This Wednesday I presented my annual report on the achievements of, and challenges for, staff in the Birmingham Centre For Media and Cultural Research.

The highlights included:

Three new projects focused on Citizen Journalism in Egypt (£32k funded by Swedish Development Agency allowing us to fund Noha Atef as a Research Assistant), Digital R&D for the Arts (funded by NESTA / AC / AHRC £22k) and Connected Communities Hyperlocal Publishing (funded by AHRC £285k over 30 months allowing us to fund Dave Harte to lead and appoint Jerome Turner as a Research Assistant), and continuing projects based upon European Jazz and on Cultural Heritage.

Nine new funding bids including a successful bid the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to extend our work in Citizen Journalism in MENA (which was successful), a proposal to AHRC to undertake research on Jazz on UK radio 1955-80 (which is waiting a decision), and participation in a submission to the AHRC with five other universities for funding for research degree studentships in the arts and humanities (where we were successfully selected to make a full proposal).

Two of our PhD students, Yemisi Ogunleye and Sukanya Borthakur were examined in their theses, and should both soon graduate. Staff working on research degrees made great strides with Oliver Carter, Pete Wilby, and Faye Davies nearing completion; Matt Grimes, Siobhan Stephens and Jon Hickman were preparing a proposal to transfer to PHD; Annette Naudin made substantial progress towards completion, and Dave Harte and Vanessa Jackson started degrees. Sam Coley and Dave Kane successfully applied to start PhDs. Independent students Rob Horrocks, Jacob Tsado, Selbin Kabote, Kene Ochonogor showed lots of interesting contributions, and they were joined by Noha Atef, Emmanouil Melisourgakis, Les Johnson, and Rachel-Ann Charles who are nearly all now registered with strong projects.

Research active staff also published an impressive array of books, book chapters, articles and conference papers which you can read about under their individual profiles.

We have a very positive, but realistic university review with the external assessor suggesting that “There is an excellent job being done in BCMCR in terms of engendering research culture; supporting ECRs and bidding for external funding from many sources, but there is a long way to go … BCMCR is also spearheading new paradigms for the use of blogging/alternative forms of outputs. There are good PGR completions and a number are in train for completion by REF-2014 … the centre faces some significant challenges although there is evidence of excellent internal leadership; support from highly experience academics and mentoring for ECRs and new staff”.

We have 20 research-active staff, four of whom are engaged with research for a significant part of their time, four are establishing strong post-doc careers, and over six are likely to be submitted to the REF as research-active with outputs. The remaining staff are making important contributions in developing their academic career through their research degree.

We have also attracted a number of visiting researchers, including our current guest, Antonio Planells De La Maza from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Next year we will continue with the HERA Rhythm Changes, Leonardo Cultural Heritage and AHRC Connected Communities projects and start our FCO/SIDA two-year £115k Developing Citizen Journalism in the Arab Region project with our partners Meedan. The latter project, together with faculty funding will allow us to appoint a new Senior Researcher in Media for Social Change, to pay for a Research Assistant, support staff buy-out time and cover some of the costs of our centre Research Activities Coordinator.

We also hope to appoint new academic staff in the Birmingham School of Media who will join the research centre and add their scholarly expertise.

The challenge ahead involves articulating our achievements and culture as a research centre in our submission to the UK Research Excellence Framework assessment in 2013, and ensuring that there is clear evidence of out research outputs, income, PhD completions, research environment and impact. We hope that we can communicate clearly that we are a new research vibrant and supportive centre with an enabling culture which draws on scholarly and production traditions to produce research of excellence and impact.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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