Winter 2018 Research Update from INLOGOV's Director of Research, Professor Vivien Lowndes

21st century public servant

 It has been a busy few months for INLOGOV’s research team.  

At our two-day writing retreat in the Malvern Hills at the end of October, colleagues worked on a diverse range of projects, including inter-professional education, avatars and online education, changing councillor roles under austerity, market-shaping in social care, the economics of trading standards, policing and social media, and the politics of transport demand.  Colleagues noted the benefits of the retreat in terms of providing ‘thinking space’, ‘undisturbed writing time’ and ‘a mutually supportive environment’.  The retreat was followed up by a research workshop back in Birmingham, where we discussed draft papers with the aim of maximising quality before submission to academic journals and other outlets.  INLOGOV’s Community Day provided an opportunity to work with Associates and PhD students on ways of improving links between research, consultancy, executive education and teaching.

Reflecting the quality, significance and impact of INLOGOV’s research, here are some highlights of our current activity:

  • Catherine Mangan organised a well-attended Festival of Social Sciences event on public services in a time of austerity, in partnership with HSMC and the Business school.  She also continues with her secondment to the West Midlands Combined Authority (funded by the ESRC) working on skills development, putting into place lessons from the ‘21st Century Public Servant’ research.  Catherine is working with Catherine Needham on research on social care markets under the Care Act for the Department of Health. 
  • Vivien Lowndes has been focusing on conferences and publications.  She presented her work on devolution and institutional formation (with Associate, Max Lempriere) at the UK Public Administration Committee Conference, and on local government traditions and austerity (with Associate, Alison Gardner) at the Commonwealth Local Government Conference.  Her book, Theories and Methods in Political Science (with Dave Marsh and Gerry Stoker) came out in November.  She has had two papers accepted for publication in Political Studies and Governance.
  • Catherine Durose and Alison Gilchrist joined colleagues from the Universities of Tilburg, Roskilde and Edinburgh in a research design workshop for their ‘Smart Urban Intermediaries’ project, funded by Horizon 2020’s ERA-net programme.  Catherine Durose continues to develop the Greater Manchester action research collective (ARC) (funded by the ESRC ‘Jam and Justice’ project) which involves citizens, activists and practitioners working alongside academics to co-produce, test and learn from new ways of governing cities. Catherine is also working on international collaborations and has convened a peer learning exchange for the ARC with What Works Scotland.
  • Stephen Jeffares has submitted an application to the British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship scheme proposing to investigate the growing interest in, and implementation of, ‘virtual public servants’ (customer service chatbots that are designed to simulate and replace human conversations/encounters with citizens). Stephen is continuing his current research on the role profiles of police when engaging with citizens online, and has met with senior officers from West Midlands Police to discuss future research collaborations.
  • Karin Bottom presented research findings from the ‘21st Century Councillor’ project  at the Public Administration Committee Conference and is currently preparing a research bid for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission on ‘Analysis of data on the diversity of politicians and candidates in Britain’,  with Catherine Durose and Catherine Mangan.
  • Louise Reardon and her co-author Greg Marsden (University of Leeds) have submitted their book manuscript, Governing the Smart Mobility Transition, to the publisher.  Louise also presented her research on the Multiple Streams Approach to agenda setting at the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference in Oslo.She has also been discussing the policyimplications of her Transport Research Innovation Fund research ‘Understanding Wellbeing' with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
  • Elke Loeffler (Associate, who is joining INLOGOV as a staff member in January 2018) worked with Vivien Lowndes to organise a two-day workshop with researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt on ‘Strengthening local democracy and improving public outcomes: The potential of public participation and co-production with citizens’.  The workshop explored the gap – in both research and practice – between policies to engage the public in decision-making (through democratic innovations) and policies to promote co-production of public services. 
  • Alison Gilchrist attended the recent IRiS (University of Birmingham) conference on co-production in research, presenting a paper on how power and privilege affect university-community partnerships, based on a study of co-designed projects funded under the AHRC's Connected Communities programme.
  • Jason Lowther presented to the National Institute for Health Research on ‘A Local Authority Perspective’- arguing that public health research needs to engage with councils in a way that is more holistic, less tied to Randomised Controlled Trials, and more locality based.  Subsequently Public Health England's Director of Research has invited him to discuss the potential for a WM pilot of a more localised approach to health research.

Professor Vivien Lowndes (Director of Research) is always happy to discuss new research ideas and opportunities (v.b.lowndes@bham.ac.uk).

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