November 16, 2016, by Rob Ounsworth
University invests in ambitious vision for the future of research
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, reveals an exciting new chapter in the history of research at The University of Nottingham
At The University of Nottingham, we are committed to delivering research of truly global significance. Almost a year ago, a review group met for the first time, tasked with addressing how we will deliver the goals of our Global Strategy 2020 (GS2020) and grow our reputation for discoveries and solutions to global challenges.
I am delighted to share with you the result of this review, which is a re-focused Research Strategy.
The University Research Strategy, which will be unveiled in the new year, sets ambitious goals – and rightly so. By 2020, the University aims to:
- Become a top five UK university for research
- Join the top 60 global universities
- Increase its research portfolio to £700m
Importantly, the strategy recognises that it is also about all the individuals: academic staff, research staff, postgraduate students, support staff, who come together in teams and networks, to realise our collective potential to deliver exciting, adventurous and excellent research and impact.
Our review recognises what we have heard consistently from you about the importance of enhancing the environment for undertaking research, as well as developing research career pathways and supporting the dual mission of teaching and research.
The ambition set out in GS2020 is demanding. Key to achieving it is working towards marginal gains – small, incremental improvements in every aspect of research across the University – which will additively make possible the step change we need to reach our goals.
Raising the level of our ambition
Reflecting our determination to realise these goals, this vision is underpinned by one of the most notable investments in our history and over a five-year period we plan to channel significant investment into Nottingham’s research. A £1.4m initial investment has been approved to prepare for this five-year strategy.
We are already one of the UK’s leading universities, rated eighth in the country for research power by REF, which measures the quality and quantity of research. More than 97% of research at the University is recognised internationally and more than 80% is ranked in the highest categories (world-leading and internationally excellent). We are in the top 75 of universities worldwide and our research portfolio has a value of more than £500m.
This is a tremendous record but to achieve our goals for 2020 and beyond, and continue to thrive in a globally competitive environment, we are looking to raise the level of ambition as we work with funders, partners and stakeholders to tackle global challenges.
We have already established Global Research Themes and Research Priority Areas to focus and channel our resources, and combine expertise across disciplines to attract increased funding, generate greater impact, and deliver research solutions. These will continue to receive funding for adventurous research that draws on the breadth and diversity of the University’s research base.
Beacons of Excellence
These will be joined by Beacons of Excellence, Nottingham research areas that are recognised for delivering ambitious and adventurous research of substantial global importance. We will invest in these Beacons to have the critical mass, quality and effectiveness to deliver excellent research and impact. Beacons will further enhance our international reputation, and be our leading research areas, generating far-reaching benefits across the research base of the University.
Investment in our distinctive research and knowledge exchange ecosystem will significantly increase the amount of research outputs of the very highest quality – a key factor in achieving our goals for 2020.
Another cornerstone of our 2020 vision is continuing to attract, develop, and retain the highest calibre of talented researchers, and investing in research leaders and teams. Investment in a world-class research environment and infrastructure will underpin this.
- Invest in a Research Information System (RIS) and review how Research, Enterprise and Graduate Services (REGS) works, to develop a more effective infrastructure to support and deliver research and knowledge transfer
- Invest in supporting individuals to deliver a substantial increase in 4* research and research impact (a key driver in our aim of joining the top five UK universities)
- Recruit 100 Nottingham and Anne McLaren research fellows over the next five years
- Invest in digital systems to support our staff and the growing emphasis on working collaboratively to offer solutions to global challenges
- Invest in our staff and their research environment to develop career pathways and better support to the University’s dual mission of teaching and research
Research Strategy workshops
This brings me to the heart of our strategy. We place our talent at the centre of all we do. Everyone involved in creating and implementing the University’s Research Strategy recognises this: for our vision for 2020 to succeed, all our research staff, and the colleagues who support and work with them, must feel part of our plans for developing research, and that their contribution is recognised and valued.
To this end, we will be hosting a series of workshops and events designed to inform colleagues about the Research Strategy and to ask for your ideas and contributions. These forums will aim to share our thinking to date about how we will invest in research and in delivering the research strategy.
We want the implementation of the Research Strategy to be informed by those who do our research and manage our research. This will give us the best opportunity to realise the ambition, excellence and impact that is embedded in the Research Strategy.
The launch of the Research Strategy in the new year will also mark the first anniversary of my joining the University. I have already blogged about how privileged I have felt joining this wonderful institution and seeing the world-leading research going on across our campuses in the UK and in China and Malaysia. The commitment I have encountered, whether renowned professors or researchers taking the first steps in their career, to work across disciplines and share innovation is truly inspirational.
New chapter for research at Nottingham
I want all of us to explore how we can channel this passion and energy to deliver the goals set out in the Strategy. A successful research strategy is not a document or webpage: it should have coherence and be a living entity, made real by the people who make it happen, and resonate with our funders and our partners in research.
I look forward to this hugely exciting and significant new chapter in the history of research in the University that delivers individual and global ambitions for Nottingham, and I look forward to working with you all on it.
More details about the future of research at Nottingham, and how to get involved and help shape our strategy, will follow. Our planned investment in research over the next five years is truly significant and will present wonderful opportunities.
professor corner quite rightly highlights the fact that in ref 2014, Nottingham uni was in the top 8 institutions by research power. what she fails to mention is that Nottingham had only 3 ref units that hit the university’s preferred target of being in the top 5 by research power. one of these units, modern languages, was one of the largest units at nottingham uni submitted to ref, and one might have expected it to be seen by university management as a beacon for the rest of the university, not least as it is one of the university’s premier teaching units as well. but no!! its core research active staffing has been slashed by 20%, and its professoriat by 50%!! if this is how the university rewards outstanding performance in terms of its own preferred academic criteria, how can the prof corner’s words be taken seriously??
Professor Corner responds:
I understand your concern to maintain the performance from REF 2014 in Modern Languages research for REF 2020. The research strategy is not just about identifying a few areas of excellence for the University but improving the environment for all our academics to pursue world-leading research. I have invited the Faculty, and through this your School, to submit proposals that might provide additional support for academics to develop high quality outputs and also for developing impact. I have also been reviewing other interventions that might help with our ambition to create a step change in our research. Bringing Modern Foreign Languages together as a single Unit of Assessment in REF has been a difficult process. However, this will put these subjects on a sustainable footing and allow synergies and a coordinated strategy for developing the research over the longer term, helping to assure the future health of your most important disciplines.