February 29, 2016, by Michael Jennings

The University’s crown jewels – an insight from Professor Dame Jessica Corner on research and knowledge exchange

Guest post from Professor Dame Jessica Corner DBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange.

There is something about being new that allows you to see things as for the first time. I asked to be introduced to the University’s crown jewels in research and knowledge exchange, to experience things first-hand and to meet people who work with, and support them.

So I have spent the past weeks sightseeing my way around the University. I have been inspired by what I have seen, the people I have met and all the scholarly work that’s going on. I have been proudly shown around state-of-the-art facilities and equipment as well as superb learning environments for students to participate in world-leading research. I have been privileged to see so many truly amazing research groups, programmes and projects.

Seeing so much discovery-based research has made me want to begin again so that I could have the opportunity to work in laboratories, or with materials, data or artefacts or among the wonderfully bright doctoral students, many of whom have come to study in Nottingham from around the world. I am just so excited to be here, to work with you and to think about the impressive opportunity we have. Fortunately, there is so much more to see and many more people to meet, so the sightseeing will continue.

To all of you who have been so generous with your time – thank you.

I have been using these opportunities to ask questions, listen to colleagues talk about their experience of the University as a researcher, research student or as part of the support team, and reflect on what I have been seeing. I have asked for data about our research and research performance, and looked at our research and knowledge exchange strategies.

It has been great to meet many of the University’s research leaders and also the Global Research Theme Leaders and Faculty Directors of Research. I’ve recently talked over lunch with the Nottingham Research Leaders Programme participants, while a dinner with the University Senior Industrial Advisers brought a helpful external perspective from industry. I have also visited the research ‘engine’ rooms at King’s Meadow Campus to spend an afternoon with Research and Graduate Services, and gained insights into Business Engagement and Innovation Services including the Technology Demonstrator on Jubilee Campus.

So, you will be wondering – what has come of all this?

Well, the data are telling me two somewhat different things. The first is about the astonishing opportunity for the University to put all this to great use, to be ambitious and to do even more to tackle the great questions and challenges of our time. Secondly, there are some things we need to get in place to allow this to happen. So I have initiated a light touch review of our current Research Strategy to see how we might drive this faster and harder. Not to make any great change in direction but to ensure that we deliver our ambition to be recognised as a world-leading institution producing globally significant research.

I have launched a consultation asking for input into compiling the University’s response to the call for evidence for the Stern review on the future of Research Excellence Framework. I’m really keen to hear your thoughts, please do download and complete the response form and send to soma.mukherjee@nottingham.ac.uk by Monday 7 March.

Also, I have recently initiated a review of Impact in preparation for a future REF. In REF 2014 our research power ranking of 8th highlighted the global benefit of our research on society. We are currently conducting a review of our current position to help us identify strengths, opportunities and potential investments to ensure our excellent research continues, and to ensure we continue to have significant impact on economies, cultures and communities worldwide.

Having seen and heard so much about the remarkable research that is taking place here at Nottingham I would encourage those academics who can to attend the forthcoming Media Workshop at Sutton Bonington on Wednesday 9 March. The key note speaker is Tom Feilden, Science Editor for the Today Programme. There is more information on the News Room blog.

Please do keep inviting me to visit and meet with you. Sadly I am not making all the invitations to attend events and meetings – they’re just not all fitting in the diary – but do keep them coming. I look forward to our ongoing conversation.

Posted in research