Complexity and Collaboration
Recognising complexity is essential to how we work and it has a real-world base: data is often incomplete; or problems have contexts that can be messy.
We strive to understand this complexity, working with other disciplines and non-academic partners.
We value the key insights and solutions that often come from outside the academy: experience is knowledge.
Read our case studies below:
Decolonizing the History of Biomedicine: Patients and Hospitals in India - Samiksha Sehrawat
Patients with cataract waiting to be operated on in Amritsar, Punjab, India, c. 1912. The British nurse in the background supervised a nursing staff comprising of male Indian medical attendants. © Samiksha Sehrawat
This research challenges a Eurocentric view of the history of biomedicine and explains how western medicine became global medicine during the age of empire. This project engages with important debates on the role of the state in providing healthcare and the provision of medical care for disadvantaged populations.
Due to a focus on developments in Europe, the process by which ‘western’ medicine became global and how this transformation was shaped by imperialism has remained hidden. This project examines the neglected colonial history of hospitals, patients and medical finance in colonial India. It uses an innovative interdisciplinary approach by drawing on concepts from medical anthropology, sociology and history gender studies to map the historical transformation of hospital care and doctor-patient relationships in colonial India. It is essential to understand this different historical trajectory of the emergence of ‘modern’ medicine to avoid misguided contemporary global health interventions.
This research provides the first detailed history of colonial medical finance and assesses its legacy for poor access to health care for vulnerable Third World populations. This project will thus show how a deep colonial legacy continues to shape contemporary corporate social responsibility programmes and public-private partnerships meant to deliver medical care in the developing world. By advancing knowledge about the historical development of medical care in South Asia, this project contributes to solving global problems regarding access to health care in the global south.
Lead: Samiksha Sehrawat
Project Duration: September 2018 - August 2019
Funder: Leverhulme Trust
Children's Literature and the Adult Audience: Developing the Seven Stories Archive Collection
Anne Whitehead, Lucy Pearson, Sarah Lawrence and Dr Jessica Sage
This Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) brought together research in English Literature with Seven Stories’ expertise in public engagement as the National Centre for the Children’s Book. Working with the newly acquired Michael Morpurgo archive, its aim was to develop Seven Stories’ engagement with adult audiences by integrating academic research into their curation of the exhibition Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories.
The project also focused on how research could work in collaboration with the Seven Stories collection, asking how the development of a permanent gallery might tell the story of British children’s books. The KTP was the recipient of a Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for Best Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year. The judges commended the KTP as ‘an exemplar of how a School of English could engage in knowledge exchange’.
The partnership offered a tipping point in developing Seven Stories’ understanding of research led practice. It developed concepts, content and interpretation for a major exhibition as well as a related learning project, adult education programmes and digital resources. It also created the momentum to enable the purchase of further prestigious archives. The partnership provided a model of researcher-curator working practice that now underpins the planning of exhibitions at Seven Stories.
Project Team: Dr Anne Whitehead and Dr Lucy Pearson, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Sarah Lawrence, Seven Stories: National Centre for the Children’s Book, and Research Associate: Dr Jessica Sage
Funder: AHRC on behalf of Innovate UK, 2015- 2016.
Common Land in England and Wales: Past, Present and Future - Chris Rodgers
The Contested Common Land research project investigated notions of sustainability and their relationship to the governance of common land in England and Wales from the early mediaeval period to the modern day. This work is intended to contribute to the implementation of current public policy that stresses the importance of ‘reconnecting’ people and nature and promoting the development of cultural ecosystem services form securing greater access to green space.
This interdisciplinary project led by Professor Chris Rodgers (Newcastle) developed a website that hosts historical and contemporary information, research outcomes and landscape terrain maps relating to the four case studies examined by the project – Ingleborough (North Yorkshire), Eskdale (Cumbria), Cwmdeuddwr common/Elan Valley (Wales) and the North Norfolk grazing marshes at Brancaster (LINK), and a new landscape modelling tool – LandNote.
