Jessica Corner

June 19, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

Fantastic progress as we accelerate our on-campus research  

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

I am delighted to say we are making fantastic progress towards the return of research to our UK campuses.

Thanks to the superb efforts of Estates, Health and Safety teams and wider colleagues, the Advanced Manufacturing Building on Jubilee Campus, and the Biodiscovery Institute and Chemistry Building on University Park are on track to re-open next week (22 June), with the Vet School and Plant Sciences at our Sutton Bonington Campus scheduled for the following week (29 June).

Learning from this careful approach to recommencing research, we are now moving to more devolved working to speed up the process, while ensuring this can happen safely. We are working towards all essential research buildings and facilities (where research cannot be done from home) being open by the end of July, and all other buildings required for University operations during August and September ready for the start of term. This will continue to require close partnership working between building users and the central Estates and Health and Safety teams.

We will continue to communicate which activities are ready to commence. As our recovery teams prepare buildings and research facilities, colleagues will be contacted by their line manager to discuss their return to on-campus working.

A stepping up of research activity will follow but please await notification from your line manager as access to buildings will be managed to ensure everyone is kept safe. The Recovery Group is mapping out a timeline for the reopening of buildings; in the meantime, please be patient and continue to work at home until you are notified. The Recovery Group has set out its approach to this complex task, including criteria for the wider resumption of research activity.

REF2021 deadline is confirmed

We have received confirmation of a revised deadline of 31 March 2021 for submission to REF2021.

Research England also reveals:

  • the impact assessment period – the period over which impact has to have occurred – is extended from  31 July to 31 December 2020
    (Please note that impact case studies where the impact is already finalised do not need to be reopened)
  • the staff census date remains 31 July 2020

Deadlines for submitting corroborating evidence for impact case studies, and the period for assessment for environment statements, will be subject to further consultations by Research England.

It will review its plans before 6 November in light of the changing pandemic situation.

Read Research England’s announcement

You may also be interested in a REF2021 webinar on 24 June on the forthcoming consultation.

Town halls

To date we have held five research town halls, with close to 1,000 researchers, postgraduate researchers and research support colleagues coming together via Microsoft Teams to share ideas, raise questions and concerns, and to offer mutual support.

Themes arising include our progress towards recovery; time frames to resume on-campus research activity; the effect of lab closures and the curtailing of field work and clinical trials; concerns over health and safety and maintaining social distancing; the balance between teaching and research; adapting to new ways of working, often combined with caring responsibilities; and the changing funding landscape.

I have found hosting these sessions very valuable, offering an opportunity to hear questions and concerns from colleagues as we work towards establishing our ‘new normal’ way of working.

The last town hall also saw discussion on what research could look like in a world after the virus. What would we do differently; what are the opportunities to work better together and collaborate more effectively?

Our FAQs and guidance have been updated following this town hall series. Where circumstances require an individual response, for example to postgraduate researchers on visas, extensions and funding, colleagues are receiving guidance and support on a case-by-case basis.

Thank you to colleagues who participated in these events. I hope you found them useful and informative. Given the positive response and the importance of engaging during this time when we are not able to meet in person, I am delighted to announce a new series of town halls:

Monday 29 June 12.30-2pm – for postgraduate researchers and their supervisors
Reserve your place

Monday 6 July 2.30-4pm – for the wider research community
Reserve your place

Friday 17 July 11am -12.30pm – for the wider research community
Reserve your place

Our research fellows are also being invited to a second town hall and will be contacted directly.

As well as focusing on our recovery, this second series will look ahead to the future of research in the post COVID-19 world. I’m keen to hear from you on where we might focus our resources and capitalise on our strengths to help to inform our approach. As you register, you will also be invited to submit a question in advance, and once again I will be joined by a panel of representative colleagues from across the University.

Our research strategy and COVID-19

With members of our research leadership, we are also inviting representatives of disciplines from across the University to discuss how our research strategy should reflect the impact of the virus and support the recovery of the UK. There will be opportunities for you to be part of these discussions via town halls and engagement events over the coming months. This crisis has affected every aspect of our lives, from the economy and job security to the ways we enjoy culture, to education, mental health and geopolitics. Our research focus has shifted in response to the pandemic, and as UK funding priorities further change, we must be ready to respond while protecting and reviewing our everyday approach to delivering transformative discoveries.

I look forward to sharing the findings and suggestions with you and to hearing your thoughts as part of wider consultation on how we conduct research and knowledge exchange in a post-COVID-19 world.

Digital research

As this extended period of home working continues, our Digital Research team is working hard to support you and transform ways of working.

A digital research update brings together a range of measures including maintaining our strong ethos of collaboration both internally and externally, collecting and storage of data, learning new skills and innovative ways of working.

Please also consider taking part in a survey to help the Digital Research service better understand the challenges and opportunities surrounding digital methods and data.

Our research, engagement and impact

Our researchers continue to engage with wider communities in exciting and innovative ways. Productivity Through Innovation, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, helps SMEs prepare for recovery by sharing expertise with postgraduates via remote work placements.

Meanwhile, experts from the School of Medicine joined an international study, which thankfully shows the transmission of COVID-19 from mother to baby during pregnancy is uncommon.

Our Future Food Beacon of Excellence has announced five new PhD studentships with Rothamsted Research, focusing on international agriculture.

The University has generated a further £1.5m from sales in the spin-out Oncimmune, which was founded in 2002 to commercialise a blood test for the early detection of cancer developed by John Robertson, Professor of Surgery and Director of the Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer at the University, and former Chief Scientific Officer of Oncimmune Ltd.

The sale of shares by the University – in line with our policy to release investment in spinouts to fund education and further world-class innovation – brings the total realised from Oncimmune to more than £7 million.

And to illustrate that our researchers truly push the boundaries of knowledge, Professor of Astrophysics Christopher Conselice has calculated there could be more than 30 intelligent civilizations throughout our galaxy.

Black Lives Matter

The University’s BME staff network is hosting an open discussion with journalist Angela Saini on how science has been used to further the racist ideologies of the far right from the 1600s to the present day, with a focus on the context of the global Black Lives Matter protests. This event is on Tuesday 23 June at 5pm and will take place via Microsoft Teams. You do not need a Teams account – to register or log in to join the event – just click the link on this page.

Please see a statement and resources on Black Lives Matter from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West, and Professor Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

University of Nottingham Malaysia

The Asia Research Institute: Malaysia is releasing a series of online lectures, COVID-19 Conversations, which look at the impact of the virus from perspectives including media freedom, food security and China’s soft power.

In addition to the town hall series in the UK, University of Nottingham Malaysia’s (UNM) Vice Provost for Research and Knowledge Exchange, Professor Deborah Hall, has also hosted two town hall meetings for research staff and postgraduate researchers to share initiatives and support the return of research activities.

University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Professor Tao Wu, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, has been honoured as an “excellent science and technology dream seeker” by the city of Ningbo for his outstanding achievements in scientific and technological innovation. Professor Wu is a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Chemistry and is also Dean of Ningbo Nottingham New Material Research Technology Institute.

My thanks once again to colleagues across all our campuses whose dedication and teamwork is ensuring we continue to make positive steps towards recovery.

My very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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