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research & development communication forum

Research and Development Communication Forum

An HMRC-sponsored forum, the Research and Development Communication Forum meets twice a year to discuss the operational delivery of the Research and Development (R&D) tax relief schemes.

Agents, professional bodies, delegates from the industry and the main business, technical and trade bodies, and representatives from HMRC who have policy and operational responsibilities for Research and Development ( R&D ) tax credits. Other HMRC representatives and representatives from other government departments.

Terms of reference

  • the name of the committee shall be the Research and Development Communication Forum ( R&DCF )
  • the committee shall be made up of (a) delegates from the industry and the main businesses technical and trade bodies, and (b) representatives from HMRC who have policy and operational responsibilities for R&D tax credits; other HMRC representatives and representatives from other government departments will attend as appropriate for discussion of relevant agenda items
  • operational policy proposals and related operational issues
  • issues arising on the implementation of prospective changes to legislation and practice
  • operational aspects of existing policy and practice
  • monitoring developments in the operation of the R&D tax relief schemes, considering their impact on companies of all sizes.
  • sub-committees will be used as required to consider specific proposals and issues.
  • the committee will be chaired by HMRC and organisations wishing to become members of the committee or to join the waiting list for membership should apply to the R&DCF chair. The R&DCF chairs’ decision on membership will be final
  • each member body can send one delegate (plus any presenters from the same body) to each of the biannual meetings of the forum. If a member misses two consecutive meetings another body from the waiting list may be invited to replace them at future meetings.
  • where there are spare seats at forum meetings firms and bodies on the waiting list will be invited to send a delegate to that meeting.
  • members are expected to adhere to the HMRC standards for agents. Those in breach of the standards may have their membership rescinded by the R&DCF chair, whose decision on the matter will be final
  • both the minutes of the committee and, where appropriate, the slides presented at the meetings shall be published on GOV.UK

Previous terms of reference

You can view the previous terms of reference (valid until 24 January 2019) from the R&DCF (formerly the Research and Development Consultative Committee) on The National Archives website .

Meeting minutes

Meetings are every 6 months.

Minutes - 15 December 2023

ODT , 45.4 KB

This file is in an OpenDocument format

Minutes - 15 December 2023 ( ODT , 45.4 KB )

Minutes - 26 July 2023 ( ODT , 27.1 KB )

Archived minutes

Minutes and documents form previous meetings are available on The National Archives website:

  • 2022 minutes
  • 2021 minutes
  • 2020 minutes
  • 2019 minutes
  • 2017 to 2018 minutes
  • 2013 to 2016 minutes
  • 2005 to 2012 minutes

Contact details

[email protected]

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The Research & Development Communication Forum meeting: here’s what we learned

The Research & Development Communication Forum, or RDCF (formerly the Research and Development Consultative Committee, or RDCC), is an HMRC-sponsored forum that meets every six months to discuss the operational delivery of the UK’s R&D tax relief schemes.

The committee, which comprises HMRC agents, professional bodies, industry delegates and representatives of trade bodies, last met in December 2021 . As members of the RDCF forum, here are our key takeaways from that meeting.

Cloud computing costs will be eligible for relief

It’s been a long time coming but we’ve now learned more about HMRC’s changing approach to cloud computing and big data expenditure.

It was exciting back in Autumn 2021 to learn from HMRC that qualifying cost criteria for both the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) and SME R&D relief schemes would be expanded to include cloud computing and big data costs.

In December’s forum, HM Treasury Policy Advisor Isaac Haigh asked to hear from companies to whom this would be relevant so that the government could ensure future legislation would be “fit for purpose”.

It seems these discussions led to greater clarity being provided, as we’ve now learned that some indirect uses of cloud computing, such as storage, will now be covered.

Data licensing was discussed too, and this could also be included in R&D relief applications as long as the claimant doesn’t maintain any rights to publish, share or otherwise communicate raw data within a dataset they’ve licensed for use in an R&D project.

A u-turn on overseas R&D work claims

Less welcome in November was HMRC’s proposal to stop businesses claiming R&D relief on the cost of R&D subcontractors based outside of the UK.

This, too, was discussed in the meeting, where HMRC representatives reiterated the intention to encourage activity in the UK, not outside of it, but claimed they were open to hearing about any “narrow exceptions” that could be accounted for.

Again, it seems this openness led to an amendment, as we’ve now learned of a u-turn in the decision and expenditure on overseas R&D work will remain eligible where there are:

  • material factors such as geography, environment, population or other conditions that are not present in the UK and are required for the research – for example, deep-ocean research.
  • regulatory or other legal requirements that activities must take place outside of the UK – for example, clinical trials.

HMRC’s position on subsidised expenditure

The recent high-profile tribunal case involving Quinn London Limited and HMRC highlighted several issues around the latter’s definition of subsidised expenditure.

To refresh your memory, HMRC initially rejected an R&D relief claim from Quinn on the grounds that its costs were subsidised. It argued that payments made by Quinn’s clients for its finished building works made the R&D expenditure ineligible.

At appeal, the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) ruled in Quinn’s favour, saying it was entitled to £1 million in unpaid tax relief from HMRC.

We believed at the time that this was reassuring news for businesses who take on R&D projects on behalf of clients but also made it clear that the industry needed more clarity about what does and doesn’t qualify as a subsidised expenditure.

We were right to be hesitant.

While HMRC said in the RDCF meeting that it would not be appealing the FTT’s decision, it also made clear that its view of the legislation in question has not changed since at least 2004.

R&D technical advisor Sean Coneeny revealed HMRC’s standing to be that:

  • FTT decisions are not binding, do not have precedent value and are made on the facts of each specific case.
  • HMRC may have made an error in not challenging the claim earlier in the process
  • HMRC will continue to challenge similar claims

Pre-notifying HMRC of planned R&D projects

As part of the reform announced in November, companies will need to inform HMRC in advance that they plan to make an R&D relief claim (as well as making the claim digitally and including more detail, such as the names of any advising agents, information on what expenditure the claim covers and the uncertainty overcome).

While we welcome any streamlining effect this will have, there were a few understandable concerns raised in the committee meeting.

In response, HMRC said that:

  • It envisages prenotifications to be made before the end of the accounting period to which the R&D relief claim relates
  • As they’re distinct notions, advance assurance and pre-notification can be completed separately, although an advance assurance (where it’s applicable) could be taken as pre-notification
  • It (at the time of the meeting) was still considering how to implement the pre-notification measures and would work internally and with external stakeholders to ensure they worked as intended

For more information…

We specialise in helping businesses access the R&D relief they’re entitled to, working closely with HMRC to understand R&D tax legislation. This ensures all the claims we submit for clients are accurate, maximized and robust.

This RDCF event took place in December 2021 and in March, the government offered further information on changes to both relief schemes in its Spring Statement .

Watch our round-table discussion now to learn more about these updates and the potential impacts.

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Dr Arwyn Evans

R&D Tax Manager

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A conversation between people on R&D tax

Research & Development Communication Forum Update

Author: Alex Hewitt  |  Published: th , 2021">December 14 th , 2021

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Last week, we attended HMRC’s R&D Communication Forum (RDCF, formerly the RDCC). As this came hot on the heels of the Government’s recent announcements on Research and Development, there was much to be discussed!

As we’ve recently written about in our R&D Consultation Outcome and Upcoming Changes blog , the proposals from the Treasury focus mainly on abuse of the system and how to ensure that UK companies are the true beneficiaries of the scheme.

With this in mind, from April 2023, claimants will be required to

  • give advance notification of their intention to make a claim;
  • submit all claims digitally; 
  • include details of any agents involved in compiling the claim;
  • make sure the claim is signed off by an officer of the company.

This was discussed at length, and all seems quite logical, except when it comes to giving advance notice. Given that you may not be aware you have qualifying activities until you actually hit your first “technical uncertainty”, how this will work in practice is very much up in the air. HMRC spoke of a portal where claimants can notify their intention to claim, but this is very much in the planning stage. There will also be additional fields to complete in the CT600L, so watch this space.

The proposed rules around subcontractors and EPWs designed to ensure payments remain within the UK were also a hot topic. The current proposals are that from 2023, these costs must be incurred by UK PAYE staff. HMRC discussed the potential exceptions to the rule, for example when R&D absolutely needs to take place abroad for scientific reasons. We HMRC are still seeking responses to these proposed changes, so we expect further tweaks and clarification through 2022.

Talk then turned to new costs that can be included in a claim. There was some clarification of the inclusion of Cloud and Data costs. HMRC stated that not all costs will qualify – only those which can be attributed to data processing, software, computation and analytics. Quite how these specific costs can be identified and ring-fenced is up for debate. HMRC also announced that, due to the fact the Government’s new 1.25% Health and Social Care Levy will be collected by HMRC, these costs can also be included in the overall staff costs.

Finally, there was some good news from a processing perspective:

  • YTD, 23,755 SME and 2,804 RDEC claims have been processed
  • 91% of these were processed within 28 days, which is up from 88% on this time last year. 
  • Claims are currently being processed at day 24 for SME and day 43 for RDEC.

Given most HMRC are still working remotely, this is a decent churn rate.

Alex Hewitt

Never miss a beat. Get R&D tax scheme updates and guidance sent straight to your inbox!

How to write an r&d tax relief technical narrative.

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Available to download here.

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Highly anticipated updates on uk r&d tax claims.


The total number of Research and Development (R&D) tax claims increased by 10.54% from 2021-22 on 2020-21 with abuse still rife, Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom (HMRC) priority to tackle dubious claims have seen delays to processing times.

A greatly anticipated Research & Development Communication Forum (RDCF formerly RDCC) took place on 13th July 2022. This biannual event enables R&D agents and accountants to discuss the current and future points to existing and new funding and compliance and technical points regarding Research & Development Tax Relief (RD&TR) and Research & Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) incentives with delegates from HMRC and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

It was highlighted that whilst 98% of Research & Development Tax Credit (RDTC) claims (42,073 in total during 2021-22) were paid within 28 days, HMRC have temporarily increased the processing ambition to 40 days. However, for those of us that are in support of eliminating abuse the delays are somewhat immaterial and a slight adjustment to sale pitches is all that’s required.

I have summarised the key points between R&D tax updates and general BEIS funding below:

Eligible expenditure and activity of UK R&D Tax

  • Cloud and Data costs to include ALL associated costs in relation to data rich projects, this includes data storage costs.
  • Plans remain to increase the generosity of RDEC; however, no further details were provided.
  • The definition of R&D to be expanded to include pure mathematics research.
  • “material factors such as geography, environment, population or other conditions that are not present in the United Kingdom (UK) and are required for the research, meaning expenditure must take place outside of the UK – for example, deep ocean research”
  • “regulatory or other legal requirements that activities must take place outside of the UK, for example, clinical trials.”
  • Legislation regarding a Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in a group that has become large the year of grace will apply, currently the transition from SME to RDEC is instant.
  • Technical changes to the treatment of reliefs within a system of two corporation tax rates to be made to legislation.

Target abuse and improve compliance of UK R&D Tax

  • The technological and scientific advance sought
  • Field of science or technology
  • How the uncertainties were overcome
  • Claims and advance notification to be made digitally, intention to claim must be notified within 6 months of the end of the accounting period, unless a company has claimed in any one of the last three years. No issues will arise where a company makes an advanced notification to HMRC and subsequently does not file R&D tax claim submission, however a new notification will need to be made for the next accounting period where a claim is to be made. It should be noted the advanced notification is not the same as advance assurance and notification is simply received by HMRC allowing a claim to be made – no preapproval is granted.
  • R&D agent details to be provided if they have supported the company in compiling the claim and a senior officer of the company must endorse the claim.
  • Government is continuing to review abuse and compliance of the UK R&D tax schemes and considering additional measures. Plans to create a new crosscut team to monitor and deal with abuse are in motion. Increased trained resource have and will be deployed to processing teams.

Other points to note

  • The eligibility of R&D undertaken by a foreign branch of a UK company under the proposed changes is still under review.
  • The effect on SME Headcount in the European Commissions (EC) recommendation is still being considered with regards to whether furloughed staff should be included in the full-time equivalent (FTE) count.
  • Patent box to be updated to include data and cloud costs
  • New subsidy rules (that replace notified state aid because of Brexit) are still being discussed in relation to R&D tax claims.
  • Attention focused on the Northern Ireland protocol which could result in further changes and implications.

Grant's View

It is and always will be positive to see additional funding and support going into funding programmes and R&D tax incentives for business, especially SMEs. At CTI I feel privileged to be able to be involved in this and assist companies Globally.

I believe there are multiple layers to the abuse identified by HMRC from no justification or evidence existing through to boundaries being pushed (if not surpassed) in ‘maximising’ claims. I am not convinced how the advanced notification will remove abuse; I do feel that it will remove the delay between a submission of a tax return with the R&D deduction and a technical report (which I imagine is messy from HMRCs side of things) but this doesn’t always reflect ineligible costs or activity being claimed for. As many of us R&D agents know there are still many eligible companies out there that for one reason, or another haven’t claimed and would in some cases not be able to make use of the full two-year window due to this advance notification rule. The other side to it is that companies default to notifying HMRC ‘just in case’ and if so, then how effective is the inclusion of such a process? Whilst the process doesn’t appear that it will be cumbersome this may have no relevance.

Moreover, expansions to the R&D definition and expenditure can be seen with consideration to new approaches and R&D projects taking place. I feel somewhat like a broken record, but it is still a ‘watch this space’ message to end, with changes in Government likely, a new Prime Minister and/or Government are likely to want to stamp their mark on this very generous and valuable incentive.

Our CTI International team, based in the UK, can answer any of your questions.  Contact us today .

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Forum posts, communication patterns, and relational structures: A multi-level view of discussions in online courses

  • Development Article
  • Open access
  • Published: 28 June 2023

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research & development communication forum

  • Oleksandra Poquet   ORCID: 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Sven Trenholm 3 &
  • Marc Santolini 4 , 5  

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Interpersonal online interactions are key to digital learning pedagogies and student experiences. Researchers use learner log and text data collected by technologies that mediate learner interactions online to provide indicators about interpersonal interactions. However, analytical approaches used to derive these indicators face conceptual, methodological, and practical challenges. Existing analytical approaches are not well aligned with the theories of digital learning, lack rigor, and are not easily replicable. To address these challenges, we put forward a multi-level framework linking indicators of individual posting with group-level communication and emergent relational structures. We exemplify the use of the framework by analyzing twenty online and blended courses. Empirical insights demonstrate how indicators at these three levels relate to each other and to potential instructor decisions. Our conclusion highlights current gaps in the framework and the areas for future work.

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Social network analysis (SNA) is a quantitative methodology frequently used in educational research to examine relationships, most commonly the relationships between students or teachers (Saqr et al., 2022 ). Over the last two decades, SNA has expanded from examining human self-reported relationships to analyzing learner interactions captured by educational technologies (Haythornthwaite & De Laat, 2012 ). Since then, SNA has been applied to trace data in various ways, including social media (Kitto et al., 2015 ), computer-supported collaborative learning (Dado & Bodemer, 2017 ), online course discussions (Chen et al., 2018 ), MOOCs and professional communities (Suthers, 2015 ; Wise & Cui, 2018 ), as well as social annotations of course readings and videos (Chen et al., 2022 ; Hecking et al., 2017 ). Despite the wide range of applications, methodological re-considerations required when SNA is applied to digital traces (Howison et al., 2011 ) are often overlooked (Poquet & Joksimovic, 2022 ).

The application of SNA in digital learning environments has been criticized (Chen & Poquet, 2022 ; Poquet & Chen, 2023 ; Poquet & Joksimovic, 2022 ; Poquet et al., 2020 , 2021 ). The critiques call for systematicity in how networks are defined (Poquet et al., 2021 ) and modelled statistically across existing studies (Poquet & Joksimovic, 2022 ), in how digital learning theories are used to statistically model trace data (Poquet & Chen, 2023 ), and in how stakeholder values are considered in SNA of learner digital traces (Chen & Poquet, 2022 ). These critiques emphasize that a reliable cross-course analysis of digital learning interactions requires systematic, conceptually consistent, and scalable methods for analyzing networks that form in diverse contexts, for instance, in different courses via various technologies and pedagogies. Much of the critique remains prescriptive. To respond to the criticisms, empirical studies utilizing SNA need to surmount conceptual, methodological, and practical challenges.

