part of this would be stronger engagement with local members and Planning Aid volunteers. This could involve setting up a panel of members or Planning Aid volunteers interested in research and drawing up a list of things we want support with. Another way would be to make better use of the RTPI Networks, which used to play a larger role in things like identifying case studies. RTPI Networks also sometimes involve formal collaboration with other institutes.
5.1.3 Supporting research
Many external stakeholders and members in academia were interested in how the RTPI could support their research. Our involvement is dictated by the joint working guidelines, as well as by capacity and how closely the projects map to our objectives. Participants were interested in things like:
- Commenting/ feeding into/ endorsing research: We regularly do this and this 'peer review' is assumed to be part of our role as a Learned Institute. At one end we might just comment on a draft, at the other we might write a foreword to explicitly support research.
- Participating in advisory boards: Again we are asked to do this a lot and normally accept if it is in line with strategic objectives and we have capacity.
- Promoting surveys: We have done this in the past however survey fatigue is a major problem so we have rules limiting this in the joint working guidelines.
- Being interviewed for research: Again we try to help where possible, giving priority to strategically important projects or ones led by members.
- Supporting students and PhDs: This came up several times in the consultation and was also an issue raised in previous research consultations and strategies. It could be supporting collaborative studentships, promoting student work (e.g. at RTPI events), or engaging with doctoral students and student members. It could also be suggesting dissertation topics or feeding into curricula.