Module 5: Media Research Reflections

5.3 Creative collaborations

If you are doing research it is probably not only out of intellectual curiosity, many researchers also hope that their work will contribute to addressing the problem that they are exploring. One avenue through which to raise awareness, promote public and policy debate or create new forms of representation is through working with the mainstream media and with creative artists too.. Before rounding off this course we wanted to take a moment to reflect on how one can work with in this way.

Activity 1

Try to think of the different ways you might influence media representation, make a list, then look at the examples below.

We’ve been working with the media from our research centre for over a decade now, and not all of the following will be relevant to every researchers,but it is worth thinking around the different types of engagement one can do. In our case this has included:

  1. Responding directly to journalists who are covering a story and proactively approaching journalists to promote engagement with a particular ‘news hook’
  2. Acting as a live contributor (eg appearing as an interviewee on a news bulletin) (e.g. see
  3. Helping to formulate and develop a programme idea for an episode in a regular series e.g. we were involved in an episode of Radio 4’s “Inside the ethics committee”).
  4. Producing/presenting your own programme e.g. we co-produced a radio reflection on culture and coma for Radio 3 combining music and clips from our research interviews. (Remember to get the right kind of informed consent from your research participants if this is something you might want to do in the future!)
  5. Live tweeting key events, acting as a reporter yourself to encourage public debate (we tweeted key court cases and explain why and how you can do this here)

Action research can also be important, helping create ‘media events’ through working with people on the front line. For example we’ve supported families going to court and this led to the issues under consideration by the court featuring on all the main TV news bulletins. (You can read more about this in our article on working at the boundaries of academia, advocacy and activism)

When thinking about how one’s work might impact on the media its useful to think at creatively as possible of all the different ways of engaging, and then seek training and support to explore what can be achieved.

There are lots of opportunities nowadays for researchers to work with artists too. These collaborations can be an exciting ways of expanding your understanding of research and engagement with your own data, findings and audiences. Collaborations can include working with poets, visual artists, music and theatre. Funding might come from Arts organsitations or from  bodies such as the Wellcome Trust.

You can see a short video about an art exhibition we curated here:


You can see some of the artwork featured in the film above but it doesn’t represent all of it. Among other things we collaborated with the poet, James Nash,  including giving him access to some of the  (anonymised) interview transcripts with family members. James has written three sonnets exploring aspects of brain injury or ‘coma’ from different viewpoints, here is one of them.

If you’d like to see how we worked as academic researchers with a theatre director (or understand more about family experiences) watch the 12 minute shadow puppetry theatre piece below: ‘Where are you now?: Reflections on catastrophic brain injury. The performance is a collaboration between us and Play of Light Theatre director, Karin Andrews Jashapara.  It was developed as a dialogue between the research data (interviews with family members), finding from academic analysis, and Karin’s creative approach. In this performance you will hear the words actually spoken by family members in our research interviews.

Activity 2

We really enjoyed working with different journalists, scriptwriters and artists using different medium. Each collaboration had something special. For example, the medium of shadow puppetry was great for being able to represent the person in a vegetative state without voyeurism or romanticism.

  • Make a wish list of what type of media format or artist you would like to work with.
  • Why does that attract you (maybe you already know something about the creative form or just think it would suit your area of research?.
  • Add a comment to the comments section below.