This paper outlines some of these challenges and presents a framework to address them. The paper is organized as follows. Sect. “ Challenges Facing SNA of Digital Interactions ” outlines conceptual, methodological, and practical challenges facing SNA of digital learning traces. Sect. “ Multi-level View of Online Discussions ” proposes a conceptual framework and a methodology for overcoming these challenges. Sects. “ Methods ” and “ Results ” present methods and results obtained when the framework was applied to analyze student online interactions in discussion forums of twenty university courses. The framework analyzes multiple levels of learner interactions: (1) individual and dyadic posting behavior; (2) patterns of forum communication projected from the networks of forum posts, and (3) structures of emergent relationships emergent during communication patterns. Individual, network, and group levels within the framework are interdependent conceptually. This means that statistical modeling of the communication networks from lower level of individual participation affords further inference of the relational structures underpinning them. At each level, a separate set of hypotheses can be made to shape the statistical modeling, and our analysis presents just one example of what that could look like. The results show that analyzed courses have regularities in the patterns of posting behavior at the individual level and in the patterns of relational processes at the group level, whereas their communication patterns—currently the most studied level of analysis—appear to be more dissimilar. Having demonstrated the methodology, in Sect. “ Relevance of Multi-level Framework ” we discuss how this proposed framework overcomes current challenges and where further work is needed.

Challenges facing SNA of digital interactions

Interpersonal interactions and relationships are integral to student learning and success (Astin, 1993 ). Learning theories emphasize the importance of direct interaction or observing others in constructing knowledge or socializing into existing practices (Bransford et al., 2000 ; Bruner, 1996 ; Dillenbourg, 1999 ; Mayes, 2015 ; Teasley, 1997 ). In distance education, interactions are particularly important for reducing the psychological distance between learners distributed in time and space (Abrami et al., 2011 ). With the wide adoption of technology for learning, data collected in digital environments have been viewed as an opportunity to inform the facilitation of learner interactions. Analysis of what learners talk about has become an important part of studying learning from peer interactions (Henri, 1992 ). Analyzing the structure of learner exchanges online, such as who they are talking to, offered a further way to quantify learner relations (De Laat et al., 2007 ). Against this backdrop, SNA has gained traction as a technique for analyzing the structure of online interactions.

Recently, analyses of the structures that represent online interactions in learner discussions have come under criticism (Lund & Suthers, 2016 ; Poquet et al., 2021 ; Wise et al., 2017 ). Wise et al., for instance, showed the impact of how networks are defined on findings: arbitrary network definitions result in the arbitrary inclusion of data points as network nodes or ties and influence the results. Poquet and Joksimovic ( 2022 ) described the diversity of network analysis of learner traces as the cacophony of network approaches. To improve the quality of empirical work, Poquet et al. ( 2021 ) developed recommendations for the generalizability and reproducibility of network studies in learning analytics. However, many of these calls remain prescriptive.

To respond to these criticisms of SNA of trace data in digital learning, empirical studies need to surmount several challenges. To demonstrate these challenges, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. An instructor implemented a new intervention to facilitate interpersonal activity between the students in the course. An analyst would like to compare the effects of this intervention across several courses and create a dashboard visualizing interaction patterns for the instructors. However, several challenges arise.

Firstly, the analyst faces a practical challenge of what learning outcomes the analyst should evaluate. SNA in learning analytics often targets learning outcomes measured at the level of a network, such as learner degree centrality, often operationalized as how many peers a student interacted with. Although this metric has been associated with grades (Saqr & López-Pernas, 2022 ), creativity (Dawson et al., 2011 ), and quality of discourse (Dowell et al., 2015 ), instructors may also be interested in other outcomes, such as individual level of participation or group-level indicators of community formation. The choice of these outcomes depends on the interest of individual instructors—some may value the development of a learning community as the goal of their intervention, whereas others may prioritize higher levels of individual participation in group activities. Individual participation, positioning in a communication network, and community development are outcomes that need to be measured at different levels. Further, scant evidence exists to advise as to how these outcomes are interdependent, i.e., if individual participation also advances community development. As a consequence, the final decision as to what learning outcome to focus on, remains with the stakeholder.

Second, the analyst faces methodological challenges. The problem of defining a network, that we have noted earlier, is just one of the methodological challenges. A direct visualization of a chosen network, which is a common way to represent patterns of group activities, is not a reliable source of insight since graph visualization can be easily manipulated to impose a particular interpretation. Instead, quantitative SNA metrics are needed, and descriptive SNA metrtics remain commonly used in dashboards and in studies (Dado & Bodemer, 2017 ; Poquet et al., 2021 ). In many instances, however, these descriptive indicators from different courses cannot be compared directly. To enable cross-course comparison, once networks are constructed, the analyst needs to conduct statistical analysis of the networks.

To address practical and methodological challenges, the analyst needs to attend to conceptual decisions. As we explained earlier, statistical analysis of networks is often needed for cross-course comparison. Conducting statistical network analysis requires choosing a theory that explains how the network forms and evolves to the desired outcome. Statistical modelling of networks involves comparing an observed network to a distribution of randomly generated networks simulated via conceptual hypotheses about why its ties form. The generative model specifying the rules for the simulated network is called a null model. Very few studies attempt to choose a null model that explain formation of learner networks in digital settings (Poquet & Chen, 2023 ). Instead, researchers often use social science theories of how relationships form in everyday life, when they statistically analyze networks of digital interactions.

Using social science theories to explain how relationships form seems a natural choice: SNA already embeds a theoretical view because many of network measures and their interpretations are deeply rooted in structural sociology (Wellman, 1997 ). However, learner ties in networks in digital settings are not equivalent to the social relationships studied by sociologists. In social networks, a tie between two people represents a social relationship, elicited by asking people to report who they trust or seek advice from. Measures of social relationships are well-theorized (Haythornthwaite, 1996 ; Rivera et al., 2010 ), yet if and when their interpretations are transferrable to digital learning is unclear. Similarly, statistical modelling of social networks relies on these theoretical tenets of how networks of social relationships form (Lusher et al., 2013 ). In this process, guided by the assumptions about how social networks form, random networks are generated from the processes known for their role in the formation of social networks, such as reciprocity (‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ mechanism), transitivity (‘a friend of a friend is my friend’ mechanism), and generalized exchange (‘pay it forward’ mechanism).

In contrast, interaction networks from digital data do not represent social relationships although some of the ties may potentially correspond to the relationship ties. Chen and Poquet ( 2020 ) argued that ties in social networks are constructed from the perceptions of a ‘state’ as to whether relationship between two people is perceived by either of them as real. Such ties are conceptually different from the ties in learner networks inferred from digital trace data, constructed from learner activity, representing ‘events’ of what has happened online. Learner networks inferred from digital traces may therefore not be theorized through the same mechanisms that describe social network formation, such as preferential attachment (Toivonen et al., 2006 ) or structural balance theory (Cartwright & Harary, 1956 ). Digital learning theories, such as knowledge building (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996 ), connectivism (Siemens, 2005 ), and networked learning (Jones, 2015 ), describe learning as a process situated within the socio-technical systems that form as learners participate in learning activities that are also mediated by learning artefacts. The actors involved in digitally mediated learning environments can be learners, technology-mediated artefacts, or units obtained from the language used for the communication (Jones, 2015 ; Nardi, 1996 ; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996 ; Siemens, 2005 ). The ties underpinning the relationships can represent different actions, relations, and qualities. Breaking down digital learning theories into the methodologies for analyzing and modelling these digital learner networks is nascent, and empirical studies are yet to rise to the challenge to implement these conceptualizations (Poquet & Chen, 2023 ).

Multi-level view of online discussions

To address existing practical, methodological, and conceptual challenges, we propose that analysis of digital learner interactions should differentiate between three different processes that overlap within the digital learning space: (1) individual participation in a discussion forum through the activity of posting; (2) communication that unfolds as learners contribute to the discussion forums; and (3) emergent relationship formation among some learners as they post and communicate with others. These three processes can be understood as occurring at the individual level, network-level, and the group level. We operationalize them as interdependent, where each level gives rise to the next one continuously (Fig.  1 ). In the remainder of the section, we draw on existing literature to explain the relevance of posting activity, communication, and relationship formation for digital learning and discuss their possible operationalizations.

figure 1

Separating processes of participation, communication, and relating in discussion forums in digital settings

Posting activity

As per the literature on digital learning, posting activity serves as an indicator of online participation (Hrastinski, 2008 ). The act of posting on discussion forums indicates that learners are engaging with the activities designed by instructors. This engagement is prompted by the combination of designed pedagogical activities and learner motivation. While some learners may value interaction with their peers, others may prioritize their specific learning needs (Eynon, 2014 ). Nevertheless, they all respond to the pedagogical activity that requires them to post. Counting the number of posts on forums is a standard method used to evaluate forum participation. Counts of posts at the learner level is associated with the learner's final grade (Macfadyen & Dawson, 2010 ) and can be used to predict learner engagement and completion (Joksimovic et al., 2018 ).

Posting activity can be captured through tree-like network structures of post-to-post relationships (Aragón et al., 2017 ), with an example of a post-to-post network presented in Fig.  1 a. Posts that respond to the very first post in the discussion are linked with an explicit ‘reply-to’ relationship. The depth of such tree-like network reflects the number of levels, or turns, within the discussion thread. Thinking of the networks of posts as the basic representation of forum activity could be useful as it affords to represent networks of distinct text-based units, preserving the content and linguistic styles of each contribution in a discussion, even if they were authored by the same person. Networks of posts are not yet aggregated to the learner level. As a result, the individual characteristics of each post, such as its function in a conversation, its relationship to the main ideas generated, or its linguistic properties, can be examined. Networks of posts therefore have potential to capture the mechanisms of how networks form in text-based settings than learner-to-learner networks.

Communication structures

Communication structures, or learner-to-learner projections of posting activity (Figure 1 b), are commonly used to analyze learner networks inferred from digital trace data (Poquet et al., 2020 ). Communication between individuals is a central component of networked learning and connectivism theories. Connectivist settings require curating, amplifying, filtering, and guiding attention to different signals that travel through the network (Siemens, 2005 ). A more amplified and interconnected communication network is deemed effective for learning. Learners’ roles and their positioning within the communication structure may be critical to how the discussion unfolds across the group, and the roles played by individuals in digital settings have been studied through log data and text (Arvaja et al., 2008 ; Dowell & Poquet, 2021 ; Martınez et al., 2003 ).

The structure of communication networks can be captured through metrics such as graph density, reciprocity, and transitivity (Dado & Bodemer, 2017 ). Descriptive measures of communication structure are commonly used to describe learner interactions in online learning scenarios, but they are not always meaningful without a statistical evaluation of whether these would have been expected by chance. Most often, null models for communication networks in digital settings are implemented to generate learner-to-learner activity. Instead of simulating these learner-to-learner networks, Poquet et al. ( 2020 ) proposed using null models at the level of posting activity, they used learner-to-learner networks projected from the random networks generating posting activity to explain learner-to-learner communication patterns in digital learning settings. That is, simulated post-to-post networks can be transformed to simulated learner-to-learner network projections, which can then be evaluated against observed learner-to-learner projections for testing hypotheses about network formation.

Relational structures

Social relations between learners are also important in digital spaces. Relationships between learners underpin community formation, and theories such as community of inquiry presuppose that affective, relational community ties underpin knowledge construction in learning cohorts (Akyol & Garrison, 2008 ). The biggest challenge is to establish if any of the interpersonal text- and technology- mediated learner activity in fact constitutes a social relationship. Methodologically, social networks from digital data have been represented through learner-to-learner relations, where the ties are stringently defined and elicited from the communication network, such as through direct name tagging (Gruzd, 2009 ), filtering based on belonging to a particular category (Poquet et al., 2017 ) or statistical filtering of the frequency of learner-to-learner interactions (Mukerjee et al., 2022 ). We follow in this approach, suggesting that social structures and communication structures overlap but may not be identical. To operationalize what we call here ‘relational’ structures that evolve through online communication, we follow a view that sustained quality of interactions would constitute a relation, an evolved state between two people that is more than just information exchange. In a similar vein, a networked learning paradigm differentiates between the strong and weak interpersonal ties in a learning network (Jones et al., 2008 ), acknowledging the importance of including both intermittent and sustained relationships in the analysis of learner communication. Figure  1 c captures this view of a relational structure as a backbone of a communication network.

Bringing together posting, communication, and social network levels

We have argued that participation, communication, and formation of relational structures in discussion forums online represent three different processes that have been discussed in digital learning literature. We suggest that posting activity gives rise to communication patterns and emergent relational structures. Table 1 summarizes the levels and units of analysis for each of these processes, as well as offers examples of research questions and indicators that can be used by the analyst. To demonstrate how this framework can be applied, we use it to analyze discussion forums in twenty online and blended university courses.

Study context

Data were collected from the Moodle platform in twenty courses, offered in Social Sciences and Humanities of the same department in August—December 2016 in an Australian university. The courses were selected due to the high number of forum posts as per the administrative records. Courses were taught by different instructors and teaching assistants and included both blended and fully online offerings. The courses enrolled on average some 44 students ( M  = 84, SD  = 111) and lasted one semester, typically 13 weeks. Average estimated weekly workload in all courses was 10 h ( SD  = 2). Two large assessments were typically present in most courses. In many courses, in-person attendance was not mandatory, which meant that although the courses may have been listed as blended, some students experienced them as fully online whereas some others may have chosen to occasionally attend. For this reason, we do not differentiate between the courses as blended and online, and this presents an important limitation of the insights we will present.

As part of the study, we took qualitative notes on how the instructors designed the tasks for discussion forums. In one course (D) learners were placed in fixed small groups throughout the course, with weekly assignments to be completed in this group. In other courses (F, G, E, R, J, K, Q, S, A, G, T) students were requested to reflect on a reading and post their individual answers. How the instructors set this up differed: in most courses the instructors set this up in a way that enabled all cohort to post weekly in one thematic forum (e.g., G), in other instances the instructors set up weekly thematic forums as well as smaller group spaces where specific students were assigned to post within the thematic forums (e.g. T). In courses L and M the students were requested to specifically respond to two other students who have not yet been responded to in that week. In some courses (P, O, N, I, C), there were no special tasks for discussions forum activity. We used this information about the generic nature of the discussion forum tasks to contextualize the results presented in Sect. “ Relevance of Multi-level Framework ”.

Overall analytical approach

Our methodology examines (1) posting indicators, (2) the structure of communication patterns, and (3) emergent relational structures in twenty courses. Data were collected at the level of a course forum—a collection of discussion threads in a Moodle system. The following analytical steps were taken:

Posting activity networks (post-to-post networks, Fig.  1 a) were constructed. From each post-to-post network, we derived indicators of posting activity at the individual level (e.g., number of posts) and at the dyadic level (e.g., number of replies). Such indicators of posting activity were used to group twenty online courses into 5 groups as per the student activity in them, using principal component analysis (PCA).

Posting activity networks were then used for simulating distributions from the null models of posting activity, described, and evaluated in Poquet, Tupikina, and Santolini (2020).

Posting activity networks (both simulated and observed) were transformed into learner-to-learner networks. Observed learner-to-learner projection from each course was compared to the distribution of random learner-to-learner projections simulated for each course.

Edge weights in learner-to-learner projections were filtered, retaining only those edge weights that were two standard deviations higher than average edge weights in the simulated learner-to-learner projections.

Exponential random graph modelling was used to analyze patterns in these newly formed, filtered networks. Hypotheses for network formation for the ERGM analyses were drawn from our previous work on social processes in MOOCs (Poquet et al., 2017 ; Poquet & Dawson, 2018 ).

We further detail each of these steps in this section.

Grouping courses around post-level activity

Networks of forum posts were constructed for each course (Fig.  2 ). A node in such a network is a post, if another post was added using ‘reply’ button in Moodle, the two posts were linked. Exemplified in Fig.  2 , each small network represents a discussion thread.

figure 2

Posting network structures in courses K, D, P, and M. Nodes are posts (not students). Connected posts took place in the same discussion thread, with the use of the reply button constituting a tie between two posts

These networks of posts, further referred to as post-networks, were used to derive indicators of posting activity. These indicators describe individual activity such as the number of posts, as well as dyadic activity, such as a post-to-reply ratio in a course. Specific indicators computed for each course were: total number of forum posts in a course; percent of posts made by instructor; size of the largest discussion thread (i.e., largest component in the network of posts); mean number of posts per person relative to the person’s activity in other courses that semester (mean Z-score of the number of posts a person contributed on average in other courses that semester); number of discussion threads in a course (i.e., number of trees in a post-network); median number of posts per person in a course; mean number of posts per person in a course; mean number of posts across discussion threads of a course; number of replies within a course; post-to-reply ratio; percent of posts without reply (i.e. isolates in a post-networks); average number of replies per post; mean depth of discussion thread (i.e. number of levels in the thread).

We then conducted principal component analysis (PCA) of these indicators of posting activity across twenty courses (Fig.  3 ). The indicators of posting activity, specified above, correlated at least 0.3 with at least one other item, but not higher than 0.9, suggesting reasonable factorability. Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin measure of sampling adequacy was 0.53, which is adequate (Field et al., 2012 ). Bartlett’s test of sphericity was significant (c2 = 327.93, p < 0.0001). Initial eigenvalues suggested that three factors explained 41%, 23%, and 14% of the variance respectively, together describing 78% of variance.

figure 3

PCA results. Letters represent courses, arrows—the relationship between two principal components and posting behavior indicators

Given the relationship between the features and factor loadings, we interpreted the two principal components as follows. The first component was interpreted as the ‘individual participation’—given its correlation with the indicators, such as the number of posts. The second component was interpreted as interactivity in the course as indicators of dyadic level activity—given that is correlated with features such as length of discussions or proportion of replies to posts on the forum. Here, we use participation and interactivity in their direct meaning. These two characteristics characterize to what extent learner behaviour in the discussion forum was more directed towards individual participation or towards responding or engaging with others, or both.

