Research is difficult.

by Tim Cole, Professor of Social History and Director of Brigstow Institute

Research is difficult. Interdisciplinary, co-produced and collaborative research is even more difficult. Research involves risk as we ask new questions, of new data, using new methods. The novelty and originality that characterises researching is what attracts us to it, but also can be a source of anxiety. What if it doesn’t ‘work’? And this can be magnified when working with others with their own expectations, ways of working, and stuff.

One thing we say again and again to our new experimental research teams in Brigstow is that ‘competent failure is OK’. We want these new partnerships to do more than simply play it safe. In interdisciplinary and co-produced research it is hard to play it safe. Working with others means choosing not to stick to the tried and tested and leaving my disciplinary or practice-based comfort zone behind. And that is risky.

It is that risky space where we want teams to experiment. And that means ensuring that values of trust and belief in people and their ideas lie at the heart of what Brigstow does. When we say ‘competent failure is OK’ we mean it. We want to take the pressure off to ‘succeed’ so that teams can explore new ideas together. We want teams to be kind to themselves and each other as they embark on the difficult work of novel research.