Working with sponsors
Sponsors of research may typically be Local Authorities, government departments or charitable bodies. This page looks at how to foster effective researcher-sponsor relationships.
The importance of researcher-sponsor communication
Research that successfully meets the sponsor’s or client’s needs is most likely if researchers have worked in close collaboration with them. A partnership approach means researchers are more likely to understand what the client wants, and the client will be kept involved and in touch with the research as it progresses. Essentially, an ongoing dialogue keeps the research on everyone’s agenda.
What makes an effective research-sponsor relationship?
- Involving the sponsor from the outset
In the early stages of a research programme it is important to identify and clarify the client’s needs. Now is the time to agree the methodology and make sure it suits the client’s requirements. The tone of these first meetings/conversations is important. They present an opportunity to establish a partnership between researcher and client, where both sides can benefit from an ongoing exchange of information throughout the research.
- Involving the sponsor throughout the research process
After the initial setting-up phase, it is easy for researchers and sponsors to go their separate ways until certain key milestones are reached. However, ongoing dialogue is helpful because it allows researchers to check that the data collection remains relevant, whilst the client can benefit from access to findings as they emerge. In this way, the research can impact early on, rather than on completion of the project.Case Study 1
- Agreeing preferred methods of communication
Whilst regular research updates are important, the amount of time available for sponsors to monitor research activity is likely to be limited. Researchers should therefore agree a method or combination of methods that suits the sponsor (e.g. circulating short internet bulletins, steering group meetings, focus groups to discuss research findings).
- Being responsive to the sponsor’s needs
National and local priorities can change during a research project and it may be necessary to amend the original research plans. Researchers should maintain flexibility and be prepared to adjust aspects of the research to ensure it stays pertinent and appropriate to the sponsor’s needs.
- Maintain objectivity
Whilst a close collaboration is desirable, sponsors also value the objective and external voice of the researcher. Some distance is necessary between the researcher and commissioner to ensure that the integrity of the findings is not compromised.