Comparing communication structures

Ties in the networks of posts were permutated to create a distribution of random networks of posts to correspond and compare with each observe network of posts. The methodology for simulation followed the approach detailed in Poquet et al. ( 2020 ). During the simulation, the number of nodes (posts made by each person) and out-degree in the post-network (number of replies a post received) was kept constant. This simple model controlled for learner activity but allowed randomness as to how the posts were connected in the simulated networks. In an earlier study (Poquet et al., 2020 ) we showed that this null model reproduced the degree in the learner network well, i.e. activity of the learner determined how many people they spoke to, but was not sufficient to explain clustering, i.e. exchanges between three people or in smaller groups. Simulations kept out-degree in the networks of posts fixed at ‘one’ (each post can only have one outgoing tie as it can only be a reply to one other post). R package ergm (Handcock et al., 2015 ) was used. Once networks were simulated, they were transformed into learner-to-learner network projections where ‘post X by learner A to post Y by learner B’ relations were converted into ‘learner A to learner B’ ties with the tie weight equivalent to the frequency of exchanges between each pair. For each set of networks (random and observed), network-level metrics were computed, such as the number of communities (Zeng & Yu, 2018 ), density, the Gini coefficient for the network degree, assortativity, transitivity, and edge weight. A Z-score for each of these network statistics was derived for the observed network in comparison to the values in the distribution of corresponding random networks.

ERGM of relational structures

To derive relational structures of learner exchanges, we filtered communication networks to derive a less noisy underlying communication structure. Edges in the observed network that were higher than two standard deviations than the average edge weight describing the distribution random networks were retained. These represented relational structures where learners were much more likely to exchange many times and throughout the course. It is plausible that these pairs formed impressions of each other and experienced social presence, though the data reported here had no self-reports to verify if this assumption holds. Then, we analyzed these filtered networks using ERGMs. ERGMs generate a distribution of random graphs and estimate if the features hypothesized as critical for network formation occur beyond chance using multiple hypothesis as to why the structure we are observing has formed (Lusher et al., 2013 ).

We used three hypotheses to test the formation of the network in the relational network structures, analyzed with ERGMS: the patterns of reciprocity (A to B, B to A), cyclical ties (A to B, B to C, C to A), and Simmelian ties (A to B, B to A, B to C, C to A, C to B, B to C, as shown in Fig.  4 ). These were selected because they were previously found in interaction networks (Joksimovic et al., 2016 ; Kellogg et al., 2014 ; Zhang et al., 2016 ). Our prior work showed how these features can differentiate between relational structures in MOOCs with different facilitation strategies (Poquet, 2017 ; Poquet et al., 2017 ; Poquet & Dawson, 2018 ).

figure 4

Suggested indicators of interpersonal relationships in digital learning

We explain briefly why we would expect to observe these three patterns in an online discussion forum. Initially, learners mainly respond to each other (reciprocity pattern). Over time, some learners are more likely to co-occur in the same threads due to shared interests, activity levels, and ability, forming two-path structures, such as A to B, B to C, that over time may close into triad where ties represent repeated interaction online. Thus, the presence of the cyclical ties pattern was interpreted as having higher levels of information exchange, while the presence of the Simmelian ties pattern was interpreted as the onset of group formation processes. It is important to note that we do not interpret these patterns as being equivalent to their counterparts in social relationship patterns, where the Simmelian ties pattern represent the strongest cliques. In the context of sustained online conversations, we view Simmelian ties as building blocks of equivalent importance, but likely a different socio-emotional quality. R package ergm was used for the analysis (Handcock et al., 2015 ).

Indicators of posting activity

We have conducted principal component analysis of indicators describing posting activity, such as total number of posts in a course, average number of exchanges in discussions within a course, etc. We interpreted two principal components describing learner posting activity as ‘individual participation’ and ‘interpersonal orientation’. The courses have varying degree of how much individual participation and interpersonal orientation they elicited in the students, but overall they could be positioned within four quadrants (Fig.  3 ):

High Participation and High Interactivity (courses S, Q, A, F, D),

High Participation and Low Interactivity (courses K, E, G, R, J),

Low Participation and High Interactivity (courses L, T, M), and

Low Participation and Low Interactivity (N, C, I, B, O, P, H).

Figure  5 presents the means of scaled indicators used for PCA, for visualization purposes. High participation and high interactivity group included one outlier—course D. This course had much higher indicators compared to all the other courses in this quadrant. We interpreted it as having high participation, and the rest of the courses in these quadrants were A, Q, A, F described as having moderate participation. Indicators used for PCA can be directly compared across the courses as many of them represent counts of activity. For example, Fig.  5 shows that Course D had a much higher number of posts and replies than any other course, whereas the percentage of posts without a reply in Course D was much lower than in many other courses.

figure 5

Means of the posting behavior indicators per course group. Indicators across the courses were normalized for comparability: y-axis value is scaled, with 0 representing average for all courses, and values over 0 —higher than average indicators, values below 0 —lower than average indicators

Using the information about various choices instructors made for the forum task instructions, we can contextualize these indicators of the in-course participation. Course D, for example, assigned learners to fixed small groups and required them to complete a weekly task as a group. This course has the highest activity, both for individual participation and for interacting with others. Courses S, Q, A, F had larger groups of five to seven learners placed into a discussion thread weekly, to discuss a reading-related open-ended question. Courses L, T, and M invited learners to respond to two other learners on a regular basis. Their forums show high interpersonal orientation, but lower posting on the individual level. Courses in the group of K, E, G, R, and J had frequent graded tasks where learners were asked to post their personal view about a weekly topic or reading. This group of courses had forums with high interpersonal activity, which was less oriented to responding to others. On the other hand, in courses N, C, I, B, O, P, and H, there were no clear tasks for learner participation in the course forums, although in some of them, instructors set up discussion spaces without accompanying tasks. These courses without pre-defined pedagogical tasks or assessment-driven activity had forums with low posting activity.

Differences in communication structures

Figure  6 summarizes the results of examining communication structures in the forums of twenty courses. Heatmap cells indicate observed descriptive statistics of the SNA measures for number of communities, density, Gini coefficient for the degree distribution in communication networks, assortativity, transitivity, and edge weight in each of the learner-to-learner networks. Each cell indicates descriptive metrics from the observed learner-to-learner projections, cell colour captures if the raw metric was higher or lower than observed in a distribution of 20 random networks, based on the Z-score for the metric. Values that were more than two standard deviations lower than the random mean are colored in blue, those two standard deviations above the random mean—in red.

figure 6

Cross-course comparisons of network metrics for learner-to-learner communication structures (Color figure online)

When examining communication structures, we found that it is more challenging to differentiate between the courses using communication-level indicators. All courses had a higher-than-expected frequency of interaction between two learners. Some other patterns were observed. For instance, courses with higher participation activity had communication structures where subgroups of learners emerged beyond what would be expected by chance (i.e., number of communities). Moreover, these courses had a higher-than-expected Gini coefficient of a degree distribution, indicating the inequality of communication across the network that captures that learners did not respond to all peers equally. Higher Gini coefficient signals uneven clustering within the communication network (to remind, clustering coefficient reflects that in some parts of the network triads are starting to form). This can be interpreted as follows: as learners post individual responses without an incentive to engage with the others specified in the instructional task, they may feel compelled to respond only to those posts that spark their interest or are relevant. In contrast, courses with high interactivity had more equal participation across learners, with lower-than-expected Gini coefficients. This can be interpreted as follows: as learners are forced to respond to posts that require replies, these conversations may be less natural, so there is less discussion turn taking between learners who self-select to engage. Hence, network clustering that captures discussion turn taking beyond change is less likely. If our interpretation of these results holds true, then they also suggest a dilemma in choosing between communication structures that foster sub-group development that could result in homophily versus discussions that foster amplified information flow across the entire learner cohort but may not result in genuine interest and potential for relating across the learners.

Patterns around the transitivity indicators that reflect network clustering, i.e., the formation of triads, were unclear in courses with low participation and high interactivity. As learners were asked to respond to two others in such courses, triadic indicators here are likely to reflect the task and need to be interpreted with caution. Courses with low participation and low interactivity had many metrics that did not differ from what would have been expected by chance for the networks of their size.

Relational structures underpinning communication structures

We examined relational structures emergent within communication networks. These relational structures were themselves derived from communication networks: communication ties between students with the frequency higher than two standard deviations above the mean across a distribution of the random networks were retained, while other ties were disregarded. Using ERGMs, we examined these relational structures representing frequent interactions using hypothesis about social network formation, such as reciprocity and closure (formation of triads).

Three types of patterns were examined: reciprocal dyadic, cyclical ties, and simmelian ties, i.e., a pattern where three learners would have reciprocal ties. The results (Table 2 ) show that all three patterns were significant and positive only in course D, with highest participation and interactivity, suggesting that only in this course learners progressed to the formation of activity at the level of a triad, as indicative of social processes. The finding makes sense, given that this was the only course with small groups asked to interact weekly. Courses with high level of interactivity showed positive and significant patterns of cyclical ties, suggesting that communication processes in them started to lead to the development of exchange in triads. We interpret this pattern as indicative of a lower presence of social processes than in course D, yet higher than in the remainder courses where cyclical ties could not be fitted or were not significant. Overall, these patterns suggest that courses with high participation and high interactivity were more likely to create conditions for relationship formation among learners. We are also careful to interpret courses with low participation and high interactivity as garnering more frequent learner interactions in triads, since transitivity in communication networks could be there by design, and log odds for cyclical ties are mixed and low.

Synthesis of empirical results

Our suggested methodology demonstrates how one can examine indicators of learner activity, communication patterns, and relational structures (Table 1 ). Posting activity approached as a fundamental process of discussion activity offers useful and comparable insights across the courses. Our findings demonstrate the heterogeneity of patterns examined at all three levels. First, when it comes to posting activity, we highlight that discussion forums activities prompt learners to engage in ways that reflects their individual participation as well as their extent of engaging with others. Indicators of communication networks and relational structures allow for easier distinction between the courses and comparison between them. The indicators of posting activity are also most trivial and therefore are easiest to implement for the instructors. Our analysis shows that these characteristics of learner activity in discussion forums, namely how much individual participation and interactivity they elicit from learners, further help interpreting communication and relational structures.

When it comes to indicators at the level of communication networks, we show that these are more difficult to interpret and generalize. Patterns in communication structures vary, and raw metrics from communication networks are not insightful. Visualizations of communication structures are also less clear for interpretation than those representing relational structures (Fig.  7 ). For instance, communication structures with low density indicators describe communication in small groups or sub-groups, higher density suggests more amplified information flow, without network sub-groups forming. Either of these two structures can be viewed as effective, depending on the objective of the instructor. Interesting patterns describe courses with high participation and low interactivity. Their communication patterns to some extent resemble those in course D that was designed for small group groups. However, ‘high participation—low interactivity’ courses do not presuppose any group work as learners are simply asked to post a reflection. One possible interpretation of why the structures of clustering emerge in these small groups is that individual-oriented activities enable interest-based discussions towards group formation, though further work needs to examine if such a claim is warranted.

figure 7

Posting activity (left), communication structures (middle) and relational structures (right) for selected courses P, M, K, S and D as representative of different participation and interactivity levels

Relational structures have more regularity in the patterns describing their formation. Course D, the only one designed for collaborative work rather than social learning activity shows presence of group formation within its social structures. Results also suggest that courses that only focus on interactivity and do not promote higher levels of individual participation are not as successful at developing relational structures as the courses that focus both on individual participation and interactivity between the learners.

Relevance of multi-level framework

Despite widespread use of learner networks inferred from digital trace data, researchers face conceptual, methodological, and practical challenges in analyzing them. To address these challenges, we have suggested a framework that differentiates between different processes in online discussion threads: posting activity, communication, and formation of relationships between the learners. We have demonstrated the application of the framework to a set of courses. In this section, we explain how the framework addresses existing challenges faced by researchers who apply SNA to networks inferred from digital trace data and highlight where the gaps remain. For the summary of the section, please refer to Table 3 .

First, in terms of practical challenges, currently SNA tends to focus on network-level outcomes, while analytics that capture interpersonal activities in the class should embrace various levels of social learning activity. To address this issue, future research needs to explore the relationship between the process and outcomes of interpersonal activity at the individual-level, group-level, and network-level, and how these relate to learning gains. Our results suggest that there may be conflicting tensions between outcomes at various levels of social activities. Instructor may value amplified information flow among all learners. If this is the case, our analysis shows that encouragement of individual posting activity promotes more unequal communication patterns across the learners, as we see in the courses with high individual participation. It should be noted that although our proposed multi-level framework is designed to enable the analysis of outcomes the level of participation, communication, and formation of relational structures, our example does not include any self-report or other data to triangulate our inferences about the nature and quality of the outcomes. Future work needs to integrate both student perceptions of the interactions as well as the quality of exchanges and learning gains.

Second, numerous methodological challenges exist. One of them is the need to classify courses in ways that are reproducible across various situations. The multi-level framework that we propose addresses this issue by using posting activity indicators to characterize the courses. Although this is helpful in our example, the challenge of generalizing pedagogical decisions for forum activity remains. Another challenge is the need for explicit and argumentative definitions for network ties, nodes, and boundaries. Our methodology does not address this problem directly, but it can easily integrate more rigorous justifications for the definitions of posting activity, communication networks and relational structures within the multi-level framework. Finally, current work over-relies on the use of descriptive metrics from SNA used for cross-course comparisons. Our framework directly addresses this issue because both communication metrics and relational structures are analyzed statistically.

When it comes to conceptual challenges, our proposed methodology makes a step towards strengthening conceptualizations in SNA studies of digital trace data by explicitly acknowledging three distinct processes of participation, communication, and relationship formation from digital learning literature. The multi-level framework embeds the theoretical inter-dependency between the levels. However, our application of digital learning theories does not apply specific theories to explain mechanisms acting in each level, besides student activity. This is intentional—we used a simple null model for exemplary purposes. To further overcome this challenge, future null models need to better integrate timing of activity, its frequency, and discourse, as they mediate interpersonal interactions. Importantly, multi-level framework is designed in such a way that the analyst must specify a generative (conceptual) model of the fundamental principles for how participation and communication emerge. Presented framework can further integrate conceptual elements related to specific theories of digital learning, that are particularly relevant at the level of posting activity. Elements related to communication theories or social network theories can be integrated at their correspondent levels of analysis. This way, the framework allows for conceptual alignment with various theoretical views.

As noted, a few important weaknesses of the framework remain. Firstly, it does not focus on a specific learning theory, and indicators of posting activity can be expanded to better align with relevant concepts in digital learning. For instance, forum-post-networks can reflect listening activity (Wise et al., 2013 ) or post-networks can be defined through categorical definitions of ‘builds on’ or ‘overlaps with’ using semantic approaches to tie construction (Dascalu et al., 2018 ). Alternatively, bipartite networks that include mediating artefacts can be included at the level of posting behavior (Hoppe, 2017 ). Secondly, our use of a null model to simulate random graphs provides merely a starting point. Overall, research operationalizing digital learning theories for statistical network modelling is scarce. In Poquet and Chen ( 2023 ), we discuss several possibilities of how these models can be operationalized. For the empirical work, we are aware of one other study (Chen et al., 2022 ) besides our own to have used null models in the analysis of digital learning. Thirdly, including content labels and discourse characteristics is necessary to understand communication patterns in digital learning. For instance, constructs or themes around the social norms may be more relevant to add to modelling social networks, whereas linguistic indicators (Dowell et al., 2015 ) or text transactivity (Howley et al., 2012 ) could help model properties of posting network formation. Fourth, learning outcomes, such as perceptions of learners and community development, can and should complement the framework to better understand and further establish the validity of the indicators. Without such a triangulation, the framework we provide offers weak evidence that it can be interpreted in ways we have done in this paper. Finally, our methodology presents the three distinct processes as static, but they are dynamically interacting through the progression of a course, and future work also needs to find ways to address the temporal aspects to shed light on the dynamics of digital interpersonal interaction.

Despite the weaknesses, proposed methodology extends the status quo in two ways. It offers a systematic view on how to connect various levels of interpersonal learning in ways that are coherent both conceptually and methodologically. Further, although the example we present is limited, the framework itself allows to integrate generative principles needed for statistical modeling and is, therefore, open to adjustment and further development for different digital learning theories.

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Earlier versions of this paper benefitted from comments by Shane Dawson and Bodong Chen.

Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. Poquet and Trendholm received seed funding for the project from the University of South Australia (URIPA’2017). Thanks to the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation long-term partnership, this work was partly supported by the LPI Research Fellowship to Marc Santolini.

