Jessica Corner

October 23, 2020, by Rob Ounsworth

New virtual town halls and underlining our commitment to research

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

As parts of our region prepare to enter tougher Tier 3 restrictions against the pandemic, which are expected to come into force next week, our absolute priority remains your safety and wellbeing.

Our Estates, Health and Safety and operations teams are continually monitoring the situation and the measures we have in place. We are confident that on-campus research and in-person teaching will be able to continue safely, in line with UK Government guidance.

I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to all the amazing colleagues who are supporting progress in the recovery of our research in the face of such ongoing challenges. The current crisis underlines our commitment to research and its power to help transcend complex problems and secure a better future.

I am therefore delighted to announce a further series of online town hall events to help develop our thinking on how our future research strategy and its goals can address such challenges. I do hope you can join me and colleagues from across the University to contribute your views.

Town hall events

Our online town hall events are proving a highly valued forum to discuss how we work together to grow and develop our research activities in a post-COVID world.

They will again by conducted via Microsoft Teams and are open to all. Please see the table below and click on the link to register for the event relevant to your faculty or research group. Nottingham and Anne McLaren research fellows will be invited directly to a dedicated town hall.

I am pleased to be joined by the respective Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Research and Knowledge Exchange so that we can seek your input on faculty-level concerns and suggestions, as well as your thoughts on developing our broader research strategy.


Date Time Town hall
5 November 11am-12.30pm Faculty of Social Sciences
Professor John Gathergood, Faculty AVPC for  RKE
Register here
9 November 11am – 12:30pm Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Professor Richard Emes, Faculty AVPC for RKE
Register here
11 November 1.30-3pm Faculty of Science
Professor Zoe Wilson, Faculty AVPC for RKE
Register here
18 November 11am-12.30pm Faculty of Arts
Professor Lynda Pratt, Faculty AVPC for RKE
Register here
23 November 2-3.30pm Faculty of Engineering
Professor Chris Tuck, Faculty AVPC for RKE
Register here
2 December 10 -11.30am The future of knowledge exchange
Professor Chris Gerada, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Industrial Strategy, Business Engagement and Impact
Register here
15 December 12-1.30pm Research staff  (technicians, postdoctoral researchers, early career research fellows on internal and external fellowships and colleagues on research contracts)
Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Register here

Conversation events with the Vice-Chancellor

We are also holding a series of virtual discussions hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West, inviting colleagues from all levels of our research community to explore how we can seize opportunities to do research differently and better.

This is to facilitate a purposeful round-table conversation, while ensuring we capture input from across disciplines and fairly represent colleagues at all levels and from diverse backgrounds from all three of our campuses.

Join us and help shape our research strategy

Input from all our town halls and the Vice-Chancellor in conversation events, school and faculty engagements will help develop our thinking on the University’s future research strategy and its goals to:

Increase research quality and impact: locally, nationally and internationally, and how we can contribute to government agendas and to global Sustainable Development Goals.

Achieve a dynamic and inclusive research culture: our shared vision of supporting each other to achieve exceptional quality and impact.

These discussions will also inform our response to the Government’s UK Research and Development Roadmap.

I do hope you will welcome this opportunity to discuss the future for research at Nottingham.

This comprehensive programme will take us towards the end of term and the beginning of a new year, when we will take stock and apply your insights to support a creative, bold and sustainable vision for research.

We are achieving extraordinary things in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and I have been truly humbled by your dedication as well as your compassion and support for each other. Our engagement events are a further opportunity to draw on these strengths and move forward together.

Delivering research in challenging times

We can all take pride that our research continues to be delivered in challenging circumstances, and I am delighted to share with you some of our research successes.

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships

Two of our outstanding young researchers have each been awarded £1.2m and a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.

Dr Lauren V Hadley, a Senior Research Fellow in the Hearing Sciences Department, is exploring how to help people with hearing impediments to better enjoy conversations with others.

Dr George Gordon, an Assistant Professor in the Optics and Photonics Research Group, will study how to better detect and treat cancers that occur deep within the body, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

We have a significant record of attracting and supporting outstanding young researchers as they establish their careers. These grants will enable Lauren and George to establish multidisciplinary teams carrying out exciting research, while also inspiring the next generation of outstanding young researchers.

