What are Rivers of Research? Using visual metaphor to explore methods adaptations in a pandemic


Bio: "Robert Meckin is a presidential fellow in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester and works closely with the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM). He is interested in emerging technosciences, interdisciplinarity and research infrastructures. He has spent recent years collaborating with and working alongside scientists practicing a design-led approach to biotechnology, and exploring how publics anticipate the potential of new biotechnological capabilities by using the chemical menthol as a way into discussing everyday technological understandings. Publications include explorations of scientific practices in increasingly automated, digitalised laboratories, and the affordances of sensory methods in engaging publics. At NCRM he has been focused on interdisciplinary research methods and has been examining the nascent areas of investigative methods and computational social science methods with Mark Elliot (University of Manchester) and Michael Mair (University of Liverpool), and exploring changing research practices in Covid-19 with Melanie Nind and Andy Coverdale (both at the University of Southampton)."

Bio: Andy Coverdale is a Research Fellow in Southampton Education School at the university of Southampton and member of the Centre for Research in Inclusion. He is currently working with the National Centre for Research Methods on their project looking at social research in the context of Covid-19 alongside research into how digital accessibility is taught and learned in Higher Education and the workplace. Andy has many years’ experience of working with, supporting, and teaching people with learning disabilities, and recently completed work on the ‘Self-build Social Care‘ research project, using inclusive and participatory methods to work collaboratively with people with learning disabilities and their allies. Andy has previously conducted research in the educational use of digital media and technology through his work with iRes at Falmouth University and the Visual Learning Lab at the University of Nottingham. His PhD examined the role of social and participatory media in doctoral education.

Bio: Melanie Nind is Professor of Education at the University of Southampton and a co-director of NCRM, leading on pedagogic research (https://www.ncrm.ac.uk/research/pedagogy.php) and methodological responses to Covid-19 (https://www.ncrm.ac.uk/research/socscicovid19/). Melanie guest-edited the 2015 special issue of International Journal of Social Research Methodology on the teaching and learning of social research methods, she is editor of the Bloomsbury Research Methods for Education book series and author of Inclusive Research in the NCRM Bloomsbury Research Methods series.

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted much of social life including research methods. NCRM engaged the research community in exploring adaptations and innovations to methods during the pandemic. A key element of our approach was a metaphorical mapping exercise where we invited researchers to represent their recent methods experiences as a river; using features like waterfalls; whirlpools; eddies; dams and so on. The webinar situates the method within the time of the pandemic and the desire to engage researchers and others in continuing to research amid social restrictions; new guidelines and risks. The webinar explores the use of the rivers of research method; explaining the affordances of this approach and how particular findings with regard to method were emphasised and created. We close with broader implications for engagement and methods learning in socially distanced times and beyond. The discussion will extend the issues by looking forwards to how the research community is working uncertainties into methods.