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Dr Tomoya Obokata

Recruit your stakeholder advisors early

“To get the most from the advisory board they have to be involved from the very start and able to influence the direction of the research and comment on our approach.” - Dr Tomoya Obokata, Queen’s University Belfast

This is Dr Tomoya Obokata's first research council grant as principal investigator. The AHRC grant, entitled North and South Irish responses to Transnational Crime, explores how the law enforcement agencies in the North and South of Ireland respond and collaborate on trans-border organised crime. "Identifying the users and potential beneficiaries of the research was quite straightforward," he says, "The challenge I faced for my Pathways to Impact was how to build co-operative long term relationships with different trans-border law enforcement agencies in a sensitive political situation."

Dr Obokata's solution for this was to appoint an advisory board made up of representatives from the key law enforcement agencies from both sides of the border. Dr Obokata is based in the law department at Queen's University Belfast. Using his existing contacts, and drawing on those of colleagues, he has created an advisory board for his research project made up of a diverse mix of policy makers, practitioners and civil society groups from both Northern and Southern Ireland.

Dr Obokata’s research explores how the law enforcement agencies and judiciaries on both sides of the Irish border work together to prevent and solve such crime. One of the key objectives of the research is to identify best practice and use this to improve certain aspects of law enforcement and transnational collaboration.

Dr Obokata was awarded £195,000 from the AHRC, of which £9,000 will fund impact activities. He is in the very early stages of his research grant, but, nonetheless he has already confirmed the members of the stakeholder advisory board.

“To get the most from the advisory board they have to be involved from the very start and be able to influence the direction of the research and comment on our approach. Their networks will increase the likelihood of the research findings reaching the people that can use it to improve law enforcement or develop appropriate policy,” Dr Obokata observes.

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This international group will meet every six months to monitor the progress of the project and to provide advice. He has invited senior representatives from the police forces, Departments of Justice, Human Rights Commissions, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Northern Ireland and Ireland. He had some contacts but had to seek the advice of colleagues to identify people from both sides of the international border. He says, “The people I contacted have been very positive and I was surprised by the warm reception and genuine interest in the research.”

Other activities included in the grant’s Pathways to Impact are an end of project conference that will be open to stakeholders and the public, accompanied by an end of project report to include good practice and recommendations for the future, and a condensed briefing summary for wider dissemination.

Dr Obokata will also use TV and radio dissemination to raise awareness of his research findings to a wider audience. He already had some experience with the media and has established a reputation as an expert on organised crime.

He believes that the Pathways to Impact have helped him to think more holistically about his research questions and methods. He says: “I wanted to do research that was quite practice based so the research questions and Pathways to Impact naturally complemented each other. Law research is changing and this is in part due to researchers now considering what difference their research might make and not just taking the perspective that research is a desk-based intellectual exercise.“

Institution:Queen’s University Belfast
Funding council:AHRC

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