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
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).
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).
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
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