Dr Anthony Ridge-Newman is Convenor of the PSA Conservatism Studies Group and Founding Chair of the Tory Research Impact Network.
One of the government’s agendas in relation to academic research has been to place an increasing emphasis on “impact” from scholarly publications. Assessing impact is a significant part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), which British universities undergo every five years or so — the next being the REF2021.
“Impact” was defined by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, in February 2016, as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”. Historically, there has been a gap between those researching the British Conservative Party and those practically engaged within it, thus creating a challenge for scholars of the party to demonstrate impact from their research. Therefore, in my capacity as convenor of the Political Studies Association (PSA) Conservatism Studies Group — an international network of scholars researching conservatism and conservative parties — I have launched a new initiative named the Tory Research Impact Network (TRIN).
The international 16-member TRIN committee, chaired by myself, includes Professor Tim Bale (London), Dr Danielle Beswick (Birmingham), Dr Stephen Kelly (Liverpool Hope), Professor Agnès Alexandre-Collier (Bourgogne), Dr David Torrance (House of Commons Library), Owen Meredith (Tory Reform Group), Nina Rogers (Liverpool Hope), Dr Carlotta Redi (Conservative HQ), David Jones MP (former Secretary of State for Wales), and Margaret Mitchell MSP (Scottish Conservatives). The central aim of the TRIN committee is to help facilitate pathways to impact for researchers specifically studying the British Conservative Party.
My research examines the Conservative Party and communication. I was invited to join a panel at a Conservative Party philosophy seminar about “the impact of technology on society and the role of millennials in shaping a new world around us”, in London, this month. However, these opportunities can be rare. The TRIN aims to help develop more opportunities like this.
We are currently planning an event about international development and the Conservative Party, with scholars at Birmingham University and the Director of International Development at CCHQ, Dr Carlotta Redi. The TRIN and the PSA Conservatism Studies Group aim to create a sense of identity and common purpose among those interested in a part of the political spectrum that has attracted far less scholarly interest than its obvious electoral and philosophical importance merits.
Following the recent launch of the TRIN, I have written to Theresa May, Brandon Lewis, and the party’s Director of Research, Adam Memon. In bringing together figures in academia and the Conservative Party, the TRIN committee is hopeful we can build a bridge between key stakeholders on both sides, through developing a dialogue and a mutually beneficial relationship.