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Co-creation in citizen social science: the research forum as a methodological foundation for communication and participation

  • Stefan Thomas 1 ,
  • David Scheller 1 &
  • Susan Schröder 1  

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  8 , Article number:  244 ( 2021 ) Cite this article

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This paper addresses the emerging methodological debate about citizen social science from the perspective of participatory research methods. The paper introduces the research forum as a horizontal and safe communicative space moderated by academic researchers that enables co-researcher participation across all phases of co-creational research projects. It is argued that in co-creational citizen social science, such a communicative space requires conceptualisation in order for it to foster citizens’ engagement in the knowledge production that deals with their specific social lifeworlds. In the research forum, the potential that the social sciences bring to citizen science—methodological reflection and the theoretical interpretation and contextualisation of data—can flourish in a collaborative process. Based on the expertise in co-created research in multigenerational co-housing projects, the paper reflects on practical experiences with the research forum in terms of four central dimensions: (1) opening up spaces for social encounters; (2) establishing communicative practice; (3) initiating a process of social self-understanding; (4) engaging in (counter-)public discourses. Finally, the paper closes with a summary of potential and challenges that the research forum provides as a methodological foundation for co-creation in citizen social science projects.

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In recent years, the number of citizen science projects, and the public recognition of citizen science, has increased significantly (Sauermann et al., 2020 ). Citizen science has an over three-decade history, and has been primarily conducted in the natural sciences. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in discourses on the role of the social sciences in citizen science (Kullenberg and Kasperowski, 2016 ; Tauginienė et al., 2020 ; Pettibone and Ziegler, 2016 ). The emerging field of citizen social science brings together social science researchers who conduct citizen science projects (Dadich, 2014 ; Purdam, 2014 ; Kythreotis et al., 2019 ; Heiss and Matthes, 2017 ) and researchers with a background in citizen science who focus on social issues and thus apply and integrate social science methodologies and theories in research (Darch, 2017 ; Eitzel et al., 2017 ; Hecker et al., 2018 ; Mayer et al., 2021 ; Vohland et al., 2021 ). These two streams converge in considering the role of citizens’ social concerns as a central aspect that requires reflection on various degrees of participation and involvement of citizens as co-researchers (Eleta et al., 2019 ; Mayer et al., 2018 ; Bonhoure et al., 2019 ; Senabre et al., 2018 ). In the following, we use the term “co-researcher” for people that conduct research in a citizen science project—alone or together with academic researchers (Whyte, 1990 ) and the term “co-researcher communication” for mutual exchange between the project partners.

From the very beginning, citizen science has served as an umbrella term for a broad variety of approaches to citizen participation in research (Shirk et al., 2012 ; Phillips et al., 2019 ). Two perspectives on participation—a key concept in citizen science—have developed. The first perspective is especially concerned with the democratisation of science by renegotiating the relationship between science and technology, on the one hand, and society and the public, on the other, and by empowering participatory grassroots research (Irwin, 1995 ; Kasemir et al., 2003 ; Leshner, 2003 ; Powell and Collin, 2009 ; Ottinger, 2010 ). The second perspective adopts a rather top-down, scientist-led crowd science approach that aims to involve citizens in large numbers in the data collection and analysis (Bonney et al., 2009 ; Bonney et al., 2014 ; Franzoni and Sauermann, 2014 ). Notwithstanding this duality of approaches, citizen participation in science is a topic that has acquired new relevance in recent years because, as Maasen and Lieven ( 2006 ) noted, “a general shift is seen to be taking place from a legitimation through knowledge to a legitimation through participation ” (p. 400; emphasis in the original).

Papers that use the term “citizen social science” include a broad variety of levels of co-researcher participation and engagement ranging from data collection by citizen research volunteers about people begging in the streets of London (Purdam, 2014 ), through co-creational research on mental health issues together with affected people in Barcelona (Bonhoure et al., 2019 ), to accelerating climate action and awareness of climate policies through increased citizen engagement (Kythreotis et al., 2019 ). Various tools and approaches, for example, co-evaluation, are used to enhance the research outcomes (Mayer et al., 2021 ).

The inclusion of a multitude of perspectives by strengthening the discourse between (civil) society and science leads not only to an increase in knowledge production but also to a different type of knowledge that can contribute to finding more sustainable solutions for practical societal challenges and problems. In co-created research, citizens can draw up their own research agendas by pursuing research interests that they have defined and that are not always covered by academic disciplines and research paradigms (Hecker et al., 2018 ). This can improve self-determination and action potency through evidence-based knowledge that can be transformed into social practices to solve societal issues and problems. Co-creation-oriented citizen social science projects, in particular, emphasise the importance of face-to-face communication in “participatory meetings” (Senabre-Hidalgo et al., 2021 ). The authors stressed the potential of such communicative spaces facilitated by academic researchers for reflecting on ethical dimensions of research, such as the co-researchers’ and academic researchers’ hidden agendas. However, a methodological conceptualisation of these spaces remains rather implicit. Against this background, we argue that an explicit discussion of the foundational methodology that guides communication between project partners is of key importance in co-creational citizen social science projects. The communicative and discursive turn in social and political science seems to be promising to further elaborate on such a framework (Habermas, 1985 ; Kemmis and McTaggart, 2005 ). With social concerns of the co-researchers put at the centre of the research, we consider co-researcher communication essential for the co-creation process itself. Appropriate communication leads to ongoing exchange and reflection between all stakeholders of the research, for example regarding the research design (i.e., question, steps, aims), research ethics (i.e., informed consent, data protection, intellectual property) and practical effects on the co-researchers (i.e., community building, conflicts).

In the following, we are laying out a methodological framework of the research forum as an approach to co-creational citizen social science. First, by drawing on different theories, we provide a methodological conceptualisation of the research forum as an open, safe, inclusive, and horizontal space for co-researcher communication in all phases of the research. The characteristics, structure and aim of the research forum are described. In addition, we relate this conceptualisation of the research forum to crucial aspects of citizen social science for enabling co-creational research. Second, we introduce a co-created research project that we conducted with multigenerational co-housing projects. In a third step, we present four dimensions of the research forum and our conceptual reflections on their practical application in the co-housing projects to exemplify our methodological framework: opening up spaces, communicative practices, social self-understanding and (counter-)public discourses. In conclusion, we summarise our findings and point out the potentials and challenges of the research forum as a methodological foundation for co-creation in citizen social science projects that enhances both the impact of the knowledge produced and the democratisation of science.

The research forum: a methodological framework for co-creation

The debate is still ongoing about general characteristics of citizen social science as an umbrella term for various approaches from the environmental sciences and from social sciences and humanities (Albert et al., 2021 ; Kullenberg and Kasperowski, 2016 ; Tauginienė et al., 2020 ). In the following section, we present our conceptualisation of the research forum as a methodological framework for face-to-face communication between project partners. We then outline how this conceptualisation relates to four major aspects—participation, transdisciplinarity, impact, and reflexivity—that we consider crucial for co-creational citizen social science.


The term “forum” in early Latin means “a place out of doors”. The Roman Forum was the public communicative space for citizens and municipal institutions. It was an arena not only for important purposes such as religious practices, court trials, and political speeches, but also for everyday conversation, gossip and discussions among laypeople. The forum can be understood as a communication “marketplace” for exchanging perspectives and ideas that provided an opportunity for social participation. According to Jürgen Habermas ( 1996 ), the public sphere is constituted through communicative exchange of private perspectives in which public opinions on issues of general interest develop and progress. Despite many exclusionary aspects regarding social status or gender, these early forms of citizen participation in ancient cities eventually led to new forms of democratic self-governance and decision-making. The convergence of private and public opinions via communication has similarities with the scientific aspiration to arrive at generalisable findings.

The research forum is conceptualised as a series of workshops explicitly dedicated to fostering co-creation, co-design and transdisciplinarity across all phases of research—from defining relevant research topics and planning the research, through data collection and data analysis and interpretation, to presentation and evaluation of results. The research forum has a modular structure that takes account of the actual needs of the project in terms of session frequency, focus, format and length. Rules of communication are of crucial importance as an ethical foundation for an appreciative exchange on equal terms between the different project partners. The academic researchers take particular responsibility for ensuring an inclusive and safe environment through moderation and facilitation. The research forum provides the methodological framework for co-designing and applying all kinds of qualitative and quantitative methods, for example, focus groups, photovoice, multilog writing and surveys. In these sessions the general research topic is broken down, reformulated in a set of research questions and transformed into methodical steps for seeking new insights and results. The research forum ensures a collaborative discussion and planning process, so that all research participants can have their say, bring up their perspectives on the topic and be part of the decision-making process regarding research design and methods. By including the perspectives of citizens and civil society, organisations can acquire new insights for developing evidence-based practices.

The research forum sessions are typically structured in accordance with the phases of research. In the first phase , the research forum opens up a space in which co-researcher who share a social concern ideally come together in a “knowledge coalition” to define a research topic. Bonhoure et al. ( 2019 ) define a knowledge coalition as “a group including a diversity of relevant actors with diverse experiences and expertise, built to produce socially robust knowledge” (p. 13). The intention of the research forum as a “place out of doors” is that everyone who feels entitled and can contribute to examining the research topic is invited to participate. The second phase is dedicated to conducting research by discussing the different perspectives, collecting data and arriving at generalisable findings, and envisioning evolving social practices. In the third phase , the focus is on a closing discussion in which the results are summarised and the collaborative research process is reflected upon. In a retrospective process evaluation, the academic researchers ask for feedback on and an individual assessment of the progress in acquiring knowledge, deeper self-understanding and improvements of social practices. Throughout these phases, the research forum directly serves the aims of citizen social science by fostering: (A) co-creation and co-design of the research process through participation ; (B) reflexivity in the planning and realisation process; (C) continuous transdisciplinary exchange, inclusion, transparency and openness; and (D) meaningful and relevant research results with potential for social impact . Participation is addressing the level of engagement of co-researchers, transdisciplinarity focuses on the diversity of stakeholders and their interests, reflexivity is an essential tool for addressing power-relations, and impact focuses on the actual research outcomes.


Bonney et al. ( 2009 , p. 17; see also Shirk et al., 2012 ) distinguished between three models for public participation in scientific research, which differ according to the extent to which citizens are involved in steps in the research process: (1) contributory projects, where citizen participation is largely limited to contributing to data collection and recording; (2) collaborative projects, where the involvement of non-scientists also includes data analysis and, possibly, interpretation; (3) co-created projects, where citizen participants are actively involved in most or all steps in the scientific process. In the first two types of participation—contributory and collaborative—citizen scientists are involved merely as research assistants who do not have much say in the planning of the research process. By contrast, co-creation means that citizens participate collaboratively in the decisions regarding the research process (Powell and Colin, 2009 ). This participatory model could be extended with a fourth category. Whereas Haklay et al. proposed the term “extreme citizen science” ( 2018 ) for collaborative, bottom-up research practices, we prefer the term “citizen-led projects”, where members of the public assume control and power over the design of the project and thus “take ownership of the research” (Russo, 2012 , para. 36). This corresponds to what Sherry Arnstein ( 1969 ) called “citizen control as the highest rung on the ladder of citizen participation”. It entails a reversal of roles between citizens and experts (Bergold and Thomas, 2012 ; Sense, 2006 ). In such projects, it is not the academic researchers who set the research agenda, but rather it is the citizens who initiate and carry out the project and who involve the academic researchers more as enablers and advisers (Evans and Jones, 2004 ).

As pointed out above, citizen social science regularly aims at addressing urgent social issues through co-creation and co-design—as driving principles throughout the entire research project. Research is linked by co-creational formats to experiences and interests of citizens as specialised experts in social concerns, i.e., support for people with mental health issues or with disabilities (Albert et al., 2021 , p. 123–124). Co-decision-making begins at the project-design stage, when the research topic and research questions are defined (Bonhoure et al., 2019 ). It continues throughout the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, and concludes with the presentation of the results. We propose the research forum as a methodological approach that can provide a horizontal, inclusive and safe “communicative space” for different stakeholders in a knowledge coalition. As such, the research forum enables co-creational participation in transdisciplinary scientific knowledge production and deliberation across all phases of research. Co-creation is not only based on ethical considerations but also aims to achieve a different kind of knowledge that is practice-situated, sustainable and socially robust (Franzen and Hilbrich, 2015 , p. 28) and can be connected to public debates in society (Hecker et al., 2018 ). By “socially robust knowledge” (Nowotny, 2003 ) we understand knowledge that is meaningful for the actual lifeworld of particular communities because it connects specific “situated knowledges” (Haraway, 1988 ).


Citizen social science can be characterised as a transdisciplinary science (Fam et al., 2018 ; Defila and Di Giulio, 2018 ). Whereas interdisciplinarity presupposes the dismantling of the traditional boundaries between scientific disciplines in favour of an open and multiperspectival view of the research object, transdisciplinarity goes one step further by also involving other social fields from outside the sciences. The concept “transdisciplinarity” refers to different backgrounds, perspectives and agendas of the academic researchers and the co-researchers, which require ongoing reflection (Pettibone et al., 2018 ). Co-researchers in citizen social science projects have their own perspectives and interests regarding the research topic. As a consequence, they have their own say when it comes to topics such as the sustainable development of cities and neighbourhoods, gender equality, youth employment or mental health issues. The reason for this is that the object of research cannot be separated from the genuine life interests and practices of the co-researchers. At the same time science methodologies and theories can complement community skills and knowledge (Fortmann, 2009 ). When researching and acting in the social lifeworld coincide, the perspectives of those involved in the research cannot be omitted. With “social lifeworld”, we refer–following Alfred Schutz and Thomas Luckmann, ( 1973 )—to a concept that highlights the meaning structure inherent in culture and language, which actors create and use to orient themselves towards the social world (Habermas, 1987 ). If the knowledge to be produced is to have direct and worthwhile consequences for the shaping of the lifeworld and society, it is not enough for actors to simply join in. Science intervenes as a matter of course in political spheres of the lifeworld. Therefore, a transdisciplinary orientation of citizen social science connects with more general discourses on political participation in democratic societies (Thomas, 2021a ; Scheller, 2019 ). However, transdisciplinarity alone does not guarantee the production of socially robust knowledge (Maasen and Lieven, 2006 , p. 401). Rather, as pointed out in the section above, ongoing reflection on adequate levels of participation is required.


Our conception of the research forum refers to Kemmis and McTaggart’s “communicative space“ ( 2005 , p. 563) as a central element of participatory action research (PAR). Academic researchers and co-researchers plan and discuss their research collaboratively. Deeper and intersubjective understanding of the research object is reached especially by talking, by everyone being able to put their views up for discussion, and by everyone being able to be heard. The overarching aim of the research forum is to achieve a convergence of the different perspectives of all participants in a shared reflection and interpretation of their common reality during the research process. This includes discussing the positionalities, authority, verbalisation skills, expertise and values of the researchers and co-researchers in the joint project (Call-Cummings and Ross, 2019 ; Bergold and Thomas, 2012 ). The core of participatory research is constituted not by individual research methods but rather by a certain attitude to incorporating the views and experiences of citizens regarding their own lifeworlds as an inherent part of the research process (Bergold and Thomas, 2020 ). This does not mean that the whole research process is conducted in a mode of full and deep participation. For pragmatic reasons alone, the academic researchers should be realistic about the amount of time that citizen researchers can devote to scientific endeavours. Nevertheless, the research forum provides the space to discuss with the co-researchers whether and how participation could be intensified. Moreover, the research forum brings to the fore the rich repertoire of social science theories and methodologies that enable the reflection and deconstruction of social reality and its underlying power relations, hierarchies and dichotomies (Thomas, 2021b ).

Citizen social science is not focused solely on theory building and scientific impact but also on the social—and even political—impact on the social lifeworlds of the co-researchers. From our perspective, co-creational citizen social science pursues two aims: first, to integrate lifeworld knowledge into science at all stages of the research process in order to increase scientific knowledge production (Franzen and Hilbrich, 2015 ); second, to enable co-researchers to achieve findings based on scientific methodologies and theories that are relevant for their everyday life contexts. As intended by applied research, sustainable solutions for practical societal challenges and problems can be created by taking up and deepening knowledge from practice (Aldridge, 2014 ; Dickinson and Bonney, 2012 ). “Sustainable” means here that the research-based findings are directly connectable to the meaning, interest and practice structures of the field rather than being thought through by scientists in their academic “ivory towers” without taking adequate account of the logics of the social field—a phenomenon that has been termed “scholastic bias” (Bourdieu, 2000 ). In the best case, a productive symbiosis arises from a two-sided expansion of knowledge: the expansion of the stock of everyday knowledge and of the archive of social science knowledge. Hence, a convergence of the perspectives of academic researchers and co-researchers does not necessarily mean that scientific standards are trivialised. Rather, as a temporary symbiosis of two perspectives, this collaborative research can meet the needs of both sides: the co-researchers’ need for practice-relevant forms of knowledge corresponding with local contexts, and the academic researchers’ need for generalised insights and findings (Bergold and Thomas, 2020 ; Maasen and Lieven, 2006 ).

