Mar 19. 2021

The Arts and Humanities Research Council award two Fellowships to PDR

We’re very pleased to share our latest update on the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Design Research Fellowships awarded to two PDR team members, Dr Katie Beverley, Senior Research Officer and Dr Anna Whicher, Associate Director of Research.

Katie and Anna successfully obtained two out of only six Fellowships awarded, offering them the opportunity to carry out high-quality, innovative research and to undertake innovative and collaborative development activities.

For Dr Katie Beverley, our resident expert in sustainable product design, her Fellowship focused on ‘design research for net zero’. Essentially, this means investigating the extent to which design research in the UK is contributing to the UK’s bid to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 and making recommendations that would increase the visibility and impact.

Katie’s findings included the discovery there isn’t a coherent vision of what design research for net zero is, or could be; one of her recommendations is that the funding councils should make it a lot easier for researchers to flag up how their projects contribute to lowering UK carbon emissions.

Katie also found that design researchers across the UK are already involved in a wide range of projects that address net zero, but that their role and impact is not always obvious and we, as a country, need to get a lot better at showing off our talents.

I believe design is in a unique position to influence the technological and societal changes that are necessary to achieve the target – putting people at the front and centre of the transition to a zero carbon future.

Dr Katie Beverley | Senior Research Officer | PDR

Speaking on being awarded the grant, Katie said: “I’m delighted to have been awarded this fellowship, which addresses the role of design research in addressing probably the gravest challenge the UK faces – how to cut our carbon emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050.

“I believe design is in a unique position to influence the technological and societal changes that are necessary to achieve the target – putting people at the front and centre of the transition to a zero carbon future.”

Having completed her Fellowship in June 2020, Anna’s report into the increasing use of design to reinvigorate public policy processes was widely circulated among government officials.

Part of Anna’s findings included that the UK must do more to create more genuine dialogues between citizens and state, and introduce changes to public sector processes based on these interactions. “There has been a damaging loss of confidence in public governance. We need to bring empathy back into the policy-making process and that starts with listening to the people who need these services the most,” Anna stated.

There is growing interest among UK and overseas civil servants on design for policy. The UK has an opportunity to lead on the agenda and PDR is in a great position to contribute to the research agenda and support government and labs to implement these approaches.

Dr Anna Whicher | Associate Director of Research | PDR

Following her report, she was invited to help support the formulation of a central government consultation among civil servants on the reform of the Policy Profession to ensure that policy-making is more ‘user-centred’. She is also currently setting up a lab in a central government department.

Eight months on and reflecting on the completion of the research, Anna said: “There is growing interest among UK and overseas civil servants on design for policy. The UK has an opportunity to lead on the agenda and PDR is in a great position to contribute to the research agenda and support government and labs to implement these approaches.”

We’d like to again congratulate Katie and Anna for their hard-won Fellowships and the excellent work they achieved as a result; we look forward to sharing more of their future findings and research.

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