Engagement & Impact

Members of the group have been involved in a number of national and international initiatives including advising policymakers and inputting into expert fora. Other activities have included consultancy for commercial and public organisations, and media contributions. Recent examples of such activities include working with Parliamentary select committees, involvement in drafting national policy documentation, and working with local authorities.

We have worked with organisations including WEF, UN, Food Standards Agency, the Russell Group, and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). We have also made contributions to wider public engagement including media contributions to BBC radio programmes, TED and The Guardian newspaper, and organising public events as part of Festival of the Mind and the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

We were involved the ground-breaking Guardian ‘Reading the Riots’ project, analysing 2.6 million tweets in the aftermath of the 2011 UK summer riots. The project won a Data Journalism Award in 2012 for a visualisation that showed the spread of rumours on Twitter during the four days of riots.

Impact of our research projects

We are currently involved in two projects which focus on the role of social media in the information flows that emerge in the immediate aftermath of human-made or natural disasters. Our contribution to CASCEFF focuses on the communication strategies deployed by emergency managers during crisis situations, with a specific focus on how they can disseminate information to members of the public that helps prevent cascading effects from occurring.

IMPROVER will examine how social media can be used to raise awareness about the risks associated with such incidents, as well as exploring the potential use of digital media to create early-warning systems in disaster-affected areas.

The AHRC-funded Open-Access Mega-Journals project has resulted in ongoing interactions with a wide range of stakeholders. This has included publishers in particular, with Stephen Pinfield invited to report the findings of the project at major publisher conferences in the UK, USA and Germany. One key part of the project is to capture and analyse the strategic thinking of publishers in this rapidly-changing area in order to inform future innovation. The ongoing work and reporting in this area will form a major focus for the research team in 2017 and 2018.

Work to understand the growth of the uptake of open access by researchers has involved Stephen Pinfield in ongoing discussion with policymakers in the UK and internationally. He took part in a project to compare UK adoption of open access sponsored by Universities UK in 2015 and again in 2017, resulting in influential reports as well as peer-reviewed publications. Evidence provided by Sheffield Information School was also extensively quoted in the 2014 review of Research Councils UK review of open access and has been used to inform the policy of Jisc in its national negotiations with publishers on behalf of UK higher education institutions. Stephen Pinfield has also contributed to policy meetings in France, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland as well as contributing the work of the European University Association expert group on open science.

Media appearances

Is the medium more important than the message? Communicating with disaster affected populations in the Information Age, France Forum, December 2016.

Famous British newspaper closured for digital only: Quality is the survival of the media in the digital age, Chinese Social Sciences Today, 19 February 2016.

Pickles, J.S. The far right and false imagery The National Student, 2 February 2016.

Pickles, N (Twitter UK Public Policy Manager) Amplifying voices of respect and tolerance across Northern Ireland, 26 January 2016.

BBC Good Morning Ulster, Northern Ireland Community Relations Council Twitter study mentioned during interview with Twitter UK Public Policy Manager Nick Pickles, 22 January 2016.

Politicians: Share sites are double-edged sword, The Sun (Northern Ireland edition), 5 May 2015.

How Twitter is defusing sectarian tensions, Belfast Telegraph, 31 March 2015.

Personal accolades

Paul Reilly was recognised in the JISC 50 most influential UK Higher Education professionals using social media (October 2015), made a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (July 2015) and awarded a University of Leicester Teaching Fellowship (awarded January 2014).