Building a network of researchers and potential research users is essential in facilitating knowledge exchange. If you do not already have an established network, the following can be useful to grow your network:
- Attend business and policy events – many university research offices arrange workshops and seminars and the cost can be minimal
- Join a networking group affiliated to a professional association that mirrors academic special interest groups that you have already joined
- Talk to established researchers and research managers about their networks and join them at meetings with non academics
- Offer to provide advice sessions for non academics on a pro bono basis
- Join and participate in online discussions and networks that are popular with professionals
- Join the committee of a community group, voluntary organisation or business network (eg local enterprise partnerships (gov.uk website) and community planning partnerships (gov.scot website) are often looking for research and evaluation expertise).
It can be useful to set yourself achievable goals. SMART (external website) is an established model for setting personal and business objectives) for finding and making contacts rather than aim to build enormous numbers of contacts which may not be manageable or useful. Aim to build a small number of valuable contacts at the outset and be prepared for some contact opportunities not to work out.
If you are at the start of a research or knowledge exchange project and require support in finding potential users or partners for collaboration, approaching your research office can be very useful.