Finding common ground between academics, business practitioners, and government agencies

Centre for Decision Research
Workplace Behaviour Research Centre

Dr Gulbanu Kaptan is an Associate Professor in Behavioural Decision Making and a member of the Centre for Decision Research. Her research interests focus on judgement and decision making with special interest in food-related decision making, developing risk (benefit) communications, and interventions related to food consumption and waste. Professor Kerrie Unsworth is a Chair in Organisational Behaviour and a member of Workplace Behaviour Research Centre. Her research interests focus on pro-environmental behaviour, motivation, goals, creativity, and leadership in organisations.

An overhead shot of a meeting featuring people using laptops, holding paperwork and drinking coffee

There are many advantages to academics working with external partners, such as those in industry and government agencies. The different parties bring different skills, experiences, insights and networks, and the end result is valuable in furthering both new knowledge and new practice.  

It can sometimes feel, however, like the different groups are talking in different languages. They often have different ways of working and have different expectations of outcomes. This is why we recommend having a meeting at the start of a research project (or even in the grant application process) with external partners to establish ways of working and expected outcomes. 

In our current project - Capitalising on COVID-19 as a Trigger for Positive Change in Food Waste Behaviour – we are working with Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Zero Waste Scotland. We had an initial meeting where we discussed our expectations regarding the project outcomes.  

We needed to understand as a group what would be valuable from the academic perspective and what would be valuable from the practitioner perspective. Neither side tried to drive their perspective as the “right” one and we each recognised the usefulness of the other. As academics and practitioners working in the same field with different perspectives, we then agreed on how to achieve these expectations through a collaborative effort.  

We recommend doing the following during the grant application process and at the start of the project:

  • Make sure the project is perceived as a collaborative effort that needs input from both practitioners and academics throughout all stages of the project 

  • Discuss and agree on expected project outcomes  

  • Identify the distinct expertise that each member brings to the project and discuss how these will each be used to achieve the project outcomes 

  • Review the aims, study design, and budget against the organisational expectations and procedures for each partner 

  • Make slight changes in the study design if necessary.  

We are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration with both WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland. By agreeing shared ways of working and outcomes, we hope to be able to investigate, evaluate, and disseminate important information that will help reduce our food waste, making a positive environmental and economic impact. Watch this space for further updates about our “Capitalising on COVID-19 as a Trigger for Positive Change in Food Waste Behaviour” project. 


This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19. 

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