October 10, 2023, by bbzsbd

New Chair of Research Staff Group: Leading a Positive Culture of Change

This month we want to highlight some of the activities and policies that the University of Nottingham are engaged in to help support and develop our Research Staff across the university. In this article we’re going to hear from Dr Alan Chamberlain, the Chair of the Research Staff Group, a Senior Research Fellow in Computer Science about his role and some of the positive cultural changes that are happening across the university.

Portrait phot of Dr Alan Chamberlain

Portrait photo of Dr Alan Chamberlain

I’ve been a Researcher at the University of Nottingham for nearly 20 years, and I’ve always supported other research staff and tried to enable others that want to take the ‘research only’ route in academia, and although in the past becoming a researcher was traditionally seen as a stepping stone to taking up a tenured lecturing position, this has started to change, with people looking at the role of Researcher as a possible long-term career route in and beyond academia.

From my own perspective I’ve always found it to be worthwhile to develop solutions and to get involved, giving people a voice and sometimes challenging assumptions. I’d initially represented the Faculty of Science as a Research Staff Representative, then gone on to be involved with the ‘Concordat Task and Finish Group’, then when the opportunity came up, I became the Chair of the Research Staff Group, which has a university-wide remit. On a more local level in the School of Computer Science I’m a Researcher Champion (with Professor Steve Benford) and currently supporting our Director of Research, Professor Andy Crabtree as we start to feed in the views of research staff into the school’s future plans. In my wider role I’ve noticed that each School has its culture, for example in CS we’re used to using co-design/participatory approaches in our research, so this is easily mapped onto the way we we’re doing things.

Different disciplines have different approaches and different cultures, but in my experience we want the University of Nottingham to be one of the best places for Research focussed staff to work in the UK. For us as a community, it is vitally important for us to have this vision, particularly when we start to think about the large number of excellent researchers who work at and with the university, and the ways that, for example we will be assessed in terms of people, culture and environment in REF 2028.

The university and other organisations such as the UKRI have adopted policies, such as the Researcher Development Concordat, which play a part in the ways that we are acknowledging the key role that Research staff play in supporting world leading research at the university, one of the leading research universities in the academic landscape. It’s worth remembering that all Research-focussed staff are allocated a minimum of 10 days of continuing professional development (CPD). I add mine to my ADC (Appraisal and Development Conversation) and this minimum of 10 days can also be written into funding applications too along with, for example costs for researcher training. It’s worth looking out for some of the funding opportunities that crop up that can also be used to support these activities.

Research-focussed staff are supported via a network of people. At a School level there are Researcher champions in place, at a Faculty level there are Researcher Academy Faculty Leads and there is also a network of excellent people at the Researcher Academy people who, as they say “work together to promote a healthy research culture, to cultivate researcher excellence, and develop creative partnerships that enable researchers to flourish”. If you haven’t accessed the Researcher Academy, please do. They run all kinds of interesting courses and events that are relevant to a broad range of people.

On a final note, we’re currently thinking about innovative ways to support Research focussed staff in the university and looking for funding to do this. We have an excellent team who are working on some great projects and funding applications at the moment, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t some good news soon.

Posted in Researcher AcademyTraining and development