Research Fellow Dr Graham Newton and Professor Dame Jessica Corner

February 27, 2018, by Rob Ounsworth

Sharing our Research Vision: faculty drop-in sessions


Professor Dame Jessica Corner attended a number of drop-in sessions to meet researchers across all faculties in 2018. She is committed to extending this engagement in 2019 and looks forward to hearing from institutes and other research groups.  Please look out for an update on these discussions, and the actions taken as a result of issues raised, such as:

  • guidance and support on REF
  • streamlining the funding application process
  • balancing of strategic goals with fundamental discovery
  • recruitment and support of early career researchers
  • the need for increased international links, especially beyond Europe

Guest blog from Professor Dame Jessica Corner.

As Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, I am deeply committed to engaging with the University’s community of researchers and encouraging conversations between us all. I find it invaluable to hear how things are and how the University can provide better support for the exceptional research we carry out in this institution.

We are looking at new ways to encourage such conversations, and your input will inform how we best support you and your colleagues.

To this end, I have been meeting colleagues at a series of Faculty-based drop-in sessions, aimed at academics and staff who support research.

So far, I’ve attended drop-ins hosted by the Faculty of Science, and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Both were well-attended, lively – and, at times, challenging.

There’s no agenda at these drop-ins. The goal is to promote a roundtable discussion on the University’s Research Vision, and to listen to you.

Following the remaining Faculty Research Vision drop-ins, we will collate responses to themes that arise, and share these with you and the wider research community, for further input.

Our conversations have been wide-ranging. It’s been good to hear where you feel we are making positive progress and also areas that you feel need to be addressed. It was also good to be able to update you on the many initiatives under way which I believe are in the process of areas that you feel need further focus.

Digital Research Strategy

For example, colleagues at the Medicine and Health Sciences drop-in asked for an update on progress on the Digital Research Strategy.

We discussed the £3.7m being invested in 2017/18 to deliver enhanced digital research services that are innovative, relevant, and accessible to end-users.

Following a successful tender exercise the University has chosen a partner to deliver a new Compute Service that will include both on-premises HPC and cloud services, all accessible through a portal. We are now working with the partner to deliver the new service that is expected to be available from summer 2018.

We are also establishing a centrally managed Digital Research Service of Research Software Engineers and Data Analysts with a remit to offer specialist expertise that promotes access and use across the institution. Alison Clarke, Director of Digital Research, is currently building capacity before launching the service. Alison and her team have completed a number of case studies to help us understand opportunities for innovative digital services, and for using new ways of working to support research.

These case studies and other updates can be found at the Digital Research Blog.
The Digital Research team is keen to work with researchers on further case studies. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Alison Clarke.

A number of Research Data Management services are currently being built to support the safe, secure storage and archiving of research data. The services are currently being tested with researchers.

You may also be interested in Digital Research Week, Monday 23 April to Friday 27 April, which aims to raise awareness, stimulate conversation and engage staff in dialogue about digital technologies and services that support research.

Guidance on REF is another key area of interest

We are now in a better position on the Research Excellence Framework, with clearer understanding of what is expected. We are finalising a modelling tool for submissions, we are thinking strategically and in March the University’s REF Steering Group will put forward what we can do to improve support. However I do recognise a need for clarity and support at a local level and this is a priority.

Please also look out for a University-wide campaign to raise awareness that in order for your journal articles and conference proceedings to be eligible for REF 2021, they must be deposited with Nottingham ePrints within three months of acceptance. University of Nottingham Libraries offers a mediated deposit service to assist you. Find out more.

Other themes emerging at the drop-ins so far include:

  • Fellowships – eligibility, focus and overall support
    – We will be taking into account the feedback from the drop-in sessions and from school contacts when we shape the next call and set eligibility criteria. We will be updating the external fellowships website to provide a point of contact for those wishing to bring external fellowships/apply for an external fellowship at Nottingham
  • Concerns over bureaucracy
  • How to balance central priorities and the needs of schools
  • How to balance strategic research goals with the value of fundamental, bottom-up discovery
  • The need for increased international links, especially beyond Europe
  • Beacons of Excellence – their role in raising reputation, and concerns over colleagues not involved with these and the need to continue support for Research Priority Areas
  • Equipment – ongoing challenges with running equipment in a sustainable fashion
  • Support with grant applications and post-award activity

Forthcoming Faculty Research Vision Drop-ins and who to contact for details and to register an interest in attending:

Faculty of Engineering TBC
Faculty of Arts 10-11am 9 May
Faculty of Social Sciences 11am-noon 22 May
Please look out for communications from your Faculty on these drop-ins.

I look forward to hearing your views at these and other initiatives as we look at new ways of engaging colleagues and using your input to ensure our research strategy is agile, responsive and fully supportive of our world-class research.

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