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11 December 2023

Research Methods Toolkit launched to help more people become researchers

The ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health has launched a free online resource with the aim of giving more people the opportunity to become researchers.

Artwork created  for Research Methods Toolkit website
Artwork created by Tony James Allen for Research Methods Toolkit website.

The Research Methods Toolkit has been developed by a group of researchers made up of service users, survivors, academics, students, project co-ordinators and artists and was launched at a webinar on 28 November 2023 with over 120 attendees from academic, health service, community and lived experience backgrounds.

This toolkit is about enabling people to shape the services that we use, to access resources and to influence funders. A toolkit like this is a ‘way in’ for lots of people and what is really important is that a space has been created for this to happen and we want that co-production to continue so that this space remains open for communities to influence what goes into the toolkit.

Sonia Thompson, member of the LEAB and co-creator of the toolkit

The event screened an animated film that presented the key features and resources of the toolkit. This was followed by discussions with the team who developed the toolkit including members of the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health’s Lived Experience Advisory Board (LEAB), students and artists from the Bethlem Gallery.

Video: An animated introduction on how to use the Research Methods Toolkit

The webinar opened with an introduction from co-director of ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health Professor Hanna Kienzler who led on the development of the toolkit. She invited Research Assistant and member of the LEAB Bwalya Mulenga to discuss what it means to democritise research. The discussion included insights from a survey conducted to inform the development of the toolkit that explored how people viewed research and what could be done to make it more accessible.

Professor Kienzler said: "For too long research has been the realm of academics when instead research should be everyone’s business. We hope this toolkit can provide the resources to those people who have questions about the world we live in so they can find the answers. This way we can generate richer and more nuanced insights to inform how our societal structures, services and policies can change for the better."

Art and the Research Methods Toolkit

Full canvas of Research Methods Toolkit artwork.
Artwork create by Tony James Allen to illustrate the Research Methods Toolkit website. Photos of sections of the artwork were used throughout the website.

A vital element of the toolkit was the creation of artwork by Tony James Allen at the Bethlem Gallery to illustrate the website.  The artist created a large painting and fragments of these were used throughout the website to represent how research involves pieces of knowledge coming together to create the bigger picture.

One of the reasons for using specially commissioned artwork was to avoid using stock imagery which does not reflect real people and real research. The importance of imagery was discussed in the webinar, alongside the challenges of making the traditional language of research more understandable to support the shift from inaccessible study papers to meaningful and available research that has the potential to implement change in the world.

We wanted this toolkit to enable groups who don’t usually do research or don’t have the power over research to get involved, pick up these tools and use them to create knowledge that creates change. By producing this toolkit we hope to encourage meaningful co-production to narrow the gap between researchers that build knowledge and the people impacted by knowledge so that they can inspire or create research that can make good changes to the world.

Rick Burgess, member of the LEAB and co-creator of the toolkit

Enabling co-production of research

The new Research Methods Toolkit forms part of the underlying approach taken by the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health to generate and support research co-created with people who are embedded in the topics and subject areas that the Centre studies. This includes the Future Learn course ‘Research Methods: A Practical Guide to Peer and Community Research’ which is a practical overview that aims to support and empower people to conduct their own research to initiate positive social change.

The Research Methods Toolkit is being further developed in public and the team would like people to get in touch, ask questions, make suggestions and give comments to help understand what works well and what can be improved or expanded. Feedback can be provided feedback on the toolkit website itself  

Research Methods Toolkit webinar recording

There is a recording of the webinar that marked the launch of the Research Methods Toolkit that is available to view on the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health youtube channel

The webinar included presentations on the democritisation of research, the process of building the Research Methods Toolkit and making research language accessible and discussions with the creators of the toolkit. The  recording is 1 hour 11 minutes long and is signed by BSL interpreters. 

Research Methods Toolkit.