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Reference Number ES/V011693/1
Title Professional Learning in Uncertainty
Status Started
Energy Categories OTHER CROSS-CUTTING TECHNOLOGIES or RESEARCH (Environmental, social and economic impacts) 10%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields SOCIAL SCIENCES (Business and Management Studies) 50%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Environmental dimensions) 5%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Policy and regulation) 5%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Other sociological economical and environmental impact of energy) 80%;
Other (Energy technology information dissemination) 10%;
Principal Investigator Dr V L Murphy

Faculty of Business and Law (FBL
Open University
Award Type Standard
Funding Source ESRC
Start Date 01 October 2020
End Date 30 September 2021
Duration 12 months
Total Grant Value £91,920
Industrial Sectors
Region East of England
Programme Skills & Methods - Fellowships
Investigators Principal Investigator Dr V L Murphy , Faculty of Business and Law (FBL, Open University (100.000%)
Web Site
Objectives My PhD was an example of interdisciplinary research that directly engaged with practice. It is on this foundation that I will develop during the fellowship by continuing knowledge exchange partnerships, developing funding proposals, and enhancing my methodological skills.My PhD explored how energy companies learn from incidents in the past to prevent accidents in the future. As businesses in the energy sector rapidly transition to green production methods, learning from past incidents will be key to support the upskilling of workers in the sector. However, in order to avoid major incidents during this shift, there are important communication and learning issues that must be addressed. The first objective of the fellowship will be to co-create with industrial partners a tool to facilitate better learning dialogues about incidents. This will involve a design-based research project in collaboration with the Energy Institute and private-sector energy firms. I will also engage with healthcare practitioners that could benefit from the tools.A second objective will be to submit an application for an ESRC Research Grant. The application will propose a practitioner engaged interdisciplinary project in the energy sector to further address communication and learning issues that affect professional and organisational development in uncertain contexts following an incident, building on the design-based research project. To maximise my chances for success, I will enhance my skills of working in interdisciplinary projects, learn about potential technological solutions, and develop grant writing experience. My mentors have worked extensively with practitioners in interdisciplinary projects, and will be able to offer advice on engaging with senior practitioners. Through Professor Fenton O'Creevy, I will participate in the activities of the Challenging Radical Uncertainty in Science, Society and the Environment (CRUISSE) network. CRUISSE is a research network whose members come from a variety of disciplines and include senior practitioners. My activities with CRUISSE will include: shadowing members, involvement in grant bidding or consortium funding development for a national research centre, and a research visit to UCL's Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty. This will help me to develop the collaborative skills, theoretical knowledge, and grant writing experience for a successful bid.The communication and learning issues identified in my PhD have been addressed in other contexts using technology. To explore solutions I will collaborate with colleagues at the OU who have created effective communication technologies. I have also been invited on a research visit to the University of Jyv skyl . World-leading experts on educational technology and professional learning conduct research at the university, creating an opportunity to learn more about research in this area and identify potential collaborators. My mentor Regius Professor Scanlon willalso provide invaluable support in crafting a grant application from this perspective, as a leading expert on learning technology. To maximise the impact of such a project, presentations on potential solutions will be made during visits to energy companies. By presenting the results of my PhD at different energy companies, including gathering feedback on proposed solutions, I will be able to increase the impact of my work and recruit collaborators to co-design the research proposal.A final objective of the fellowship will be developing my methodological skills. I will develop more knowledge on methods by attending training courses and arranging informal meetings with members of the Faculty of Business and Law to learn about mixed methods research projects in organisational settings. These new skills will be tested through additional analysis of the data collected during my PhD through the lens of uncertainty.
Abstract Large scale accidents, such as the Chernobyl disaster (1986), have demonstrated how important it is to learn from the past so we can prevent future disasters. Energy companies invest large amounts of time and resources into investigating incidents and using insights to make their work safer. During my PhD I explored the systems at three energy companies that supported learning after an incident using a combination of surveys and interviews. The data allowed me to map out how information on incidents flowed, identify what good learning looked like, discover unique beneficial practices at each company, and deduce some sector-wide barriers to learning.Learning is particularly vital to the energy sector at this current time as companies are making massive investments in new energy technologies as they transition to a greener cleaner future. The rapid shift requires agile methods, such as learning from incidents, to support workers in developing the skills needed to thrive in their new work. However, my PhD showed that there are structural and communication barriers that hinder learning from the past. The first activity of my fellowship will therefore be to collaborate with industrial parters to create a tool that will help managers and supervisors facilitate effective discussions with their teams about incidents. In a test and learn approach, the tool will be piloted and then improved at three energy companies. Presentations about tools for learning from incidents will also be made to healthcare practitioners to understand if the work could be useful in other contexts and examine the potential for cross-sectoral learning.Second, to develop a funding application for an ESRC Research Grant, I will also use the fellowship to develop the networks, experiences, and theoretical knowledge that will be needed to address one of the biggest issues identified during my PhD: how energy professionals learn during times of uncertainty. To learn more about theories of uncertainty and how they impact professional learning, I will engage with the Challenging Radical Uncertainty in Science, Society and the Environment (CRUISSE) network. The CRUISSE network is a group of experienced academics and leaders in a variety of sectors and industries who are experts on making decisions in times of uncertainty. My involvement with CRUISSE will include shadowing senior academics as they meet with industry leaders, contributing to an application for a national research institute, and a research visit to UCL's Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty.A further strand to preparing for a successful grant application will be learning more about technology that could help improve communication on incidents. Researchers at The Open University have recently created several technological tools that allow the opinions and experiences of many people to be collected and used for better decision making. This could be used by energy companies to better judge why an incidenthappened and what actions should be taken. I have also been invited to the Finnish Institute for Educational Research for a research visit to learn more about their work on both professional learning and educational technology. Part of this grant preparation will include continuing to work with energy companies by presenting my PhD findings to different companies and gathering their feedback on the value of the proposed solutions. All energy companies will have the opportunity to become partners on the grant application, enabling them to trial proposed solutions and have a voice in the direction of the project if funded. Finally, I will develop my methodological expertise on research in organisational settings via formal and informal training. With the guidance of my mentor Professor Fenton O'Creevy, this will also allow me to revisit the data set from my PhD from an uncertainty perspective, resulting in an academic journal article
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 10/06/21