The Urban Observer – a new magazine by CUR

We are delighted to announce the release of our first edition The Urban Observer - a bi-monthly bulletin of CUR’s cutting edge and policy-relevant research that provides an easy to read snapshot of our work, and offers opportunities for you to contact and collaborate with our researchers.

More and better research is vital to understanding the challenges facing cities and regions in Australia and globally in the face of rapid urbanisation. But research can only play a role in improving how urbanisation is shaped and guided if it is translated into policy action or business decision making. As a research centre dedicated to providing the highest quality and most relevant research on urban problems CUR has grappled with the question of how to ensure our work is known by policy makers and business leaders so it can be translated into new approaches to managing cities. From the research on policy processes that has been undertaken within CUR we are acutely aware that simply presenting research via journal publications, scholarly tomes or conference proceedings is insufficient to see it taken up in policy and practice. As Elizabeth Taylor and Joe Hurley have demonstrated it is an unavoidable fact that “not many people read the stuff”. This gap in translation means the need for policy and practice knowledge is filled by a mix of news media reports, trade magazines, social media posts, visiting speakers and experts among many other non-scientific modes of communication. This failure of researchers and practitioners to communicate has potentially enormous implications if new approaches to managing urbanisation are not appreciated by policy makers or the consequences of particular policy decisions are not fully tested and assessed.

The Centre for Urban Research produces around 100 research publications each year. We do our best to ensure these are converted into more digestible forms for both the policy sphere and the wider public alike. But even though we have a relatively sophisticated communications capability there are limits to our capacity to target individual research findings to specific audiences to the degree needed to ensure our work is systematically appreciated. For some time now there has been discussion within CUR about how to further circulate the work we do beyond conventional scholarly venues. The creation of a new CUR website was a major advance in this area and has been a tremendous success. But we recognised more could be done. Others have trod this path before us. The ARC Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions has for some years produced the very accessible and readable Decision Point magazine.  Inspired by that example as well as our own assessment of our policy audiences CUR is delighted to launch the Urban Observer.

The Urban Observer will be a bi-monthly bulletin of CUR’s cutting edge and policy-relevant research presented in an easily readable summarised form. It’s much more than a newsletter, not as technically presented (or extended) as a journal, or superficially glossy as a marketing magazine. The bulletin will be distributed to our mailing list subscribers as well as via social media and the CUR website. We hope that it will provide an attractively designed, easily readable, snapshot of the research that’s happening in CUR so that policy makers can pick up and read through quickly to see the work that’s most relevant to their field. Full citations are provided should the research need referencing in policy documents while ‘find more’ buttons provide easy links through to the original scientific article. This provides a seamless link from the Urban Observer to the original work that it reports.

We hope that all who read the Urban Observer will find it illuminating both as to the amazing research that happens in CUR and the fabulous people whose intellectual effort produces the research. We look forward to tracking the uptake of the Urban Observer and also to receiving feedback on how it is presented and ways to improve its reach and relevance. So please don’t hesitate to forward the Urban Observer to colleagues who may like to read it, especially those beyond the walls of RMIT. And let us know how how we can improve it for the editions ahead. In conclusion I’d like to thank Chanel Bearder who produced the first edition, including the crisp design and layout, and Ian McShane who had a close role in bringing this to fruition over many months. Finally I’d like to thank the members of CUR who’ve assisted with the articles in the Urban Observer and not least of all who produced the incredible original insights that it reports. Happy browsing, and please, forward the Urban Observer to anyone you think might enjoy reading it!

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