I’ve just had the joy of facilitating the 7th Heriot-Watt Crucible. The Crucible programme was begun by the innovation charity Nesta back in 2005. It brings together some 30 early to mid career researchers, all of whom have been identified as potential high flyers for three residential sessions helping them to communicate, collaborate in an interdisciplinary way and develop leadership skills.
For many years, I have led the first of these sessions which helps these young research stars communicate, unravels the mysteries of the media for them and, perhaps most important of all, helps them understand how best to talk to policy makers. If you are a young researcher, you need to know how the research firmament revolves and, if you really want to make an impact on the world and your research is of this type, how to make sure that you get heard in the right places. Impact is a bit of a dirty word amongst researchers but it shouldn’t be. People don’t do research simply for their own pleasure. They do it because they want to make a difference. But policy makers speak a different language and, a bit like journalists, operate to a different time scale to the average researcher. Academics need to understand how they work if they want to communicate the importance of their work.
The Heriot-Watt Crucible, like the Scottish Crucible (which I will be facilitating in April) spend a day in the Scottish Parliament. As ever, there were some absolutely outstanding individuals from some astonishingly diverse disciplines. In this session we had someone who studied the anthropology of children’s clothing, another whose area was shipping and supply chains, another in photonics, another in memory research and so on. They were dazzling. How lucky am I to be able to spend time talking to such a talented bunch of people? I always learn something new. This time it was about what landscapes submerged beneath the waves can tell you about how the future climate change will affect dry land. Dr Claire Mellett you were brilliant.