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Charlotte Stephenson, Research Facilitator (Episode 32)

    Charlotte Stephenson, Research Facilitator (Episode 32) | Charlotte is a ‘human signpost’ for researchers

    Research Adjacent Episode 32 Charlotte Stephenson

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Charlotte Stephenson, a Research Faciltator in the Leeds University Business School.

    A human signpost

    As the job title might suggest Charlotte’s role is to facilitate research, particularly facilitating the process of applying for research funding. Although in many universities this kind of role might sit in a central research office, Charlotte is based within the business school. This means she has a closer relationship with the researchers she supports, acting as a ‘human signpost’ and coach for less confident applicants.

    Charlotte in one of her first jobs

    From rocks to research communication

    Like so many of my guests Charlotte initially explored a career in research, completing a PhD in paleobotany. She soon realised that what she really loved hearing about research and sharing it with others. This initially led her to explore research communications while completing her PhD. She wrote for The Conversation research website and was part of a team that wrote a book in 24 hours for the Manchester Science Festival. A brief post-PhD stint as an Anglo Saxon (complete with real sword) gave her a taste of schools education work, but her heart was in research.

    A foot in the door

    Charlotte jumped at the chance when a job came up doing communications for the research office at Leeds University Business School in 2017. Despite being temporary it was the foot in the door she needed and she has been there ever since. She was kept on after that maternity cover ended and transitioned into research development when the team needed all hands on deck to meet the deadlines for a UKRI rapid response funding call. It turns out her research communication skills were a perfect fit for helping draft funding application.

    “You know, there’s not huge differences between communications and grant development. You’ve got to know your audience, you’ve got to write for your audience, you’ve got to convince your audience in an engaging way.”

    Reducing inequalities

    Recently Charlotte put these skills to the test and applied for her own funding to do some investigations around research culture. She is keen to uncover and address inequalities in who applies for and receives funding, particularly in relation to gender and caring responsibilities. Initial findings have led to the development of a roadmap for potential applicants and her team have been awarded further funding to continue their research.

    “We know we won’t be able to eradicate all the barriers, but if people are aware of them and aware of the support that’s in place to help them, hopefully more people will feel better informed and be able to engage with research funding.”

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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