Voices from Oxford: Research?

The Back Office at Voices from Oxford

Voices from Oxford is a program of webcasts, originating from the University of Oxford but aimed at the four corners of the world. These webcasts are designed to bring the ideas, research and activities of the people of Oxford to the wider world. You can review the Voices from Oxford Website, or see some samples of Webcasts available on YouTube by searching for voicesfromoxford on YouTube. For example, there is an introduction to the series, and one of our most interesting treatments, called a ‘New Man Comes to Oxford’.

The VfO team, of which I am a member, view this work as research – an effort to communicate research to a broader audience in a way than enables the audience to comment and contribute to the subject matter. In doing so, Voices from Oxford is confronting a tradition in the sciences and humanities that sees the job of the researcher to stop when the refereed journal article is written, and leave it to the press, media and word of mouth to enable findings to trickle-down to potential users. Our view is that it is right for researchers to take a more active role in communicating research directly to a broader public. If you have a view on this matter, we would welcome your comments on this blog.

An Old Reference

Dutton, W. (1994), ‘Trickle-Down Social Science: A Personal Perspective,’ Social Sciences, 22, 2.

Voices from Oxford

2 thoughts on “Voices from Oxford: Research?

  1. Posted for Sung Hee Kim with permission:

    I am the Director of VfO, responsible for the research, for directing the work of the production team, and that of the editing team. I want to add that the production of Voices from Oxford involves research in quite another sense — namely, the research that goes into each broadcast — I know because for some years I have been Director and Presenter of TV programs, educational and documentary. One of the prize winning medical documentaries I was involved in was watched by 20 million people. A good documentary requires careful planning to ensure that we get the right background material, read some of the books and research papers of the interviewee, and then thread these together with the interview itself into a seamless broadcast. Just 15 minutes of video, may take several months of research, filming and editing. The approach of VfO is similar to that of the top TV producers. We are aiming for high quality, both in the filming itself (using high definition, and several cameras working simultaneously) and in the material of the interview.

    ‘New Man Comes to Oxford: the Art of Antony Gormley’ will give you an impression of the standard we are aiming for. In the media SPEED matters and the VFO team were there from 7am to make sure that we grabbed every important moment of the sculpture’s placement. No one else has got this detailed record but the VFO does and this will be valued and used in many research areas, including work in Antony Gormley’s own team, and by Exeter College. Metaphors in the song and the statue itself could trigger valuable research topics for young scholars as well as distinguished ones. We selected the music carefully to suit the subject, and we edited the broadcast to ensure that the music marries well at each stage with the video itself. Everyone who has seen this production has commented on it very favorably, including the artist himself. The Exeter Rector, who is well aware of the impact of the Internet and its role, is proud to share this with the world through VFO. This will be part of the history of the University, Oxford, and people from the world will treasure this research project as a witness. A director of a TV documentary team contacted me to say that they would like to feature Antony Gormley rather than another artist they have considered after many months of research. About 5 minutes of our VFO video on You Tube changed their topic of the documentary to “Art can change the world”

    Oxford is full of old buildings and many people think that Oxford is too high and bureaucratic to approach. This nude statue by a world famous sculptor is delivering a clear message that Oxford is not that far from YOU, from all ages. To the contrary, Oxford is approachable. When we edited the program every single piece of footage has a grammar and a message. A similar approach was used to produce the Introductory video for Voices from Oxford. The main cameraman used state-of-the-art filming techniques to create the sweep of the video through the sky, onto the rooftops of the Colleges, around the Radcliffe Square, finally homing in onto the presenter walking (at a long distance from the camera) in the square itself. This itself is research: artistic research. It is what we aim for with the VfO broadcasts.

    I have just returned from meetings at SungKyunKwan University, where I am a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I showed these programmes to some professors and their first reaction was that they would like to use these programmes for discussion in the classrooms. Based on their discussion while watching VFO interviews on the Internet, the credit crunch and the environment, they and their students could write research papers on the Media, Economics and Environment. They even suggested some other topics we could use for future production. Oxford University with its brand name could lead the world in a more active and creative way to disseminate research in this digital age.

  2. I am the ‘anchor’ man of the VfO team, and it has been a great experience to interview people who know so much about what they are doing, and are ready to communicate it to the world in this way.

    Have a look, for example, at how David Vines brings Oxford’s research experience to bear on advising world leaders on the credit crunch. He brings ideas based on working with Nobel-prize winning economists to chart the way forward, and explains how Oxford research is building on the groundwork developed by Keynes for the great depression of the 1930s. Or have a look at Andrew Goudie’s (Master of St Cross) interview on climate change and the environment. He started work on climate change and desertification 40 years ago — long before the present concerns about global warming — publishing more than 30 books in the process. He also reveals how Oxford research is contributing to the actions of governments. Frances Cairncross (Rector of Exeter) talks about her books revealing some of the changes in companies produced by the internet from its very inception, while the Vice-Chancellor, John Hood analyses the impact of the recession on Oxford and universities generally and how they in turn can help the world through this crisis.

    There are many more such ‘in-depth’ interviews in production and planned, including interviews with cutting-edge scientists. Progressively, this project will bring Oxford research to a much wider audience. We are confident that it will become one of the ways in which Oxford researchers can satisfy the demand from their funding agencies for responsible public dissemination of their work. Research that is published in a serious academic journal is one thing (often read by only a few other people — academic citations are often even zero!); ‘publication’ of the layman’s version of the research can reach millions.

Comments are most welcome