Multigenerational co-housing projects: the research forum in practice

In order to illustrate the practical implementation of the research forum, we provide in what follows background information on a co-created research project that we conducted with three self-organised multigenerational co-housing projects. Three central (research) questions were addressed in the research: How can multigenerational co-housing projects be described as a community beyond traditional bonds such as family, neighbourhood or ethnicity? What community-building processes are characteristic of multigenerational co-housing projects? How can the democratic self-governance of co-housing projects be described? The aim of our research was to extend both the scientific and practical knowledge about how community-building and self-organisation works and can be extended in multigenerational co-housing projects. In the research forum, we wanted to acquire a better understanding of how solidarity and social bonds in co-housing projects work and can be improved.

In this section, we use the term co-researchers for the members of the of self-managed, collectively owned co-housing projects we worked with, and academic researchers or facilitators/moderators to describe ourselves. Besides the organisation of their community life, the groups were characterised by active social exchanges among the various generations: children, adolescents, adults and seniors. The social background of the co-researchers was quite homogeneous because most project members were university graduates and worked in academic jobs—mainly in professions in the social field, such as social worker, teacher or counsellor (Schröder and Scheller, 2017 ).

For each of the three multigenerational co-housing projects, we organised a series of six joint research workshops over a period of one year. In these 18 sessions, we collaborated with 50 co-housing residents directly and, through wider peer-to-peer methods, with 160 residents in total. The research forum series were structured as follows: first, definition of research topics by the co-researchers; second, conducting of research; third, presentation of research results and final evaluation. Each of the research forum sessions had a thematic focus that was drawn from the pool of topics collected in the first session.

We academic researchers took on the task of substantively and methodologically preparing the respective research forum sessions; in some cases, joint preliminary discussions took place with individual project participants. A wide range of low-threshold, creative methods were selected to activate the participants’ knowledge and experiences and to reduce barriers to communication by means of work materials that co-researchers produced during the workshop (e.g., posters and photos) and role play as an experimental reflection tool for different standpoints. As experiences and perspectives could also be incorporated in a non-verbal way, this approach facilitated multifaceted participation in the research process that went beyond “just talking”. At the end of each session, the co-researchers were usually given “homework”—for example, to conduct biographical interviews—which was to be discussed at the next session. Besides enabling the co-researchers to learn low-threshold research methods, this homework served to involve the residents who had not been able to attend the session in the data collection.

A typical research forum workshop proceeds in six steps: First, we open with a warm-up and a question round about how people are doing; then we present the programme for the day. Each session has a thematic focus that is jointly decided at the previous session. This is followed, second, by the joint evaluation of the “homework” carried out between the sessions. By discussing the community topics and explaining the different perspectives and positions in the house community, shared interpretations of situations emerge. There follows, third, a substantive block on the respective session topic. With the help of various methods, we gather the different views on the topic—for example, strategies for dealing with conflicts. This is usually followed, fourth, by a long mid-day break during which we have lunch together and time for informal conversations. Fifth, in the afternoon, visions about the further development of the project and initial ideas about concrete implementation steps, actions and methods are formulated. Moreover finally, sixth, in the closing plenary session, the process and content of the workshop are summarised. In addition, the topic and the tasks for the following session are discussed, and we ask the co-researchers for substantive and methodological feedback. The entire session is audio-recorded. Quotes given below are excerpts from transcripts of these audio-recordings. In addition, to document the group process and the work materials, videos are recorded and photos taken.

A huge variety of topics were brought up at these workshops, mostly by the members of the co-housing projects. Recurring topics in all three co-housing projects were decision-making and the handling of conflicts within the group. Closely related to the latter topic were explicit and informal rules that guide the everyday life and the interactions in the community. The project members wanted to use the research forum to clarify their visions for the future, to plan new projects for the community and to develop ideas for political interventions in their neighbourhoods and municipality. The relationship and tensions between the individuals and the community were also reflected upon. The project members discussed their needs for private spaces and their interest in joint activities with the whole group, such as summer festivals, group excursions, weekend events, cooking and leisure time activities.

Four dimensions of co-researcher communication

This section presents our methodological framework of working with the research forum as a key tool for participatory communication, including reflections offered by co-researchers during various methodological feedback rounds throughout the research process. As a result of the methodological conceptualisation of our practical experiences with the research forum as a foundation for co-creation, four key dimensions of co-researcher communication emerged: (1) opening up spaces for social encounters, (2) establishing communicative practices, (3) initiating a process of social self-understanding, and (4) engaging in (counter-)public discourses. From our perspective, these four dimensions resonate with the four crucial aspects of citizen social science discussed above—participation, transdisciplinarity, reflexivity and impact.

The four dimensions derive from the debate on interpretive social science. Habermas shows in “Facts and Norms” how the goal of social understanding among citizens is the driving force of debates on societal problems and issues in the public sphere ( 1996 , pp. 364–366). Nancy Fraser objects that there is not only the public sphere but manyfold of public spheres, which enable less privileged and less powerful citizens getting the opportunity to “find the right voice or words to express their thoughts” ( 1990 , p. 66). In both cases, social self-understanding regarding social situations is a result of citizens debating problems and concerns of common interest. The research forum provides such a “small“ public sphere in which participants exchange their views, interrelate their perspectives, and come to agreeable and generalisable definitions of their common situation. Kemmis and McTaggart ( 2005 ) implemented this communicative and discursive turn in participatory research methods and conceptualised the research forum as a communicative space for promoting collaborative research with co-researchers. We found that the research forum with its ongoing face-to-face communication fosters co-creational research in citizen social science. In our research, it functioned as such a communicative “place out of doors” for co-creatively negotiating topics of general interest in a participatory way.

Opening up spaces for social encounters

The first task of the research forum is to organise a knowledge coalition to open up a safe space for collaborative research in which a relationship of trust can be developed among all participants (Dentith et al., 2012 ; Borg et al., 2012 ). A safe space should not only allow openness, protected communication and mutual respect, but also the expression of different opinions and the articulation of conflicts (Bergold and Thomas, 2012 ). As the authors stated: “It is not a question of creating a conflict-free space, but rather of ensuring that the conflicts that are revealed can be jointly discussed; that they can either be solved or, at least, accepted as different positions; and that a certain level of conflict tolerance is achieved” (§13). A steady negotiation process takes place for building mutual trust. Three communication issues must be accordingly addressed and solved in the research forum: “emotional issues,” “task issues,” and “organisational issues” (Wicks and Reason, 2009 , pp. 249–250).

As moderators, we observed the appearance of all three “communication issues” in the research forum. As soon as we became aware that these issues had developed and had become a (latent) topic, we tried to open up a space for a meta-discussion. Further approaches to cope with these issues were that we started each session with a “check-in round” to get into a conversation about emotional attitudes towards that session. We also discussed emotional tensions or hostilities as soon as we became aware of them. Moreover finally, we tried to distribute responsibilities and tasks equally among all participants.

Above all, the research forum aims to provide a space for deliberations that enables the members of the knowledge coalition to take a step back from their everyday lives, from the unquestioned givenness of the social lifeworld from taken-for-granted commonsense interpretations (Schutz and Luckmann, 1973 , p. 3), and from routine practices. During the five-hour sessions, the co-researchers were invited to decentre their everyday interpretations in order to get into a mode of open reflection on their community practices. Instead of gaining new insights driven by pragmatic motives of everyday life for more or less immediate action plans (Berger and Luckmann, 1966 ), scientific methods offer a different approach. The scientific attitude is more about first taking a step back to obtain an overview of the multifaceted complexity of the research topic, and then probing deeper by means of systematic data collection and analyses. While a scientific examination may take years, what is needed in everyday life contexts is a faster clarification of and answer to the questions: “What is at issue here?’ and ‘What is to be done?”. In this way, the co-researchers can develop a new perspective by examining from a distance their everyday practices, thereby gaining both new and—as a result of joint discussions—shared interpretations of their situation.

One of the multigenerational co-housing projects did not have a communal space in the house. To enable the co-researchers from this project to get into a more distanced, explorative and reflexive mode we invited them to our university for the one-day sessions. This gave them an opportunity to step out of the familiar contexts of their community life, which were already interpreted by pre-set meanings, discourses and practices.

Despite our aspiration to open up spaces for social encounters, it was not possible to convince all the residents to participate directly in the collaborative research. The residents who were most active in the research forum were those who were interested in strengthening community and togetherness, and changing the discussion culture. For the most part, the residents who stayed away did so because they rejected the format of “just talking”. They had frequently advocated doing practical things instead, such as renovating the house. Moreover, there were different interest factions in the house groups, and we were invited mostly by the faction that wanted to strengthen the community and the discussion culture. This means that by discussing community topics they simultaneously increased their influence in their house project. Opening up spaces must therefore also include critical reflection on, and the potential overcoming of, power structures (Bergold and Thomas, 2012 ), so that all relevant perspectives can be incorporated into the development of joint, co-created knowledge.

By applying mostly low-threshold methods, we co-designed the research as inclusively as possible for all age groups. In one project, some seniors were unable to participate in the meetings at the university—be it for health reasons or because of scheduling difficulties or personal reservations. Therefore, we arranged an informal meeting with a “seniors’ café interview” at their house. Over coffee, cake, and liqueurs, we spent an afternoon with them to talk about community practices and intergenerationality. We brought the transcripts of the interview to the next research forum session to incorporate the absent voices into the research process. To involve children and adolescents in the research forum, we adopted a rather activity-related and play-based approach (Groundwater-Smith et al., 2015 ). For example, in one method—“visionary thinking”—a story was read out about children who had been allowed to take over and redesign an abandoned house. The children in the co-housing project—aged between 6 and 13 years—could then draw their dream houses and discuss their visions. In another method—“opposites day”—the children discussed how they would live together if they were adults, and the adults reflected on how they would organise the house community if they were children.

“House interviews” were a further method to open up spaces for discussion among all age groups. The residents drafted interview topics and semi-structured interview guides for focused peer-interviews, which they then conducted themselves. In accordance with the principle of co-creation in participatory research, the idea was that the co-researchers should not only collect the data but also choose the topics to be addressed in the interviews. The interview questions were formulated by the residents based on the knowledge, interests, and relevancies of their project. The transcripts of these interviews—and of the workshops—were then fed back into the research forum for the purpose of joint interpretation and analysis. This advanced the substantive development of a common understanding of the research object within the knowledge coalition. Thus, the role of the academic researchers consisted also in contributing to the scientific qualification of the co-researchers by providing inputs on theories and methods.

In summary, the first step of the research forum—opening up a communicative space—was realised through different approaches. Following the idea of a “place out of doors” to achieve a high degree of openness, we applied the following methods: a broad invitation of participants, initiating meta-discussions and check-in rounds, decentring commonsense interpretations and subjective perspectives, stepping out of everyday contexts, and reflections on power imbalances. There is not just one recipe for realising open spaces built on mutual trust. Adequate methods have to be invented for each research project regarding its specific context.

Establishing communicative practices

In addition to opening up spaces, a successful knowledge coalition also presupposes a culture of dialogue and discussion, and, above all, “communicative spaces” (Wicks and Reason, 2009 ; Kemmis, 2008 , p. 135) or “dialogic spaces” (Rowell et al., 2017 ). Communication across different perspectives aspires to eventually arrive at a shared interpretation of a particular topic. This does not necessarily mean unanimity but rather transparency. The acknowledgement of the wide variety of viewpoints in the room should ideally converge in a broad and inclusive definition of a topic. As Cook ( 2012 ) noted: “If authentic involvement is to take place, considerable time and effort needs to be allocated during the research process to “just talking”. … Talking was fundamental to moving beyond general conceptualisations of practice to deeper understandings” (para. 32). A “just talking” approach should be combined with other methodological instruments (e.g., writing, painting, drawing, playing games, drama) that enable the co-researchers to creatively take a step back from their everyday lives and to express their perspectives on the research topic.

Keeping the communicative spaces open was made more difficult by the fact that, because of the different social statuses and communication skills of the members of the house groups, there were always some residents who found it easier to turn their positions into group consensus. Other people—especially residents already in a marginal position within the group—found it considerably harder to make their perspectives heard. Moreover, personal conflicts between residents may have been a barrier for some to engage in the research forum, and these conflicts sometimes erupted in the sessions. Here, the set of communication rules proved fundamental in preventing the sessions from turning into an arena for personal conflicts. Furthermore, creating maximum transparency about topics and results of the research forum for all residents helped us to avoid getting caught up in the politics of the co-housing projects. Therefore, all materials produced in the sessions were made available to all residents, also to those who had not been present. The research methods expanded the communication space beyond the actual sessions by inviting all residents to contribute to the data collection, for example, through peer-interviews, surveys and feedback rounds.

As already pointed out, a self-reflexive moderation of the sessions was important for keeping the communicative space open. Moderation is a two-edged sword: it is an instrument of domination and an opportunity for equalising inequalities and levelling power hierarchies. Asymmetry between the positions of the various speakers is a starting premise of the research forum. In particular, those speakers who have good speaking skills, a high ability to articulate themselves, and previous experience of communicative group processes may exert a strong influence on the consensus-finding process. One thing that was especially problematised by the co-researchers with regard to power processes and hierarchies was the talk-heavy format. As one participant put it:

And I believe that it is the discussion format, and it is also an academic format, where Person A is quite steady in the saddle and can also express himself quite well. And Person B is a completely different type. He would be quite out of his depth here, or he would be worried that he was going to be out of his depth. (Participant in Workshop 2, Co-Housing Project A, 2016; translated from German)

Our main strategy for countering domination and the exclusion of perspectives in the research forum was to have a strong forum moderator who paid attention to turn-taking and, if necessary, intervened when substantive disagreements and conflicts arose among the residents. Although it was not possible for the moderators to take a neutral stance because of their own research interests, they took a position outside the heterogeneous interests in the co-housing project. As outsiders, we found it easier to maintain an overview and to ensure that all perspectives could be articulated. However, the disadvantage was that hierarchies between academic researchers and co-researchers may have been consolidated. As a basic strategy to avoid pitfalls such as pushing selective topics that are relevant only from the academic researchers’ point of view, the moderators obtained a mandate from all those present, and renewed it again and again. At the end of each workshop the moderators asked the co-researchers about their priorities for the upcoming sessions to ensure the relevance of the proposed topics. Moreover, they endeavoured to achieve a good balance between keeping their decisions explicit and discussable and ensuring that work progressed in a focused way.

Consequently, the research forum is an ongoing attempt of opening doors to each other’s contribution by establishing a space for communication and dialogue. It is important to consider different communication skills, the implementation of shared communication rules, a high degree of transparency, and a self-reflexive moderation that enables mutual decision-making.

Initiating a process of social self-understanding

Another central aspect of the research forum that corresponds with participatory social research is the initiation of a process of social self-understanding via social exchange and communication (Thomas, 2021a ). Members of the knowledge coalition share their perspectives in the “communicative marketplace” of the forum, in order to develop generalisable definitions of situations and define issues of shared interest to be further progressed throughout the research process. The research forum thus provides a space for group discussion that becomes the central instrument for the collection and interpretation of data. In contrast to group discussions, the research forum is not a “one-off encounter” of communicative exchange, but aims at initiating a discourse of social self-understanding in the various sessions.

With the concept of social self-understanding, we want to conceptualise the central aim of the communication about the research topic between all participants in the research forum. It starts with the everyday life interpretations of the co-researchers, in which they already apprehend their situation and their practices. We use these first-order interpretations (Schutz, 1973 ) to initiate a process of deeper self-understanding of what is already established as lived reality. Community, gender, age and the housing project do not exist as predefined realities but rather as sociocultural meanings that are the result of negotiation in contextualised social practices. We use the term self-understanding in the way that Giddens introduced it into social science discourse in the UK. Drawing on the German discussion on hermeneutics and interpretation (Habermas, 1985 ), Giddens ( 1976 ) wrote: “Hermeneutics, on the other hand, is directed to understanding the participation of actors in an intersubjective “form of life” and hence to an interest in improving human communication or self-understanding” (p. 60). Self-understanding aims therefore at emancipation from forces that are present and effective in situations but are not comprehended by the actors (Habermas, 1985 ). With the prefix “social”, we want to stress that self-understanding is not achieved in workshops by individual reflections or psycho-therapeutic processes, but rather by relating experiences and perspectives to each other in mutual communicative exchange.

