May 7, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth
COVID-19: support for postgraduate researchers and invitation to a virtual town hall
Professor Dame Jessica Corner on the University’s response to COVID-19
In my latest update, I am delighted to share news of support for the University’s UK postgraduate researchers, whose studies have been affected by COVID-19.
I am also inviting our research community to join me at a series of virtual town halls –as we come together to consider our “new normal” for research in the post COVID-19 world.
Government’s £100 million for research
This week the UK Government announced its support package for universities, including bringing forward £100 million of quality-related research funding (QR) into this current academic year as immediate help to ensure research activities can continue.
The University welcomes this early measure of support aimed to help universities with their cash flow in the coming months. We are aware that this support does not address the much larger challenge of the need for the full costs of research to be covered by funding bodies and government. A well-supported Research and Development ecosystem, of which universities are a critical part, will be essential in the economic recovery of the UK as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Support for postgraduate research students
Following UKRI’s announcement of funded extensions for postgraduate researchers (PGRs) due to complete in the next year, the University Executive Board, in line with the University’s values, has agreed that equivalent support should be extended to all postgraduate research students supported with University stipends. Whilst we know that many PGR students have been able to continue with their work remotely, we know that some will have experienced disruptions due to the current crisis.
For all University-registered PGRs supported by external sources who do not feel that they need an extension, but could use a few extra weeks to ease pressure caused by the pandemic, the final four-year deadline will be relaxed for one calendar month and no late fee will be charged.
All COVID-19 related extensions will need to be justified by a statement of need and will be considered case by case through an application process – details of this will be released soon. All students will be treated equitably in this process, and the time extension awarded will be commensurate with the disruption experienced up to a period of six months.
UKRI PGR COVID-19 extensions will need to be prioritised as there is a deadline of 29 May for submission, and then we will move to looking at extension requests from other PGRs – please be patient as we get this process in place. Please raise any concerns with your supervisor or contact email@example.com. You can also refer to FAQs and other resources for postgraduate researchers, which are being updated in light of this announcement.
I do hope this support will help to alleviate some of the pressure many of you as PGRs are feeling at this difficult time, while underlining our commitment to our postgraduate community.
Virtual town halls for researchers
In these unprecedented times, it is so important that we have the opportunity to come together to share ideas, ambitions, concerns, and to offer mutual support. To support our determination to stay connected I will be hosting a series of virtual town halls with a panel of colleagues from across the University, as we consider:, “what does a new normal for world-leading research look like?”. I hope you can join me to share experiences and your thoughts on how we can support each other and prepare for the challenges – and opportunities – of working together in the weeks and months ahead.
The town halls will take place via Microsoft Teams on:
- Thursday 21 May: 10-11.30am
This session is aimed at postgraduate researchers and their supervisors, to book your place click here.
- Friday 29 May: 2-3.30pm
This session is aimed at the wider research community, to book your place click here
- Monday 8 June: 10-11.30am
This session is aimed at the wider research community, to book your place click here
Booking is via Eventbrite, where you will find further details. You will also have the opportunity to submit a question in advance.
In addition, there will be a Town Hall session for fellows to be held on Thursday 4 June between 10-11.30am. There is no need to sign up for this, you will receive an invite direct to attend.
I very much hope you can join me as together we can navigate these challenging times.
Wellbeing and picking up new skills
I hope all of us are managing to balance a new approach to working with the demands of constrained personal lives. I have been enjoying the invitation from Lakeside Arts to pause for a moment and relax with short videos from the artist community. These are released at 10am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. It’s been a pleasure seeing world-class performers alongside talented colleagues revealing their creative sides. Why not paste the link Pause for a Moment into your calendar?
When many researchers are away from the lab or work environments, there may also be an opportunity to learn new skills or brush up on innovative ways of working. The Digital Research Service is providing researchers with access to training, including training materials focusing on data science and introductory programming. The latest Digital Research blog explores photogrammetry (using photos to extract complex information about physical objects and spaces) and how researchers can create good-quality digital 3D models without technical knowledge or the need for costly equipment. The Digital Research section of the COVID-19 FAQ has been updated to include MS Teams information and links to training material.
We have made the difficult decision to pause recruitment to our Nottingham Research and Anne McLaren fellowships for the coming year. In these challenging times, we are focusing on our existing fellows and ensuring that those joining us in the next few months are fully supported. However, the fellowship programme remains a jewel in the University’s crown and remains very much active.
Over the next year we will be supporting, nurturing and telling the story of our fellows, as well as evaluating the scheme and developing the case for future support as part of the University’s post-COVID-19 thinking. Find out more about our fellowship cohort here
Our COVID-19 support
We welcome this recognition of the vital work universities are carrying out in support of the recovery of our communities and the country. Here in Nottingham, the city’s two universities are playing a play a key role in the development of a potential DNA vaccine against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Faculty of Engineering will deliver 5,000 face shields to Nottingham’s NHS and community healthcare workers. These were created thanks to our expertise in additive manufacturing (3D printing) at the University’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing. More updates on our COVID-19-related research here.
You might have seen in the news that UK Universities which are involved in COVID-19 related research are among those experiencing increased cyber-attacks. We must remember that the University is a target and we must all remain vigilant. If you receive an email which you’re not expecting, take a moment or two to look at it carefully. Make sure you know how to spot a Phishing email, make sure that your own password is secure and strong, and report anything suspicious. If you’re in doubt about an email, contact the IT Service Desk on +44 (0) 115 951 6677 or go to: https://nottingham.ac.uk/go/selfservice. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the University’s information security team: firstname.lastname@example.org or via our SharePoint.
Research Excellence Framework (REF)
Many thanks to everyone who fed into our response to Research England’s consultation on the revised submission arrangements for REF2021. Comments were detailed, strongly argued, heartfelt – and very diverse! In the end we have suggested minimising the delay while making proposals for late submission of disrupted case studies and reducing some aspects of the return. Research England have said they will announce the outcome in late May. So, for now, it is business as usual for REF.
For the latest research updates, advice and guidance including FAQs visit the Research and Innovation SharePoint.
Thank you once again for your dedication, kindness and support. Please do take time to reflect, relax and enjoy this long weekend.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange