Augusto Rocha, University of St Andrews, Research and Development Fellow
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
"In my mind, we, as researchers, are not doing research to have an extra bunch of papers in the library or online. Instead, it is the capacity of doing something with our research that can transform lives and influence people and our society."
An ex-entrepreneur researching entrepreneurship
Before joining academia, Augusto was the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of a start-up in the IT sector. He attributes this experience to the questions he asks in his research.
Augusto's main research interests are entrepreneurial ecosystems, social capital, social networks, and regional development. His doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh focuses on how networking events represent an important factor enabling knowledge exchange within an entrepreneurial community.
Action Research with Policy Makers
Augusto is an advocate for action research. He does not want to wait for impact after the fact but seeks impact as research is being conducted. Action research allows him to do that. While traditional research normally allows for impact once the research is done and findings are published, action research is about crafting your research to be as close as possible to practice in order to deliver that impact in the process of conducting research.
In this current project, he is working with the Scottish Government to create a new initiative to scale-up small and medium companies. His research team is evaluating the usage and benefits of incubator spaces and inform the Government on an effective approach to designing and setting up incubators. "It is like doing research and trying to provide advice at the same time.", Augusto says.
Advice for Early Career Scholars
Augusto shares the following advice for junior scholars and Ph.D. students who want to have an impact:
Design an impact roadmap. Create an impact roadmap by laying out different routes to impact. Start this process in parallel to crafting your research design. An impact roadmap can help you bake in practical implications as you consider your research's theoretical contributions. In drawing an impact map, you may also realize that you need more or different kinds of data for prescriptive advice to practice. Often such data cannot be collected after the fact. Further, an impact map can help you to "begin with the end in mind" such that you can document impact. Increasingly, academic institutions require you to show the impact of your research. For instance, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the golden standard for UK universities. The REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education (HE) institutions. The framework assesses research impact on three distinct elements: the quality of outputs (e.g., publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research. Having an impact roadmap will allow researchers to integrate these aspects early on and increase considerably the potential to deliver impact.
Impact is a process. Often impact efforts are seen as one-off events such as doing a webinar for practitioners or releasing a report. But by re-framing impact as a process, we can see each conversation we have with practice as an opportunity for impact. Prior to his academic career, Augusto developed a close relationship with entrepreneurial communities drawing on his former role as a (fin)tech entrepreneur. His experience equipped him with capabilities to engage with different stakeholders (e.g., entrepreneurs, investors, incubators, accelerators, policymakers) and provided him with a unique perspective. He was able to reach unconventional audiences (such as incubator or accelerator organizers) and spark conversations, debates, and applications among people.
When choosing publication outlets, choose wisely. Knowledge dissemination is an integral part of a research project, especially for researchers who want to widen their impact. Consider your target audience before you start writing, and consider publication outlets as peer-reviewed journals for academics and more widely accessible outlets for the general public (e.g., the conversation). Take the UK as an example. Unlike the FT50 journal list used by other countries, the Academic Journal Guide by the Chartered ABS is the Bible for business schools in the UK. Therefore, it is common to target 3* journals or above as lower-ranking ones do not count in the REF. You may also need to consider making trade-offs between journals that take years to publish and give you little flexibility to care about much other than theoretical contributions to lower-tier journals that allow for creativity in presenting your insights.
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