The challenge of initiating a discourse of social self-understanding consists in creating a forum in which the subjective experiences of reality do not remain unmediated and external to each other. What can count as a community, what should be achieved in that community, and how the community and daily life in the co-housing project can be organised are questions that presuppose mutual understanding and agreement among the project members. Through dialogue and discussion, the participants should be able not only to communicate but to transcend the boundaries of their subjective attitudes and together in shared definitions of their reality. It is a question of developing a generalisable viewpoint in which the differences and divergences between the subjective perspectives can be grasped. Scientific methods contribute to overcoming the particularity of individual perspectives and achieving generalisable knowledge. By slowing down the pace, a productive discussion can succeed. This proceeds in a process of mutual translation that takes the subjective perspectives and interpretations as a starting point and transforms them into generalised knowledge. Social self-understanding is therefore both about articulating individual points of view and engaging in consensual discussions to create “collective knowledge” in which the individual contributions are integrated and reflected at the same time (Ansell et al., 2012 , p. 175).

Community-building practices were one of the central topics in our research project. The first step was that everyone was given an opportunity to express their individual perspectives on topics such as: What is a community? What kind of community should be realised in the co-housing project? How much community is desirable? The next step was to synthesise a mutual understanding of the community in consensus among the residents. Aspects addressed included the structure of house meetings; the way decisions are to be made; and ideas on the general mission of multigenerational co-housing projects, such as environmental sustainability, the revitalisation of rural villages, non-violent communication, etc. Finally, not only did everyone have to agree in general to this common definition of community, they should also have been able to have their concrete visions for practical action plans included in it.

In these various reflection steps, every member of the knowledge coalition gets a better understanding of their own ideas by interrelating the particularity of their individual perspectives to an emerging consensual definition. Social self-understanding is reached when a generalisable definition of the current situation and mission of the group has been developed. Instead of all co-researchers maintaining their individual points of view, social self-understanding aims to develop a common definition of what can be considered to be the shared social reality of the research group. From our perspective, this is precisely what the research forum would provide for citizen social science: collaborative work on common interpretations of reality, and options for action that encompass both the particularity of the individuals’ own standpoints and a generalisable finding regarding social reality.

Scientific methods constitute tools for decentring the particularities of individual perspectives and achieving generalisable research results. The main difficulty that the residents faced when researching their own house communities was to temporarily suspend their personal positions and opinions. Clearly, community and intergenerationality were not neutral topics in the co-housing projects but always included a normative dimension. Negotiations in the research forum were also always a matter of internal politics because collective decisions in the co-housing projects are driven by mutually shared interpretations and definitions of situations. Especially in the case of controversial topics—such as different forms and levels of engagement in the community—there was always a struggle to find the “right” interpretation of the situation. For co-researchers, the possibility arose that their own positions and interests in the co-housing community would be strengthened or weakened by the “right” or “wrong” definition achieved in the research forum. The research forum can develop its qualities to full potential if the communicative situation is kept open until the divergent positions and perspectives have been mediated to such an extent that the perspectives of all participants have been taken into account in a consensual definition—or at least a mutual understanding of the particular differences has been reached.

We see community-building as an intrinsic part of citizen social science (Albert et al., 2021 , p. 127). The extent to which the research forum contributed to community-building among the residents of the multigenerational co-housing projects depended on how successful we were in involving those who did not attend the workshop sessions. In principle, we found that those who attended gained a knowledge advantage over those who did not participate—despite the “homework” and the sharing of generated data and materials. Against this background, our inclusion strategy failed due to the fact that, when it came to gaining mutual understanding and agreement, there was no substitute for actual participation in a five-hour session. As one co-researcher put it:

I suddenly had the feeling that there was a rift between those who were there and those who weren’t. A process had taken place. And it was perceived by those who were there as important, somehow. And we can’t seem to manage to convey the insights that we gained there to the others. (Participant in Workshop 2, Co-Housing Project A, 2016; translated from German)

This quotation stresses the crucial fact that the research forum itself became a community-building process, for which it was necessary to personally take part. Expressing one’s own position and listening to and acknowledging the positions of others constitutes a prerequisite for a convergence between, and recognition of, disparate positions as a basis for reaching consensus. So how can one deal with the challenge that community can hardly be shaped in absentia? The moderators can explicitly point out this fact at the co-design stage in order to seek ways and means to involve the absentees in the community-building co-creational research process. As described above, using methods such as peer-interviews and surveys to expand the communicative space beyond the research forum sessions would still be a prerequisite. Therefore, the research forum offers a “communicative marketplace” in which citizens engage to develop new perspectives, whereas science provides methods to facilitate consensus leading to generalisable definitions and results.

Engaging in (counter-)public discourses

Social self-understanding is not merely a knowledge-building process limited to knowledge acquisition in the research forum and to the community of co-researchers who are directly involved. By co-creating empirically and socially robust knowledge that is grounded in the co-researchers’ lifeworlds and can also be used externally to gain political influence in social discourses, citizen social science can gain both—impact inside and outside the co-researcher groups. It is not only about internal capacity building but also—following the tradition of participatory action research—a way that could initiate public engagement beyond the research forum. Therefore, such knowledge production explicitly seeks to have an impact on social practices by initiating and expanding the deliberative discussions beyond research in the public sphere (Kemmis et al., 2014 , pp. 48–50). Citizen social science can make a contribution to everyday practice and the public sphere, which Jürgen Habermas ( 1974 ) defined as “a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed,” a realm in which citizens have “the freedom to express and publish their opinions” and to “confer in an unrestricted fashion … about matters of general interest” (p. 49). Against this background, counter-public discourse engages with the public realm by contrasting and even challenging the status quo of any hegemonic argument. In that regard, counter-publics constitute „parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter-discourses, which in turn permit them to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs” (Fraser, 1990 , p. 67). In the research forum, the participants try to go beyond the commonsense interpretations of social reality and to come up with a new understanding of their lived reality and possibilities for action.

In the research forum, the co-housing groups developed a common voice and (re-)articulated aspirations to take action and participate in public discourse. By reaching a comprehensive understanding of their situation across their individual points of view, the co-researchers analysed ideas and visions that transcended the boundaries of the private or semi-private spaces of the co-housing communities. Their rather particular visions of commoning, community living, intergenerationality, affordability, economic, social and ecological sustainability, and urban and cultural development have been externalised in the wider local and city-wide public sphere by politically active community members.

Engagement in public discourse and possibilities of political action by the co-housing projects explicitly became a topic that was discussed in the research forum. For example, a member of the board of Co-Housing Project A actively participated regularly in information and discussion events on urban policy, where he shared his experiences during the conceptualisation, purchase and construction phases of the project and on its current status. In a sense, he became a spokesperson in the regional public discussion about multigenerational co-housing by drawing attention to the difficult conditions for the implementation of this model. In Co-Housing Project B, the multigenerational co-housing project was presented as a flagship for innovative living arrangements at political conferences and local housing policy events. The group aimed to gain trust for the unknown model at the political and urban planning levels (Workshop 1, Co-Housing Project B, 2017). The protagonists advocated increased support for multigenerational co-housing projects on a rental basis, and called on municipal housing associations to adapt the model accordingly. One workshop participant asked:

I would be interested to know how concrete the intentions of the municipal housing associations in Potsdam and Frankfurt/Oder are with regard to these multigenerational co-housing in high-rise buildings projects …. Is what we say here of any relevance at all? Do these municipal housing associations even want to hear about experiences? (Participant in Workshop 1, Co-Housing Project B, 2017; translated from German)

Co-Housing Project C expressed the aspiration to make the house known in the rural municipality and to get more involved in local community work, for example, by erecting benches or setting up an organic community store (Workshop 5, Co-Housing Project C, 2018). The residents in Co-Housing Project D discussed the lethargy in the substantive engagement with fundamental political questions relating to the project concept that had emerged during the ten years of the project’s existence. Reflecting upon substantive re-orientation included a stronger engagement in political discourse as a project (Workshop 2, Co-Housing Project D, 2018).

Local communities and politics also influenced the discussions within the projects. For Project A and Project D, it was important to develop a shared (political) self-image as a common identity across the topics of community, multigenerationality and ecology. In the case of Project B and Project C, it was a question of developing socio-political potency in order to exert an influence in the municipality and the city—for example, on multigenerational co-housing on a rental basis or the participatory ecological shaping of the rural village. And finally, Project C developed political ideas for a “socially just city” in which the general public could also have access to innovative forms of housing.

Overall, different counter-public discourses were initiated by the projects and through the deepening of the social self-understanding of their community practices in the research forum. These counter-public discourses are formed through the discussion of the social and political boundaries and limitations of the co-researchers’ ability to act in their lifeworlds. A counter-public is constituted in order to develop prospects for the expansion of “spaces of possibility” (Fraser, 1990 ). Thus, knowledge and discussions within the projects did not have only an internal effect on the co-housing communities. Rather, by transforming their private attitudes, opinions and interests into a generalisable knowledge and action perspective, they gained a voice as a project and thus became constituted as political subjects in the public sphere. Against the background of rising rents and isolation, they developed political agency to promote multigenerational co-housing as an alternative concept for an affordable, self-determined, solidaric housing commons (Schröder and Scheller, 2017 ). The research forum can go beyond the boundaries of “just doing research” within the knowledge coalition. The co-researchers can use their new knowledge and understanding of their social situation to engage in (counter-)public discourses aiming for social transformations and change.

Conclusion: the research forum as a methodological foundation for co-creation

The intention of this paper was to introduce the research forum as a methodological framework for co-researcher communication that enables co-creation in citizen social science projects. We developed the argument that intentional, self-reflective forms of communication between the members of the knowledge coalition enhance the engagement of co-researchers throughout all phases of research. The research forum provides a methodological framework that ensures that the perspective of the co-researchers on their own social lifeworlds is taken into account in all phases of research—from the definition of the research topic, through the research process, to the final presentation and evaluation of the research findings. Reflecting on our expertise in co-creational research with residents of multigenerational co-housing projects, we illustrated how the methodological aspirations played out in practice in four dimensions: opening up spaces for social encounters, establishing communicative practice, initiating a process of social self-understanding, and engaging in (counter-)public discourses. These four dimensions resonate with four aspects that we consider crucial for co-creation in citizen social science: (A) participation, (B) transdisciplinarity, (C) reflexivity and (D) impact:

As a communicative space for knowledge-coalition building, collective decision-making and mutual discussions, the research forum ensured a process of comprehensive participation and engagement of co-researchers in the research. This required, first and foremost, consensus about basic communication rules and moderation to ensure a safe and horizontal space. Co-researchers were positioned at the centre of the research across all phases.

Through communication, the different perspectives on community practices and mutual support became discussable. In this way, the research forum provided a space for new transdisciplinary perspectives between ourselves and the co-researchers. However, despite achieving a convergence of different perspectives in a generalisable finding, it became clear that the individual particularities would also need to be respected, especially when it came to reflecting on conflicts.

By working with social science methodologies and theories, the co-researchers could take a step back and communicate beyond the routines of everyday life. Here, the distancing and generalising potential of science was put into practice in order to come up with research findings about the community practices in each co-housing project. The circular transcending process started from situated local knowledge, which was generalised through co-created research and then fed back into the local context in the form of changed, new knowledge.

The research results achieved not only a scientific impact on the theoretical discourse about community processes and co-housing but also a social impact on the co-researchers’ lifeworlds. On the one hand, the research led to the compilation of a handbook focusing on community-building processes in multigenerational co-housing projects (Thomas et al., 2020 ). On the other hand, the knowledge was translated into explicit community-building actions within and outside the co-housing projects. Moreover, the findings of the co-created research could also achieve a political impact if they were connected with public discourses about alternative forms of affordable, self-determined housing.

In summary, the research forum as a methodological framework for co-creation in citizen social science projects provides a communicative space for mutual exchange, planning, discussion and learning. As such it contributes to the democratisation of science because it consistently opens up the discussion about subjects and objects of research. It connects social science with actual social concerns of co-researchers and vice versa. Ideally, the knowledge produced can simultaneously contribute to scientific, social and political discourses. Particularly important for co-creational research is the inclusion of co-researchers and their perspectives from the very beginning of a project—be it by means of co-design of the research topic and research questions (Bonhoure et al., 2019 ) or co-evaluation (Mayer et al., 2021 ). Ambitions for co-creation may sometimes fail, and may not take off after the first meeting. In the best case, however, the research forum yields rigorous, evidence-based new knowledge for both sides—pragmatic reflexive knowledge for the co-researchers in order to enhance their ability to act, and practice-saturated knowledge that the academic researchers can use for in-depth analysis in order to make a theoretical contribution to expanding the archive of scientific knowledge.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are housed at the corresponding authors’ primary institution in Germany and are also available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We are very thankful to all co-researching co-housing residents for their time, commitment, and openness. We also thank our translator and proofreader, Miriam Geoghegan. The research project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under funding code 13FH009SX5 (2016-2019). The translation and proofreading was realised through CoAct. The CoAct project has received funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 873048. Open Access was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under funding code 16PGF0273.

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Thomas, S., Scheller, D. & Schröder, S. Co-creation in citizen social science: the research forum as a methodological foundation for communication and participation. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 8 , 244 (2021).

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08 Dec 2022

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HMRC R&D Communication Forum (RDCF)

The biannual meeting of the RDCF (Research & Development Communication Forum) occurred on 7th December, which is an opportunity for HMRC to communicate with R&D tax agent providers.

It also provides agents the chance to ask questions around policy, process, technical matters and changes to the SME and RDEC schemes.

With so much happening in the media, increased compliance checks, fraud prosecutions, parliamentary committee meetings and changes to the schemes’ rates in the budget, it was expected to be quite a lively meeting.

The biggest snippets of information we learned were around the intended future amalgamation of the SME and RDEC schemes, how to support the SME R&D intensive companies, and the new G-Forms for digital submission.

SME & RDEC into a single scheme

It was mentioned that there will likely be an announcement in Spring Budget 2023 of the intention to combine the SME and RDEC schemes and the combined rate into a single above the line type scheme later in 2023, which in style will be similar to the RDEC scheme as it is now.

Details of how it would operate were not discussed but they will be consulting industry on this. Sub-contracting will be of key interest in the combined scheme.

The intention for this was apparently in the Autumn statement 2022, but having traced back over past statements, it has not been mentioned.

SME R&D Intensive businesses

As part of the recent changes to the SME scheme which will take place in April 2023 are as follows:

  • SME rate change from 130% to 86%
  • SME cash in rate change from 14.5% to 10%

This will have a massive effect on the benefit that SME’s can claim on their eligible R&D spend. For SME R&D intensive businesses that are spending heavily on R&D and cashing in losses, the benefit will drop from 33% of spend to 19%.

A company spending £500k on R&D will now get back £93k instead of £167K. Though if they are accessing grants then the RDEC benefit increases by 50%.

There appears to be an intention to provide some additional support for these SME R&D intensive businesses, though no details were forthcoming, but this will not increase levels of R&D support spend overall.

Digital Portal and ‘G Forms’

HMRC were also going to present their proposed digital platform, which we learnt they have called ‘G Forms’, intended as a portal for R&D claims.

The plans are to have this up and running in 2023 with the ‘G Form’ intending to standardise the format for reporting R&D.

TBAT Innovation questions to HMRC

TBAT asked eight questions, of which four were raised in the meeting:

  • R&D work that replicates others’ R&D that is not in the public domain? (Paragraph 21 in the BEIS guidelines).

A summary of the reply was that a company should be able to demonstrate even if another company has made the advance and not told anyone. You should be able to demonstrate that in your case and how your specific advance is still an advance in science and technology. This is a difficult area to demonstrate and talking to an R&D tax agent can help, as it is complicated.

  • Processing times return to 28 days?

HMRC’s ambition is to return to 95% of claims processed in 28 days asap, but with the processing peak in December and reform changes due to land, the intention is to continue to hit 80% processed within 40 days in the short term. Remember if you are seeking a repayment, add two weeks on top of that for payment processing.

  • How is R&D pre-registration meant to avoid fraud?

Pre-registration will provide HMRC with some information on claim, which could result in a “Are you sure?” letter. This will also stop agents encouraging claimants to make fraudulent claims going back two years.

  • Will the revision of the ONS data have an impact on the R&D schemes?

ONS R&D data has always been less than HMRC R&D eligible costs.

ONS’s methods have not been changed since the 1980s; they have now revamped their process and their new estimates appear to align with HMRCs figures, though HMRCs figures do not include R&D in grants, capital expenditure, arts and social sciences, so still some significant differences between the two sets of data.

The expectation is that overall company R&D spend will increase from £37Bn in 2020/21 to £60Bn in 2027/28.

The presentations from HMRC did not tell us much other than what is in the public domain. Though we did pick up a few snippets of new information:

  • All the proposed changes planned for April 2023 will be going ahead. Rates changes, cloud computing, data costs and mathematics added, foreign sub-contractor costs excluded, pre-registration of an R&D claim, senior company sign off of claim, notification of use of an R&D agent to prepare the claim are all going to happen. The rates changes will save £1.3Bn by 2027/28.
  • The generous nature of the SME scheme encouraged fraudulent claims, and it is HMRC’s thinking that by reducing the benefit rates this will reduce fraud.
  • HMRC are struggling to meet their SLA (Service Level Agreement) of processing claim in 28 days and are presently targeting 80% of claims processed in 40 days. Reviewing the SLA is an option being considered. They believe they are up to date with claims.
  • HMRC have processed 24,000 SME and 3,000 RDEC claims to date since 1st April 2022.
  • During December claims are expected to peak, so early filing recommended, with additional HMRC resources added to stay within the current 40-day target for 80% of claims.
  • Make sure that technical reports on the R&D activity focus on the R&D and not the commercial aspects of the project.
  • HMRC are planning an educational piece on R&D with letters out to companies plus some webinars on software due to launch in the next couple of months.

