Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex B


  At The Open University, "Transport Studies" is not a dedicated research and teaching subject, but it does form part of a number of other disciplines, particularly among Technology and the Social Sciences. Transport policy is a very thorny political issue, and research and teaching at The Open University is not just cross disciplinary, but is also cross institutional. Through a programme of linked scholarship in teaching and research we have become part of key networks involving not just academia, but policymakers, transport providers, NGOs, users, consultants and other actors. Increasingly, academic scholarship involves an interactive network of researchers and various institutions. Good research projects emerge from good networks of actors and researchers, which need to be built up over time and be maintained.

  For example, the transport part of the RAE 5-rated Design Innovation Group (DIG) research project Factor 10 Futures, emerged initially from contributing to an EU project on the design management of cleaner technologies during 1996-98. The project developed a technique called Strategic Niche Management. A spin-off research paper from this project, prepared for the Swedish Energy Agency in 1998, explored the synergy between technological change and behavioural change measures to radically cut transport's environmental impacts.

  This work was considerably expanded into a teaching text for Theme 2, Travelling Light, in the Technology foundation course, T172 Technology for a Sustainable Future (2000)[43]. This somewhat research-led teaching text then became incorporated into a series of related studies in the DIG research project Factor 10 Futures. The methodology was further developed via a series of research related papers, including transport policy user journals, a book chapter, several international conference papers and a keynote talk for a Department for Transport awayday (2000-02). Following this refinement, another version of this work has been incorporated into the second-level Technology Course T206, Energy for a Sustainable Future (2003)[44].

  The course material in Energy for a Sustainable Future also incorporates results from another set of research projects that have explored institutional responses to the transport crisis. The course covers how institutions, like hospitals, employers and universities, can implement measures to reduce the transport impacts of the commuting of their staff. Research in this area has of necessity been closely involved with an emerging network of policymakers, researchers, users, transport providers and others. Through this, The Open University has established a reputation of research excellence that has resulted in £250,000 in research grants from the Department for Transport, ESRC, London Transport and other bodies. The transport consultants Atkins have even sponsored a CASE ESRC studentship to further develop the original Strategic Niche Management methodology to be applicable to implementing such policy measures.

  Interest is also developing in using Open University course and video materials to provide training packs to help develop the skills that new transport policy initiatives require.

  Overall this case demonstrates that the link between doing research and the preparation of credible and current teaching materials is complicated.

43   T172 Technology for a Sustainable Future is a level 1, 30 credit point (quarter of full time) course in presentation from 2000-07. It had over 1,600 students in its first year and over 1,200 in subsequent years. Back

44   T206 Energy for a Sustainable Future is a level 2, 60 credit point (half of full time) course in presentation from 2003-2010, with 274 students in 2003-04. Back

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