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First-class research and authentic connections to the Global South

8 September 2020

Photo of Simone Arthur

The Strategic Research Area (SRA) in International Development and Inclusive Innovation (IDII) has brought more than £9 million in research grants to The Open University. Its Senior Research Manager Simone Arthur discusses how to build on its success, and the critical role of ‘inclusion’.

Research funding is the lifeblood of a university, and Simone Arthur’s role is vital in keeping it flowing. 

Simone (pictured above) supports the International Development SRA’s bidding activities at a strategic level, guiding academics in identifying suitable funding calls and drafting bids that will succeed. 

And her experience of working both in international development and in equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is helping ensure IDII-led projects remain centred around maintaining strong stakeholder engagement and equitable partnerships.

There is a growing awareness in academia that research agendas are mainly driven by donor organisations based in the Global North – who enforce strict criteria on researchers, and who themselves are marred by structural inequalities. 

The OU has recognised an urgent need to address its own systemic inequalities, as set out in the recent statement issued by Pro Vice Chancellor Dr Liz Marr. 

Simone, who joined the International Development SRA in March 2020, will be working to ensure inclusion is embedded in its research, as she explains:

“EDI shouldn’t be treated as an add-on, it’s something we need to consider before we even start writing our bid proposal. 

“The world is a different place right now, and funders are adapting their funding criteria to ensure funded projects can deliver evidenced-based and meaningful impact to marginalised communities.

"I see a major part of my role as working with academics to ensure that our research is technically well-designed to be relevant and useful to stakeholders in the global south and across a range of audiences.”

Simone comes originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and after completing a Masters in International Relations at Warwick University in the UK in 2000, became communications manager for the government in Tobago.

She joined the OU in 2006 and completed an OU MBA a few years later. She has worked in a variety of roles in international development before taking up the post of Senior Research Manager in the International Development SRA.

The SRA, which celebrated its fifth birthday this month, is an interdisciplinary and interfaculty research grouping which has brought just over £9.3 million in research funding to the university since it was founded. 

It has also successfully promoted interdisciplinary and collaborative working, and forged extensive and growing links with the networks in the Global South – and there is scope for more to be done, Simone says.

“I want my role to support and facilitate first-class research and an authentic connection to the Global South, with the ultimate aim of presenting contextual insights that address the requirements and needs of our stakeholders.

“I am super excited to work with the SRA to support our School in strengthening processes and strategizing ways to ensure the delivery of high-quality and inclusive research proposals and research.”

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To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
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United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)1908 858502