Jessica Corner

April 24, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

Dame Jessica updates on our response to COVID-19

I do hope you found the extended Easter break beneficial and restful. Many of us continue to juggle family and caring responsibilities, and supervisors and line managers are mindful of such challenges.

The health of each of you remains our first priority.

You can find support and advice on health and wellbeing while working from home on the University’s coronavirus information webpages.

A virtual Research Town Hall

To help me to better connect I am planning a series of virtual events in the coming weeks including a Research Town Hall. I would be interested in your ideas for how I could connect or ‘visit’ your research school or group. Please share your ideas to I would also like to further update you on our research and the impressive response to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic by our research community.

Take a break with Lakeside

We invited Lakeside Arts to help us all find time away from lockdown video conferencing to pause, relax and think. Lakeside contacted its artist connections, who have developed a series of short videos to share with you at 10am at Lakeside Arts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, beginning from next week. As well as contributions from professional artists, look out for posts from our own community of talented staff and students. Use #InWithLakeside and tell us what you think.

#MillionSunflowers add a splash of colour

The response to the Biodiscovery Institute’s #MillionSunflowers initiative has been overwhelming, with tens of thousands of seeds distributed, more than 1,000 people registering, and many more taking part to provide us all with a sense of achievement, as well as a splash of colour in these difficult times. Look out for #MillionSunflowers on Twitter or post images your sunflowers on Facebook.

#WeAreUoN and supporting the national effort

Staff and students continue to support our local communities and contribute to the national effort. Our academics are developing novel proposals for submission to UKRI and other funders in research related to the pandemic. Such proposals are an excellent opportunity to foster cross-disciplinary activities, and it is exciting to see the broad range of proposals that are being developed.

Volunteer PhD students are lending bacteria-testing expertise at Severn Trent Water, helping staff stretched by social distancing measures to maintain the quality of our water supplies. A number of postgraduate researchers and doctoral students are suspending their studies in order to work 12-hour shifts at the National COVID Testing Centre in Milton Keynes and upscale the UK’s testing effort.

Research Excellence Framework

Research England continues to consult universities on our views regarding the submission for REF2021, and an announcement on confirmed next steps will be made in late May.

You are invited to help inform the University’s response and your feedback would be welcome to the REF team by Wednesday 29 April 2020. Please email

To inform your thoughts, I encourage all REF-supporting colleagues to view a helpful webinar from Research England, which sets out the options under consideration including:

  • universal extension of the submission to 31 March 2021
  • phased submission, with for example staff and outputs submitted by March 2021, with impact/environment submissions to follow
  • a longer delay than currently proposed

Specifically on impact, while the number of case studies will not be reduced, Research England has invited comments on the merits of extending the deadline, including:

  • no change to the deadline but to allow for mitigations
  • extension to 31 December 2021 in line with outputs

Postgraduate researchers

Following UKRI’s announcement of funded extensions for postgraduate researchers due to complete in the next year, many of our PGRs and supervisors will be keen to know our response.

We are working hard at a considered response, taking in the complexity of PGR funding, individual needs, and fairness that reflects the diversity of our PGR community. We will continue to consider requests for extensions on a case by case basis, and encourage our PGRs to record the impact of COVID-19 on their research progress as detailed in the PGR FAQs on the Research and Innovation SharePoint pages.

 Nottingham and Anne McLaren research fellows

Two of our Nottingham Research Fellows have been recognised for their outstanding work. Dr Arabella Fraser is the UK lead of one of 20 Global Challenge Research Fund international networks announced by UKRI to tackle challenges in the developing world. Dr Philippa Tomczak of the School of Sociology and Social Policy has been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for her research on the criminal justice voluntary sector, prison suicide and prison regulation. Philippa is our second UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, following the success of thermodynamic researcher and Nottingham Fellow Dr Kay Brandner of the School of Physics and Astronomy in the previous round.

In light of the challenges facing all universities, I am also very much aware that some of our Nottingham and Anne McLaren research fellows, particularly those at earlier stages of their fellowships, may be unsettled about security, contracts and transition to positions in Schools. Our fellowship scheme remains a jewel in Nottingham’s crown and our commitment to our fellows is unchanged.  We will keep you fully informed of progress in supporting your career with us.

Digital research

Our researchers are joining the global effort to discover COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and the Digital Research team is actively seeking out global supercomputing resources essential to processing huge amounts of biomedical data.

We are delighted that Hernan Fainberg, a researcher in respiratory medicine at the Nottingham City Hospital, successfully responded to the global Microsoft Azure call for supercomputing support and received $10,000 – $20,000 in credits. Further applications may be submitted at techagainstcovid.

Google is also offering credits specifically to our COVID-19 researchers and applications may be submitted here. Researchers working with gene assembly or metabolomics that have particularly large, memory-intensive workloads and can find support at Google Cloud Life Sciences.

 Financial approval for Open Access publication charges

The University’s emergency spending controls apply to all requests for funding for gold open access publication charges. Authors need to seek relevant financial approval, including where expenditure will be met by the block grants allocated to the University by UKRI and the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF). Authors wishing to publish open access via the gold route should complete the open access form.

Following a review by Libraries staff to establish whether criteria for eligibility for block grant funding are met, authors then need obtain University funding approval. The process for seeking funding approval is set out here.

Authors are advised to take steps to ensure that their publisher does not generate an invoice in their name prior to confirmation of financial approval by the University.

When approval has been secured, evidence should be sent to in order for payment to be arranged. Libraries staff offer guidance on open access via the same address, including the free alternative of archiving in a repository (green open access).

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

You will be aware that Human Resources has now published details of how we will apply the government’s national furlough scheme at the University. This funding enables employers to furlough and continue to pay staff if they undertake a role for which there is no work due to the pandemic. This might include situations, for example, where work cannot be delivered from home or where it cannot be performed due to the temporary closure of buildings or services.  The Scheme can also support employees who are unable to work and wish to be considered for furloughing due to significant caring or shielding responsibilities at home.

Whilst the Government Scheme would refund up to 80% of relevant staff salary costs (up to a cap of £2,500 per individual per month), the University has taken the decision to top-up salary payments for furloughed staff so that they continue to be paid 100% of their contracted salary.

Full information and guidance is available for managers and staff at coronavirus furlough, together with FAQs.

University of Nottingham Ningbo China scholarships

Vice-Provost for Research Professor Patrick Chau has announced a new PhD scholarship, Addressing Challenges of Global Pandemic, which will support innovative research seeking to mitigate the impact of pandemics such as COVID-19 on society. Up to 10 scholarships will be awarded to research projects to be launched by September 2020.

 University of Nottingham Malaysia heroes

Ellias Ismail and the Faculty of Science and Engineering technical team, with the support of Dr Lim Chin Seong and Dr Khameel Bayo Mustapha from the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, are our latest heroes. They are using 3D-printers to produce protective face shields for medical workers at the Hospital Tuanku Jaafar, Seremban.

Thank you all for your dedication, kindness and support for the University. Please do ensure you extend that consideration to yourselves and to your colleagues as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times.

Best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

Posted in research