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Research and Innovation: highlights from PVCs

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Dear All,

The start of a new academic year signals – we hope – a return from the summer break with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. We would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of our priorities within the research and innovation agenda for the coming year.

In conjunction with the ongoing work on the new University Strategy, we have developed a Research and Innovation Strategy, which builds on the work of the 2020 Research Plan. The strategy emphasises our desire to grow and sustain a research environment that enables excellent research, underpinned by research processes that align with our values of a strong commitment to openness and integrity and support for the development of researchers, especially early career researchers.

A recent article by the CEO of the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar, expresses a worrying view that the relentless drive for research excellence has created a culture which cares exclusively about what is achieved rather than how it is achieved, and the Wellcome Trust has launched a survey to better understand research culture across the country.

While it is right to support the best research, we need to ensure that we cultivate a positive working culture and reward and encourage positive behaviours. Enhancing our approach to developing researchers at all levels and supporting research leadership are therefore key priorities for the coming year. The recent publication of a new Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers provides us with specific guidance and expectations for the development of research staff, which we will begin to implement over the next year.

With only 15 months to go until the submission date, preparations for the REF 2021 will inevitably be a key focus over the coming year. Our Code of Practice was approved in August, and REF eligible staff are invited to voluntarily declare relevant personal circumstances. REF preparations are progressing well, thanks to the invaluable commitment of both Unit of Assessment Leads and staff in the relevant professional services. In January, we will be running a REF mock exercise to direct the preparations of the final submission in November 2020. It will be a busy year for Unit of Assessment Leads, who are pulling the submissions together on your behalf; please help them in any way you can, especially with their requests for information and data for the environment statements.

This academic year, we have made a number of changes to the University research committees, both in structure and in ways of working. We opened up a number of spaces on the committees to colleagues in Schools and Functions and we were delighted by the response – with over 80 applications from across the University for the 11 places on offer. Although we were only able to offer places to a small proportion of applicants, we hope to be able to involve those who were unsuccessful in other ways, for example in working groups or particular projects aligned with their expertise. In an effort to be more transparent about our decision-making on all research matters, we will publish the minutes or summaries of committee meetings on the new staff portal research governance page, which will go live shortly.

Finally, we will be hosting regular open lunchtime sessions over the year (initially two per term) for colleagues from across the University – researchers as well as professional staff– as an opportunity for questions, suggestions, ideas and discussion. We will provide further details about these shortly.

We wish you a positive start to the academic year and look forward to working with you.

Parveen Yaqoob and Dominik Zaum

Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Research and Innovation



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