TBAT Thoughts

We await to see what the digital G Forms look like, and how a unified scheme, similar to the RDEC, will operate next year.

I still disagree with pre-registration as it stops genuine companies doing good R&D going back 2 years to make a claim. If there are some simple details of what the R&D is, then fraudsters will work out they can put down some great R&D projects to get round this step.

Fraud is the biggest issue facing HMRC and the reputation of the scheme. This will not be tackled by rates changes or pre-registration, only by HMRC correctly policing the scheme and dealing with the fraudsters.

With HMRC thinking they are up to date on processing claims in 40 days, TBAT have a number of clients that submitted in June or before where claims are yet to be processed, so we don’t think HMRC are up to date.

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This interactive session introduced participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what they do and why it matters. The session consisted of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to their audience. The plenary addressed problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication. Participants actively engaged in improvisation exercises and practiced clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work.  For more information visit the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science:

Alda-Kavli Learning Center Online Learning for Scientists and Researchers

The Alda-Kavli Learning Center offers scientists and researchers a place to explore science communication through online learning experiences and webinars on a variety of topics. Learn more .  

For more information, please contact Wanda Hutto Pierce at [email protected] .

Development Communication Research Paper Topics

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  • Activist Media
  • Citizens’ Media
  • Communication Evaluation Research
  • Communication Strategies for Empowerment
  • Communication Technology and Development
  • Community Media
  • Daniel Lerner
  • Dependency Theories
  • Development Communication Campaigns
  • Development Communication in Africa
  • Development Communication in Asia
  • Development Communication in Latin America
  • Development Communication in the Middle East
  • Development Discourse
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  • Development Journalism
  • Development Support Communication
  • Development, Gender, and Communication
  • Everett Rogers
  • Geometry of Development
  • Health Campaigns for Development
  • Media Democracy Movement
  • Modernization
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Participatory Communication
  • Planning of Development Communication
  • Population Campaigns
  • Postdevelopment
  • Radio for Development
  • Rural Development
  • Social Mobilization
  • Spirituality and Development
  • Sustainable Development
  • Telecenters
  • Television for Development
  • Transnational Civil Society
  • Wilbur Schramm

Development Communication in Historical Context

Historically, development strategies have targeted developing countries, meaning those with fewer resources than the wealthier countries supporting bilateral and multilateral development institutions. More recently, development goals have been incorporated into social and political protests, through transnational movements actively engaged in promoting economic, political, social, or cultural progress. Social change may be occurring as a result of a variety of factors, such as long-term shifts in policies and political leadership, economic circumstances, demographic characteristics, normative conditions, and ideological values: development communication intersects with social change at the point of intentional, strategic, organized interventions.

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Following World War II, development communication emerged as a foreign aid strategy, designed by northern and western institutions to promote modernization among less wealthy countries. Early approaches articulated by Daniel Lerner, Wilbur Schramm, and others advocated the promotion of media toward national modernization. Critics raised concerns with hierarchical communication transmissions devoid of historical, structural, or geopolitical context, with some arguing for more participatory processes.

Justifications for participatory development have varied greatly. Development institutions interested in creating efficient and effective projects understand participation as a necessary tool for achieving defined ends. Other development institutions concerned with the ethical aspects of participation are more likely to conceive of participation as an end in itself, regardless of project outcomes. Some participatory approaches build on more resistant strategies to fight oppressive conditions, inspired through Freire’s work in liberation theology. These concerns resonate with recent attention in development to the importance of social and political movements in the broader context of social change.

Although the focus of development communication has changed over time from concerns with modernity, to dependency, cultural imperialism, globalization, participation, and resistance, these shifts have not evolved in a linear fashion. Many underlying concerns with power, whether conceived within political-economic structures or within community contexts, or whether posited as hegemonic or pluralist processes, remain. Highlighting experiences of oppression and dominance, a reframing of the ‘geometry of development’ shifts the landscape of development from nation-states in north/ south orientations toward a more fluid sense of transnational collectivities and agencies.

Academic attention to development communication typically addresses programs designed to communicate for social change, or what can be called “communicating for development.” More recent critical approaches of development concern “communicating about development,” questioning the way that social change projects articulate assumptions about problems, solutions, and communities. These are not mutually exclusive endeavors: ongoing critique and research engaged through communicating about development should contribute to improving strategies for communicating for social change.

Communicating for Development

Communicating for development engages intentional strategies to promote socially beneficial goals. Development problems often addressed through these projects can be found in health, agriculture, governance, population, nutrition, sustainable development, and other subjects. These programs address a variety of themes, such as stimulating economic growth, promoting transparent governance, asserting cultural identities, and creating social spaces for community dialogue, through project implementation.

Communication interventions may help to mobilize support, create awareness, foster norms, encourage behavior change, influence policymakers, or even shift frames of social issues. The goals themselves vary with the underlying approach taken to development, such as social change frameworks based in social marketing, entertainment education, or media advocacy. What unites these approaches is having an intentional, organized strategy toward a specific, noncommercial goal. These types of projects differ, however, in terms of the types of groups they address and the nature of the social change process assumed. Some projects integrate more than one of these types of interventions in broader programmatic efforts. They also may incorporate a variety of mediated technologies as part of their strategic intervention. Communications technologies and processes contribute to these strategic approaches to directed social change.

Communicating about Development

A complementary approach within the broader field of development communication addresses the topic of communication about development. Critical of a development industry that appears to channel resources yet has worsening rather than improving consequences, some scholars position development as a particular discourse that communicates problematic assumptions about the nature of the problems addressed, appropriate solutions, and communities at risk.

The ideological assumptions of development are deconstructed and criticized in this approach. The underlying issue questions how development communicates particular ideological assumptions, and, moreover, what the implications are in terms of understanding power. Power can be understood as a negotiated and fluid process through which some agencies have the economic, cultural, and other resources to dominate and advance their agendas, whereas other groups have the potential to subvert and resist. Some development strategies explicitly take on the goal of empowerment, advocating the rights and responsibilities of particular communities.

Recent attention to postdevelopment posits social movements as radical alternatives to dominant development structures and ideologies. In this regard, social movements are seen not as a way to transform or improve mainstream development, but as potential channels for resistance. Opening our gaze to the possibilities of more resistant strategies means advocating a more inclusive conceptualization of development and social change.

Development Communication Research Agendas

Development communication requires research as integral to the dialogic implementation and assessment of programs. Individual projects need to be analyzed not only in terms of their defined objectives, but also as they relate to broader programmatic strategies and underlying social problems. Monitoring and evaluation research allows an assessment of the program consequences, in order to contribute to improving future projects.

Although quite different in strategies implemented and theories engaged, these approaches are united in their attempts to build on communication toward and about social change. Sharing a profound concern with devastating conditions worldwide, critical scholars and advocates broaden their vision of development communication to include concerns with inequities and to advocate for social justice. Development communication continues to offer an increasingly holistic and far-reaching framework for engaging in dialogue and action toward social change. Future research can inform development communication to improve its contribution toward resolving global concerns.


  • Dutta, M. (2011). Communicating social change: Structure, culture, agency. London: Routledge.
  • Enghel, F. & Wilkins, K. (eds.) (2012). Communication, media and development: Problems and perspectives. Nordicom, Special Issue, 31.
  • Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Gumucio-Dagron, A. & Tufte, T. (2006). Communication for social change anthology: Historical and contemporary readings. South Orange, NJ: Communication for Social Change Consortium.
  • McAnany, E. (2012). Saving the world: A brief history of communication for development and social change. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
  • S. (ed.) (2012). Development communication in directed social change: A reappraisal of theory and practice. Singapore: AMIC.
  • Nedervee Pieterse, J. (2001). Development theory: Deconstructions/reconstructions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Sparks, C. (2007). Globalization, development and the mass media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Wilkins, K. & Mody, B. (eds.) (2001). Communication, development, social change, and global disparity Communication Theory, Special issue, 11(4).
  • Wilkins, K., Tufte, T., & Obregon, R. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of development communication and social change. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Back to Communication Research Paper Topics .


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research & development communication forum

The first Tsinghua Health Communication Forum, organized by the Center for Global Development and Health Communication Research, was successfully held in the Global Resource Hall of the School of Journalism and Communication (TSJC) on March 19, 2022. The center aims to conduct innovative and cutting-edge health communication research on the ground of multi-stakeholders from the government, news media, companies, and social organizations. Chen Changfeng, Executive Vice President of the School of Journalism and Communication, and Zhou Qing'an, Director of the Center for Global Development and Health Communication Research, addressed the forum. As representatives of the co-established practice base with TSJC, Ma Xin--Vice President of China Health Insurance, Su Linan--Director of Operation and Management Department of Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, and Li Mengying, Deputy Director of Operation and Management Department of Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, together attended the forum. Chen Liang, Deputy Director of the Center for Global Development and Health Communication Research, hosted the forum.


Executive VP of TSJC Chen Changfeng emphasized that the center is established to promote the multidisciplinary development of health communication and to integrate scholars and professionals.


Chen Changfeng delivered an address at the forum

Considering the development of communication studies, Zhou Qing'an pointed out a “three-fold intersection” of health communication research. The first intersection was famous for the "narrative and scientific tradition" fueled by empirical research methodologies after World War Two. Stepping into the 21st century, the integration of public health practice and communication theory was the second intersection. Since the breakout of COVID-19, however, a third intersection has been evolving on the track of “risk detection”, “risk communication” and “risk management.”


Zhou Qing'an delivered an address at the forum

Ma Xin, VP of the China Health Insurance, pointed out that medical practitioners call for theoretical back from health communication--building a practice base together with TSJC can scientifically contribute to people's health.

It is a good opportunity to cooperate with TSJC, build a practice base and absorb theoretical support from communication research, said Su Linan. He pointed out that a series of cooperation with TSJC can not only promote the branding of medical products but also guide the public to develop health awareness.

research & development communication forum

Ma Xin (left) & Su Linan (right) delivered speeches at the forum

Afterwards, Chen Changfeng awarded two practice bases, TSJC- China Health Insurance and TSJC-Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital.

research & development communication forum

Origin, Value, and Paradigm Reflection

Sun Shaojing, professor of Fudan University and chairman of the Chinese Association for History of Journalism and Communication, suggested that the social isolation that resulted from COVID-19 is fueling "spaced out" social media becoming a significant research field as well as manifesting "communication affordance." In the post-epidemic era, "crisis detection" and "crisis control" (i.e., prevent/control the dissemination of misinformation) have become emerging fields.

Also, starting with "crisis," Xu Jing, professor of Peking University, pointed out that the discipline of health communication in China was born and grew out of public health emergencies (e.g., SARS in 2003 and the tensions between doctors and patients in 2016). In response to the crisis, Xu believes that personal decision-making, patient-centered consulting, social mobilization, and community building should be the fundamental values of health communication research.

From the humanism paradigm to the “super-humanism” paradigm, Zhang Di, professor at the School of Journalism of Renmin University of China, put forward that the things we take for granted as "technology" have evolved as new subjects or objects in the AI age, fundamentally different from the distribution logic of offline health message guide.  Zhang pointed out that it is necessary balancing social constructionism and technology-centric perspectives, moving beyond technological instrumentalism, and bridging macro research with micro research (i.e., media effects) before the revolutionary progress in AI technology acceptance, digital divide, cognitive-behavioral effects, and even socio-cultural shaping.


Sun Shaojing (left), Xu Jing (middle) and Zhang Di (right) delivered speeches at the forum

Methodology for Case Studies

Starting with humanism, Shi Jingyuan, the assistant professor from the Department of Communication Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, found through experimental studies that passive users can benefit from online social mutual mental health communities.

Similarly, Yang Xiaodong, the associate professor from the School of Journalism and Communication at Shandong University, explored how information-seeking behavior influenced three types of behavioral intentions, including self-help, lay self-help, and professional self-help through a health belief model through a survey.

In addition to traditional research methods, Professor Sun pointed out that data science also provides some new methods for health communication research, such as social network analysis, data mining, and sentiment analysis. Meanwhile, it should be emphasized that the definition of "data" is not limited to numbers. The rational use of these new tools to synthesize "multimodal data" at home and abroad is also the key to promote the future progress of health communication theory and practice.


Shi Jingyuan (left) & Yang Xiaodong (right) introduced case studies at the forum

Localization of Health Communication Research

Zhou Min, Professor of School of Journalism and Communication, Beijing Normal University, as well as Zhou Yuqiong, Professor of School of Communication, Shenzhen University, delivered their speeches on the shared common concern of localization of health communication research, exploring how Western health communication theories can be better grounded in the Chinese social context.

research & development communication forum

Su Jing delivered speeches at the forum

At the end of the forum, Qing'an Zhou reviewed the rich and profound sharing of the participants, pointing out that the starting point and values of health communication research, empirical research, and methodology, as well as the path of localization, are all key issues of concern to academics and industry colleagues. It is believed that in the subsequent series of activities to be held by the Center for Global Development and Health Communication Research, scholars and practitioners will be able to further answer the worthy questions of what and why is health communication, and how to discover the world from China.


Keynote speakers and guests at the first Tsinghua health communication forum

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Professional Communication in the Online Environment

19 Communicate in online forums

Many online courses include forums, either as a required assignment, or to support your learning process. How can you use forums to support your learning in the best way possible?

Earlier in the workshop, you encountered the social presence  and  cognitive presence elements of the community of inquiry you are building in your course. Forums are a tool for creating collaborative learning relationships.  They can also be a low-stakes way to express your developing ideas, and to get feedback on the ways in which you are learning the course material as you work towards larger assignments.

What makes a good forum post?

The rubric below outlines what distinguishes stronger online posts from those that are less successful. Review the chart below.  What do you notice?  If your instructor has provided a rubric for online posts, read the rubric, and identify your instructor’s criteria for success. [1]

This chart contains a rubric for evaluating forum postings: Level 3 (Most successful) Postings reflect that you have completed and reflected well on course readings Postings demonstrate that you have read and reflected on colleagues' postings before posting a response Posting contribute to the class' understanding of the course content Posting is very regular and consistent throughout the whole course Writing style is engaging, well organized, and professional Level 2 (Successful) Postings generally incorporate ideas from course readings Postings usually show reflection on and response to others' ideas and questions Postings are usually relevant to the current discussion Postings usually help others to understand class content Posts are posted to the forum somewhat consistently Writing quality is sufficiently clear and professional to be easily understood by others Level 1 (Unsuccessful) Postings do not demonstrate an understanding of course readings Postings fail to engage with other classmates' postings Postings are not relevant to course learning outcomes Postings do not help others to learn Posting is inconsistent throughout the course Postings contain multiple writing errors or are poorly structured

Tips for Participating in Forums

  • Develop a clear understanding of the expectations and ground rules for the forum. Review your course presentation (syllabus) to guidance on how often to post, the type of content to include in each post, and the best way to respond to others’ posts.
  • Make connections between your posts and the content you are learning in the course. A forum post is often an excellent place to engage in critical reflection.  Make connections between the course content and the ways that your growing understanding are shaping your present and future practice.
  • Set a regular schedule for posting and commenting on forums. This prevents the amount of content from becoming overwhelming, and allows you to develop stronger relationships in the course by regularly engaging with classmates.
  • Include resources that might be useful to other classmates or your instructor in your posts.
  • Use language that is appropriate for an academic environment.  Avoid writing in a way that is too informal (ie. writing that resembles a text message).
  • Make sure that each post is clearly written and well structured.  Take time to clarify the message you want to communicate in your post, and organize your content into clear and concise paragraphs.  This is easier for your reader than a long or disorganized post.
  • Respond to others’ posts in a supportive and challenging way.  In writing, messages may be unintentionally misinterpreted.  Be sure that your responses to others are respectful, positive in tone, and do not appear angry, even when you wish to disagree or present an alternative viewpoint.
  • Participate in the community discussion.  Read others’ comments before posting, and connect your ideas with what you are hearing from your classmates.  [2]

For Reflection

Read through your course presentations and find any guidelines for posting to forums.  Create a checklist for yourself based on these guidelines and the rubric above.  What do you need to do to create successful forum posts in  your course ? Keep this checklist, and refer to it regularly as you post to forums.

Download a printable forum posting checklist here.

Media Attributions

  • Online posting rubric
  • Fenwick, T. J., & Parsons, J. (2009). The art of evaluation: a resource for educators and trainers (2nd ed.). Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing. ↵
  • Pappas, C. (2015a, June 6). 10 netiquette tips for online discussions. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from; Pappas, C. (2015b, August 16). 7 tips on how to use forums in elearning. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from ↵

Learning to Learn Online Copyright © 2018 by Kwantlen Polytechnic University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Students earn awards at research days.

