UCL uses the slogan ‘London’s Global University’ when describing the College, and it is certainly an ambitious claim, so what are we doing to reach out to a global audience?
The Department has always had some form of a global audience in so far as published research is available internationally and academics here collaborate with those at overseas institutions who share their research interests. The difference is that now, in 2013, that audience is no longer just academic; it transcends educational, social and geographical boundaries. Digital engagement is largely to thank for this, for example in the last month alone visitors to this blog have come from countries as diverse as the Philippines, Jordan, Ecuador, Serbia, Mauritius, Russia, Hong Kong, Canada and Thailand to name but a few. Social media channels (including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest) also enable us to communicate to an equally wide-ranging audience and to share research with them (including via video and podcast). Traditional media must not be overlooked either, as academic staff are called upon to put current events in perspective whether it’s the election of a new Pope, the death of a President or cultural events such as the release of a Hollywood blockbuster. Last week from an office in Gordon Square, Latin Americanist Dr Thom Rath was able to participate via video link in a panel discussion on live television in India. Technology therefore enables research to be heard worldwide, but is this a one-way or a two-way dialogue?
Research projects which are based in the Department provide opportunities for two-way dialogue to take place as members of the public are invited to become collaborators or respondents. Professor Margot Finn’s project ‘The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857’ has a network of 225 ‘Project Associates’ who come from all walks of life and actively participate in the project’s research (for more info see Dr Kate Smith’s blog). Furthermore, last night Dr Melvyn Stokes’ project ‘Cultural Memory and British Cinema-going in the 1960s’ was launched and is inviting members of the public to share their memories via a questionnaire (as Dr Matthew Jones explains here).
It would be impossible to discuss global reach of historical research at UCL without talking about the ‘Legacies of British Slave-ownership’ encyclopaedia, launched by Professor Catherine Hall and her team at the end of February. This is a public resource containing details of all the British Slave-owners at the time of abolition. Needless to say as a news story it had a strong human interest angle, but no one quite anticipated the scale of the global reaction with more than 65 pieces of media coverage appearing worldwide during launch week. The story was translated into several foreign languages and even appeared on the other side of the globe, just about as far away as possible, in the New Zealand Herald! Visitors to the encyclopaedia have come from all corners of the globe, with 159 countries represented in the first two days (since going live) alone. More interesting by far however are the conversations that it has prompted on blogs and via twitter.
Needless to say the journey doesn’t stop here, and we’re always happy to hear new suggestions relating to engagement!