The Research Councils UK Digital Economy (DE) theme supports research to realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on aspects of community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy.
Over the past couple of years I have enjoyed spending time with staff from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on work associated with the DE theme. This all started two years ago when I was invited to join the 12-person panel that conducted the 2012 impact review of the DE Theme investment. Soon afterwards I became involved in an additional stream of DE research undertaken under the banner of “digital personhood”: I helped identify the scope of the investment; served as a mentor at the sandpit meeting where project ideas were germinated; and recently participated at the first digital personhood network meeting. I have also been involved in reviewing grant proposals and panel work for the DE theme.
When I noticed the call for new members of the Programme Advisory Board (PAB) for the DE theme earlier this year, I saw further opportunity to support this area of research. The PAB provides advice on the research direction and balance of the programme to include consideration of issues such as training, new and emerging research opportunities, and evaluation of the programme itself and its outputs.
Given that my work is largely concerned with the intersection of digital technologies with people and communities, and the resultant challenges and opportunities, I felt that my expertise would be of interest to the appointing committee. Added to this is my perspective as someone who works at the “softer” end of computing, and who can bring to the fore questions related to the possible social impact of new research directions, and how these might influence subsequent funding decisions. I also believe strongly that teams seeking to develop strategic direction need to include individuals who work across subject domains and professional groupings. This is because new knowledge happens at boundaries, and those who operate as boundary spanners – like myself – are well-positioned to anticipate novel and unexpected trends from observing connections across various areas of activity.
I’m delighted that the appointing committee welcomed my application and has recently confirmed my membership of the DE theme Programme Advisory Board for a three year term. I am very much looking forward to working with my new colleagues on the PAB to help invigorate and drive the future direction of the DE theme. I am also pleased to have the opportunity to strengthen further the relationships with research council colleagues that have grown over the past couple of years.