Viewpoint: David Abbott
- Current role:
- Senior Research Fellow
- University of Bristol
David Abbott is a Senior Research Fellow at the Norah Fry Research Centre, University of Bristol. David joined the Norah Fry Research Centre in 1999 having previously worked at Loughborough University and a London Health Authority carrying out social policy research. Much of his work has focused on issues for disabled children and young people – as well as their families and the services that support them. He has an interest in transition to adulthood, multi-agency working, and disabled children who live away from home in residential settings such as schools and colleges.
Another area of interest is around gay, lesbian and bisexual people with learning difficulties – their experiences, the barriers they face and the ways in which they overcome them. Finally, he has a long standing interest in how families in the whole population think about their economic security and the risks they face in maintaining it, work carried out in partnership with colleagues at the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York.
He is currently involved in a research project - ‘Becoming an adult: transition for young men with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy’ - based at the School for Policy Studies which is a collaboration with the Duchenne Family Support Group, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and the Centre for Life at Newcastle University. See the LTNC website for more information.
What benefits has public engagement brought you?
I’m a social policy researcher trying to find out about the experiences of disabled young people and people with learning disabilities. Much of my work is funded by Government or by charities that are trying to make things better for disabled people. How could I not 'do' public engagement? I don't know how I could do my job without directly engaging with a really wide range of stakeholders and audiences at all the different stages of research. Via the government, or research councils, I’m pretty much funded by the taxpayer so they have a right to know how that research money is being spent.
The work at my centre tries to include and involve people who are the focus of research at every level – as participants, as co-researchers, as recipients of research findings, and as partners in bringing about social change.
We disseminate our work in local community settings, by trying to write about our work in publications which staff in front line services read – as well as newspapers and magazines that the general public read. We keep in touch with local newspapers and radio stations to let them know about our research. And sometimes, people from a long way away get to find out about our work. I recall doing a study about people with learning disabilities who are gay or lesbian. We uncovered such grim accounts from people that we put extra effort into disseminating the results and creating photo story booklets for people with learning disabilities so that they could meaningfully access the messages from the study.
There was a lot of good feedback from the study and one bit stands out: a woman with learning disabilities e-mailed me from Anchorage, Alaska to say that she had found the booklets on the internet and that they had made her think that she was not the only lesbian in the world who had a learning difficulty. Photo story booklets don’t win us any brownie points at the RAE or when we try to get promoted, but what an important (and gratifying) impact we had by making sure that our work engaged with as wide an audience as possible.
You can get in touch with David Abbott either via email or by contacting him in Bristol:
Senior Research Fellow
Norah Fry Research Centre
University of Bristol
3 Priory Road
Tel: 0117 331 0972