Professor Larissa Davies

Tell us about your contribution that has been recognised through the professorship.Larissa Davies stood posing for a photo

My professorship was awarded in recognition of my outstanding contribution to Research and Innovation (R&I) and Academic Citizenship and Leadership (A&CL), and significant contribution to External and Professional Engagement (E&PE).

My outstanding contribution to R&I is through the creation of knowledge on the societal impact of sport and physical activity. Specifically, I am recognised for my research on the economic and social value of sport, and the application of this knowledge within the sector to understand and measure participation and volunteering. I am particularly proud of my ground-breaking work with colleagues from the Sport Industry Research Group (part of the Sport and Physical Activity Research Centre (SPARC)), which uses Social Return on Investment (SROI) to monetise the value of sport and physical activity in relation to wider social outcomes.

My outstanding contribution to AC&L is most clearly demonstrated through my work as REF Unit of Assessment (UoA) coordinator for sub-panel 24: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism. I was privileged to have the opportunity to lead the University’s largest submission to REF2021, which included staff from two colleges, two research centres and five academic departments. I make other substantial contributions to AC&L at Sheffield Hallam, including leadership of collegial academic research groups (SIRG/SPARC and the Health Research Institute), and various national and international research projects and collaborations.

My significant contribution to E&PE is through the influence of my work on sport policy and practice. My research informs national and international contemporary sport policy debates, assists in the monitoring of impacts related to policy decisions and supports the management of sport in professional practice. Our SROI research is used by government, national agencies and sports organisations to advocate for investment in sport and to inform national planning and decision making. Recently, that was illustrated by the inclusion of our work in the new Sport England 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement.

What does it mean personally to you to be a Professor at Sheffield Hallam?

I am immensely proud to be awarded the title of professor at Sheffield Hallam. The award is an acknowledgement of my achievement and value to the University. However, it is also formal recognition of the contribution of my research to my discipline and field, which is also important to me.

Tell us a bit about your career story so far.

I have followed a ‘traditional’ academic career route. Following the completion of my PhD in sports economics, in 1999 I joined Sheffield Hallam as a Lecturer in Human Geography. I spent the first 13 years of my career in the Department of the Built and Natural Environment. During this time, I progressed to Senior Lecturer and was responsible for developing and leading the geography programme. I played a significant role in curriculum development and academic provision in geography and held several leadership roles relating to teaching and learning, recruitment, and programme management.

In 2012, I transferred across to the Academy of Sport and Physical Activity. Although this was a sideways move at the time, it gave me the opportunity to align my research and teaching interests and develop my research alongside colleagues working closely with organisations in the sport sector. In 2013, I was promoted to Reader in Sport Management and moved full-time into the Sport Industry Research Group (formerly SIRC), to focus specifically on developing my research and grant capture. As Reader, I have undertaken various leadership roles in the research centre, college and University. In 2018, I was appointed to the role of REF UoA 24 coordinator.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some career advice, what would it be?

There are lots of things, but in terms of pursuing the R&I route to a professorship, three things come to mind:

  1. Don’t try and do everything by yourself – work with people who have a shared vison and work ethic.
  2. Seek out your own opportunities and go the extra mile on things that are worthwhile, even if it doesn’t feel like you have the time or resource.
  3. Finally, I would say be less modest and don’t be afraid to celebrate achievements and milestones along the way.

What’s next? Tell us about how you want to further develop your contribution.

There are three main areas that I would like to focus on to further develop my contribution.

The continued development of my own research is critical to the role of research professor; therefore, the primary focus of my strategy is growing and upscaling my research programme on the social value of sport. If I am successful, there is real potential to position the University as a global thought leader in social impact measurement.

A second and inter-related priority is to build on my growing international collaborations with partners in other HEI’s.

Finally, the third area is related to leadership in enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in sport-related research at Hallam. This is something I feel very passionate about and is key to building a future research culture with vitality and sustainability for the next REF cycle and beyond.