3 days ago · 6 min read

Students earn awards at Research Days

The Office of Graduate Studies, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, as well as the Office of Research and Economic Development held the 2024 Student Research Days Poster Sessions and Creative Exhibitions.

More than 120 graduate students and 200 undergraduate students participated in these sessions in addition to a week-long celebration of student research and creative activity. Graduate students who were awarded competitive prizes for their scholarship and presentation skills received $400.00 toward travel grants to present their research regionally or nationally as well as support other research costs. Undergraduates were awarded prizes valued at $250.00 sponsored by their academic colleges. Additionally, five undergraduate students were recognized by the University Honors Program for their research.

Nearly 100 faculty, postdoc and graduate student volunteer judges met with students during morning and afternoon sessions and evaluated their presentations.

Graduate Awards

Rafael Amorim Bertacini (Brazil; studying Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design) “Interweaving Cross-Disciplinary Narratives in Fashion: Exploring the Integration of Fashion, Industrial Design, Identity, and Art Through Handbags”, adviser: Michael Burton

Matthew Boeding (Papillion, Nebraska; studying Computer Engineering) “A Novel Framework for OT Protocol Vulnerability Discovery leveraging insights from Formal Modeling, Network Simulation and On-Device Testing”, adviser: Hamid Sharif

Emily Chapman (York, Nebraska; studying Music Education) “Preparing the Next Generation of Music Educators: Illuminating Motivations of Mentor Teachers”, adviser: Rhonda Fuelberth

Brianna DeValk (Elk River, Minnesota; studying History) “Citizenship Taken: Recovering Married Women’s U.S. Citizenship on the Northern Great Plains, 1907-1957”, adviser: Kenneth Winkle

Nosakhare Idiaghe (Nigeria; studying Engineering Education) “Exploring the Impact of Professor and Peer Relationship on Mental Health of Undergraduate Engineering Students”, adviser:

Allison Johnson (Rockford, Illinois, studying Educational Studies (Science Education)) “Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Voices: Challenges to Implementing Integrated STEM Teaching and Learning ”, adviser: Deepika Menon

Isabel Kuebler (Brookings, South Dakota; studying Psychology) “Alcohol drinking in rats is differently modulated by the type of sugar added: regulation by melanin-concentrating hormone”, adviser: Ken Wakabayashi

Tanessa Morris (Canada, studying Natural Resources Sciences) “Effect of Biomass Water Dynamics in Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensor Observations: A Long-Term Analysis of Maize-Soybean Rotation in Nebraska”, adviser: Trenton Franz

Sadia Sharmeen (Bangladesh; studying Chemistry) “Multisite Interactions of Thiazolidinedione Drugs with Human Serum Albumin Studied by using High-performance Affinity Microcolumns”, adviser: David Hage

Sanket Shinde (Lincoln, Nebraska; studying Entomology) “Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) oral secretions modulate defense responses in sorghum”, adviser: Joe Louis

Bibek Tiwari (Nepal; studying Physics and Astronomy) “Spherulite-enhanced Macroscopic Polarization in Molecular Ferroelectric Films from Vacuum Deposition”, adviser: Xiaoshan Xu Kashish Verma (studying Entomology) “Altering lignin biosynthetic pathway modulates sorghum defense against sugarcane aphids”, adviser: Joe Louis

Sethe Zachman (Lincoln, Nebraska; studying Sociology) “American Perspectives on the Legitimacy of Transgender Identities”, adviser: Kelsy Burke

Undergraduate College Awards

Agricultural sciences and natural resources.

  • Will Hernandez (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying environmental science), “Changes in Soil Development Over 60 Years of Crop Production in Nebraska,” adviser: Judith Turk


  • Elise Benson (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying architecture), “Operational Landscapes of the Great Plains,” adviser: David Karle

Arts and Sciences

Laura Kirshenbaum (Omaha, Nebraska, studying biochemistry in the Honors Program), “Expanding the Dynamic Range of Methanosarcina acetivorans through Recombinant Expression of the T7 Promoter System,” adviser: Nicole Baun

Morgan Madsen (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying geology in the Honors Program), “Two Newly Identified Propagator Wakes in Southern Cascadia,” adviser: Irina Filina

Juliana Quattrocchi (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying economics in the Honors Program), “Mobility’s Impact on Healthcare Work Arrangements: Evidence from a Late-Night Bus Expansion,” advisers: Mitch Herian, Daniel Tannenbaum, and Brenden Timpe

Luke Skrabal (Omaha, Nebraska, studying biology and history in the Honors Program), “Comparison and Optimization of Extracellular Vesicle Isolation Methods for Use in Nonviral Gene Delivery,” adviser: Angela Pannier

Kai Waddell (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying microbiology in the Honors Program), “Exploring the Interaction of HCMV UL5 with Host Cellular Genes ANKRD13A and ST3GAL1,” adviser: Lindsey Crawford

  • Jessica Chen (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying computer science and economics in the Honors Program and in the Raikes School), “Innovation Intelligence Modeling,” adviser: Mitch Herian

Education and Human Sciences

  • Abbie Summers (Norfolk, Nebraska, studying communication science disorders in the Honors Program), “What are Social Communication Differences Between Autistic Males and Female?,” adviser: Ciara Ousley


Maria Carter (David City, Nebraska, studying biological systems engineering), “The Novel Genes Shared between Arabidopsis thaliana and Maize in the Process of Nonphotochemical Quenching Regulation,” adviser: Katarzyna Glowacka

Emily Fitzpatrick Chloe Mann (McKinney, Texas, and Alliance, Nebraska, studying mechanical engineering and civil engineering respectively), “Developing Culturally Competent Engineers: Enhancing First-Year Engineering Curriculum,” adviser: Jessica Deters, teammate: Chloe Mann

Brennan Harms (Hebron, Nebraska, studying mechanical engineering), “Development of Microfluidic Device Using 3D Images of Insect Wings,” adviser: Sangjin Ryu

Kaitlin McKenzie (Rosemount, Minnesota, studying chemical engineering), “Sustainable Production of Wool Textile-Based Supercapacitors Using MXenes,” adviser: Mona Bavarian

Simon Thengvall (Omaha, Nebraska, studying mechanical engineering), “Additive Manufacturing and Plating Processes for Aerospace Environments,” adviser: Carl Nelson

Fine and Performing Arts

Hailey Anderson (Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, studying music composition), “Integrating Ferroelectric CuInP2S6 with MoS2 Field Effect Transistor,” adviser: Xia Hong

Marina Kushner (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying art history and criticism), “Pete’s Satin Celadon, Single Oxide Tests,” adviser: Peter Pinnell

Journalism and Mass Communications

  • Kathryn Holling (Crete, Nebraska, studying advertising and public relations), “University of Nebraska-Lincoln Email Communications and Its Impact on Undergraduate Students,” adviser: Lydia Coulson

Undergraduate Honors Awards

Best Communication — This award recognizes an honors student researcher who displayed the best communication skills in sharing their research: Laura Kirshenbaum (Omaha, Nebraska, studying biochemistry and microbiology) “Expanding the Dynamic Range of Methanosarcina acetivorans through Recombinant Expression of the T7 Promoter System,” adviser: Nicole Buan

Interdisciplinarity — This award recognizes an honors student researcher who made the best use of interdisciplinary approaches and/or methods: Pyper Haarala (Omaha, Nebraska, studying actuarial science), “Gender, Disability, and Crime: A Research-Based Creative Writing Project,” adviser: Pascha Sotolongo Stevenson

Long-Term Contributions to the Field — This award recognizes an honors student researcher whose work displayed the most potential for significant long-term contributions to the discipline of study: Luke Skrabal (Omaha, Nebraska, studying biological sciences and history), “Comparison and Optimization of Extracellular Vesicle Isolation Methods for Use in Nonviral Gene Delivery,” adviser: Angela Pannier

Most Original — This award recognizes an honors student researcher whose research question or approach to answering the research question displayed the most originality: Harper Gordman (Omaha, Nebraska, studying psychology), “Beyond Words: Illuminating Holocaust Survivors’ Stories Through Multimedia,” adviser: Beth Dotan

Real-World Impact — This award recognizes an honors student researcher whose work displays the most significant and immediate potential for real-world impact: Juliana Quattrocchi (Lincoln, Nebraska, studying economics), “Mobility’s Impact on Healthcare Work Arrangements: Evidence from a Late-Night Bus Expansion,” advisers: Mitch Herian, Daniel Tannenbaum, and Brenden Timpe

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  4. 150+ Amazing Communication Research Topics and Ideas

    research & development communication forum

  5. The 150 Best Communication Research Topics for 2023

    research & development communication forum

  6. Top tips for research communication

    research & development communication forum


  1. Forum

  2. Climate Communication Forum "The Role of Communication in ESG"

  3. Development Support Communication

  4. Meet the Communications Team!

  5. What is Development Communication and DevCom Writing?

  6. How to Use the Forum in Moodle 4.0 for Students


  1. Research and Development Communication Forum

    An HMRC-sponsored forum, the Research and Development Communication Forum meets twice a year to discuss the operational delivery of the Research and Development (R&D) tax relief schemes.

  2. R&D Communication Forum Meeting

    The Research & Development Communication Forum, or RDCF (formerly the Research and Development Consultative Committee, or RDCC), is an HMRC-sponsored forum that meets every six months to discuss the operational delivery of the UK's R&D tax relief schemes. The committee, which comprises HMRC agents, professional bodies, industry delegates and ...

  3. Research & Development Communication Forum Update

    Finally, there was some good news from a processing perspective: YTD, 23,755 SME and 2,804 RDEC claims have been processed. 91% of these were processed within 28 days, which is up from 88% on this time last year. Claims are currently being processed at day 24 for SME and day 43 for RDEC. Given most HMRC are still working remotely, this is a ...

  4. Highly Anticipated Updates on UK R&D Tax Claims

    An anticipated Research & Development Communication Forum took place 13th July. It was highlighted that whilst 98% of RDTC claims (42,073 in total during 2021-22) were paid within 28 days, HMRC have temporarily increased the processing ambition to 40 days.

  5. Understanding Development Communication: A Review of ...

    Development communication helps to promote the integration of interpersonal communication methods with. conventional and new media channels, including radio, video, print, and ICT s. It also helps ...

  6. NHS R&D Forum

    Research & Development Forum. The NHS R&D Forum connects, supports and represents those in R&D roles who are working to benefit patients and the public by enabling healthcare research and innovation to happen in the UK. We host the UK directory for all R&D offices and non-commercial Sponsors and the R&D Forum resources exchange.

  7. Forum posts, communication patterns, and relational ...

    Educational technology research and development - Interpersonal online interactions are key to digital learning pedagogies and student experiences. ... patterns of forum communication projected from the networks of forum posts, and (3) structures of emergent relationships emergent during communication patterns. Individual, network, and group ...

  8. How 'sustainable' is development communication research?

    Abstract. This article argues that a focus on sustainability will allow us to engage the complexity that communication research for development and social change routinely encounters. We start with a brief historical overview, move to the need for sustainability as an organizing principle, then to a consideration of some theoretical and ...

  9. Co-creation in citizen social science: the research forum as a ...

    Another central aspect of the research forum that corresponds with participatory social research is the initiation of a process of social self-understanding via social exchange and communication ...

  10. HMRC R&D Communication Forum (RDCF)

    HMRC R&D Communication Forum (RDCF) The biannual meeting of the RDCF (Research & Development Communication Forum) occurred on 7th December, which is an opportunity for HMRC to communicate with R&D tax agent providers. It also provides agents the chance to ask questions around policy, process, technical matters and changes to the SME and RDEC ...

  11. Science Communication Forum

    This Workshop allowed basic, translational, and clinical researchers to experience the Alda Method style of transformative communication. With funding from the South Carolina Clinical & Translational Institute (SCTR), the Office of Research Development, and Imagine 2020 funds, the 2019 Science Communication Forum was held August 7, 2019.

  12. Learning & Development

    RDF23 Conference Programme Development Group; Research Communications; Research Contracts; Research Management; Research Strategy & Leadership; Service Users and Carers Working; UK Research Finance; ... Research and Development Forum is a Registered Charity no 1189876. RDF Professional Development Limited is a company limited by guarantee ...

  13. Development Communication Research Paper Topics

    See our list of development communication research paper topics. Development communication refers to strategic communication toward and about social change. Development encompasses intentional strategies designed to benefit the public good, whether in terms of material, political, or social needs. Communication engages mediation by communities ...

  14. The First Tsinghua Health Communication Forum Successfully Held

    The first Tsinghua Health Communication Forum, organized by the Center for Global Development and Health Communication Research, was successfully held in the Global Resource Hall of the School of Journalism and Communication (TSJC) on March 19, 2022. The center aims to conduct innovative and cutting-edge health communication research on the ground of multi-stakeholders from the government, news...

  15. Join

    RDF23 Conference Programme Development Group; Research Communications; Research Contracts; Research Management; Research Strategy & Leadership; Service Users and Carers Working; UK Research Finance; ... Research and Development Forum is a Registered Charity no 1189876. RDF Professional Development Limited is a company limited by guarantee ...

  16. Understanding Development Communication: A Review of ...

    Communication is critical in any development process. Beyond its role as an. empowerment tool, communication is used to promote people's participation in. development activities.Particularly ...

  17. The Research and Development Forum

    The NHS Research and Development Forum is delighted to announce that Florence Healthcare are a Premier Sponsor and the Day One Sponsor of RDF24, held in association with the Health Research Authority. Florence is the leading platform for remote connectivity and electronic document workflow management in clinical research.

  18. RED

    26th April 2010, a very first conference on Safety of Journalists in Vietnam by RED's team. Shortly after, RED Communication was found, moving towards the values we believe: Trust - Change - Public interests. Our happiness is to discover problems, solve them and create values to community. This amazing journey would not have been possible

  19. Communicate in online forums

    Avoid writing in a way that is too informal (ie. writing that resembles a text message). Make sure that each post is clearly written and well structured. Take time to clarify the message you want to communicate in your post, and organize your content into clear and concise paragraphs. This is easier for your reader than a long or disorganized post.

  20. Contact

    RDF23 Conference Programme Development Group; Research Communications; Research Contracts; Research Management; Research Strategy & Leadership; Service Users and Carers Working; UK Research Finance; ... Research and Development Forum is a Registered Charity no 1189876. RDF Professional Development Limited is a company limited by guarantee ...

  21. SCCDR

    Conduct research in communication, education, health, agriculture, government and civil society relations or partnerships, NGOs, and community relations, gender and youth issues in community development and the environment. Umudike. PMB 7267 Umuahia Abia. State, Nigeria.

  22. Delving into disengagement as a distinct construct: A proposed research

    Laura L Lemon (PhD, University of Tennessee) is an associate professor and graduate program coordinator in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama. Her award-winning research agenda focuses on theory building in internal public relations, with emphasis on internal communication and employee engagement.

  23. Students earn awards at Research Days

    Best Communication — This award recognizes an honors student researcher who displayed the best communication skills in sharing their research: Laura Kirshenbaum (Omaha, Nebraska, studying biochemistry and microbiology) "Expanding the Dynamic Range of Methanosarcina acetivorans through Recombinant Expression of the T7 Promoter System ...

  24. Tokyo Electron Plans Record R&D Outlay Spurred by AI Chip Demand

    Tokyo Electron Ltd. is planning record research and development outlays this fiscal year and gave an upbeat revenue forecast on a surging demand for AI-enabling infrastructure. The supplier of ...

  25. Training Courses

    RDF23 Conference Programme Development Group; Research Communications; Research Contracts; Research Management; Research Strategy & Leadership; Service Users and Carers Working; UK Research Finance; ... Research and Development Forum is a Registered Charity no 1189876. RDF Professional Development Limited is a company limited by guarantee ...

  26. 'Workplace Communication: Giving and Receiving Feedback'

    Join Learning and Organizational Development Manager Laura Hamilton for this informative and engaging course aimed at providing a comprehensive overview of team development stages while underscoring the critical role of clear communication within workplace dynamics. Through the use of interactive elements, participants gain an understanding of their individual communication styles while ...

  27. RDF23

    in association with the. The NHS R&D Forum is delighted to provide to you the official photographs from RDF23 in Newcastle. RDF23 was the biggest ever annual conference of the NHS Research and Development Forum. The event held from the 21-23 May was attended by 850 people from across the UK and featured over 50 speakers across the 2 days.

  28. College of Human Development, Culture, and Media's Annual Graduate

    Museum Professions graduate student Ethan Wojciechowski with Professors Henry and Tsuria. On Saturday, April 27, the College of Human Development, Culture, and Media hosted its Spring 2024 Graduate Research Symposium in the University Center Theater. The day-long event welcomed 11 master's candidates for short presentations discussing their master's projects.