This work also developed a local history toolkit for use by local groups exploring commons history in their neighbourhood, an interdisciplinary research database of commons scholarship hosted on the Commons website and ran workshops examining best practice in contemporary commons governance and management.
Work is ongoing with Duncan Mackay (Natural England’s Principal Adviser on Urban and Peri-Urban Environments) on an initiative to encourage landowners to establish new commons in England and Wales with public recreational access, especially in the urban fringes of our towns and cities. This work has involved the development of a model for creating user-rights over private land in order to categorise it as ‘common’ land, and then to secure its registration by the local commons registration authority.
For more information about the project, visit the website.
Project Team: Professor Chris Rodgers, Professor Patrick Olivier and Dr Margherita Pieraccini (Newcastle Law School); Lancaster University Department of History (Professor Angus Winchester and Dr Eleanor Straughton); Natural England and The National Trust (project partners).
Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project AH/E510310/1 Contested Common Land: environmental governance, law and sustainable land management c.1600-2006; AHRC project AH/J013951/1 Building Commons Knowledge; and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Accelerator Account grant. 2007–2018
Options for Sustainable Multi-Storey Communities - Gareth Powells
This interdisciplinary research project focused on the sustainability of urban high-rise living in two sites in Newcastle (Shieldfield and Byker). The aim was to identify opportunities for collaborative interventions that could improve quality of life and quality of services for resident while also reducing CO2 emissions and helping to mitigate climate change.
The project highlighted a whole host of specific and general problems that appeared to be inherently ‘un-solvable’ within the scope of the work because they were rooted in much deeper and complex issues of poverty, economic exclusion and social disintegration.
The combination of these issues risked making the problems faced by the community seem intractable. The traditional approach would have been to develop a business case for an investment in the a distinct aspect of the sustainability of these communities and buildings. However, all the options for the high-rise buildings that were assessed were found to be (economically) loss-making in energy terms and a viable case could not be constructed.
The research team took the innovative step of incorporating health costs into their analysis by using the right techniques to turn qualitative insight into quantified likely health costs. For example, if a home is very cold, this can increase the risk of serious respiratory and circulatory health problems which can lead to significant costs for the NHS.
While the traditional energy-focused business case could not demonstrate the necessary return on investment, factoring in the NHS costs showed that investing in the thermal performance of the buildings would ‘pay for itself’ in under five years. This project demonstrates that collaborative research with diverse partners can bring about significant societal benefit, especially to some of the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.
Project Team: Gareth Powells (Newcastle University), Northern Powergrid, Northern Gas Networks, Newcastle City Council, Your Homes Newcastle, Agility Eco and National Energy Action.
Funder and Dates: EPSRC, Northern Powergrid and Northern Gas Networks, 2014-16.
N8 Policing Research Partnership Catalyst project:
Innovation and the Application of Knowledge for More Effective Policing - Jill Clark
This five-year programme of research and knowledge exchange is pioneering an innovative collaboration between police forces and eight universities in the North of England (N8).
It has three main objectives. Firstly, to provide mechanisms to bring researchers and practitioners together to design and undertake research that focuses specifically on new and emerging challenges for policing. Secondly, to build research co-production capacity. Thirdly, to draw on the knowledge and expertise of the HE sector in order to strengthen the evidence base of police policy, practice and training and to support the professionalisation of policing.
These activities will also secure a culture change in the use of research in policing and relations between researchers and policing professionals.
The programme includes nine interconnected and mutually supportive activity strands and supports nine collaborative PhD studentships. Each N8 institution leads on a strand and Newcastle is responsible for co-production which is aimed at significantly improving HE-police collaboration in the following areas:
- Evaluating the use, implications and public acceptability/legitimacy of new and emerging technologies and innovative policing strategies.
- Supporting research in targeted and urgent areas of policing work and addressing knowledge gaps that are of the greatest benefit and value to policing.
Project team: N8 Universities: Durham, Lancaster, Leeds (lead), Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York. In collaboration with the associated 13 police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners.
Newcastle Lead: Dr Jill Clark, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences.
Funders: HEFCE and matched funding from the N8 Universities and police forces and PCCs. 2015-2020.