Our ongoing contribution during the pandemic

Professor of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology Roshan das Nair, of the Institute of Mental Health, has helped to launch Living with COVID, a UK investigation into the ongoing impact of the pandemic on patients and how health and social care services should respond.

Our researchers are also tackling challenges arising from the pandemic, such as a rise in cases of exploitation of potential victims of modern-slavery in Nottinghamshire, while our experts such as virologist Professor Jonathan Ball are making important contributions to public understanding of the science behind such concepts as ‘circuit-breakers’.

The School of Medicine’s Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, on secondment as England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has been named by the Health Service Journal as among the black, Asian and minority ethnic figures who will exercise the most influence in the English NHS and health policy over the next 12 months. Jonathan, a specialist in influenza and respiratory viruses, sits on the expert advisory group for the vaccine task force.

Supporting our postgraduate research students

Although we have been able to re-establish and grow our on-campus research over the last few months, we recognise the pandemic is continuing to have a severe impact on the studies of some of our postgraduate research students. We are continually monitoring the changing picture, including local and national restrictions and funder policies, and review our policies as necessary to support PGRs in the best way possible.

We are committed to this highly valued part of our research community. Please read my review of the support available to PGRs, including local PGR Town Halls dedicated to keeping you informed and to continuing conversations on improving your experience.

UKRI costed grant extensions

As you may be aware, the University of Nottingham has been allocated £4.6m from UKRI for costed extensions to support grants most affected by COVID-19.

For phase 1 we focused on grants ending before March 2021 and so far the University has allocated £2.8m to help safeguard our research activity across all faculties.

We are now starting phase 2, focusing on projects ending between April and June 2021. All eligible grant holders will be contacted by Research and Innovation over the next two weeks to review support requirements.

For those who fall outside the eligibility period but who have significant concerns regarding delays on their projects, please contact your local support team.

At the forefront of European research collaboration

Although the immediate priority has been mitigating the impact of the COVID-19, we have not forgotten the importance of maintaining and building on our European research collaboration.

As UK/EU trade negotiations continue, colleagues in our Global and Political Affairs Unit have been working with others in the sector to push for the best possible outcome for research collaboration.

We are forging closer institutional ties to important partner universities in Europe, such as the University of Tübingen. And whilst we are still eligible, we’ve been responding to European research calls at a good rate, and colleagues are urged to continue to do so. Find out more, including details of support and emerging domestic opportunities.

REF update

Our REF preparations are progressing well. Most impact case studies are now in their final edits. A few are delayed, some due to the pandemic, but in all cases we have good plans for finalising. Most units have developed their draft outputs return, selecting which outputs they will use and we are testing the upload of these to Research England’s system. The Environment statements will be the last part of the jigsaw. However, the central reviews are almost complete and feedback is going back to the units of assessment. Faculty sign-off of the returns is at the end of January.

There is more to do, but we are nearly there. My thanks once again for the dedication of all involved.

Innovation in Africa

Dr Jo Gould, an assistant Professor in Food Science, shares her experiences of working with partners in the UK and Nigeria to produce high-protein, insect-based snacks and set up sustainable supply chains in Africa. Jo’s is the latest in series of blogs where we invite researchers to write about their work and its impact.

I would like to highlight further inspiring examples of the resumption of our research, and encourage researchers to record such trips, here in the UK and abroad to share with colleagues, partners and funders. Please contact Research Communications Manager Rob Ounsworth for support and advice, and also take a look at this guidance on capturing video of your research on your phone.

Digital Research: online conferencing and other resources

As a part of a package of resources to support researchers looking to run online conferences and workshops, Digital Research invites you to join dedicated one-hour sessions, repeated every month for the next six months, which will present practical options for organising, running, and promoting a virtual conference. Dates and meeting invitations can be found here.

Digital Research has also created a new SharePoint resource to help researchers discover some of the support available, whether working on-campus, from home, or a blended mixture of the two.

Open access moves up a gear

Researchers seeking grant funding from Wellcome should take note of important changes to its open access policy from 1 January 2021.

Coinciding with international Open Access Week (19 – 25 October), the University of Nottingham Libraries Research Support Team has been publishing five blog posts to explore the key changes – including Wellcome withdrawing support with the costs of publishing in journals that are not fully open access. They will also require grantholders to retain and deploy copyright in their articles.  To find out more about the implications for publication of research, visit the Library Matters blog.

Thank you once again for your dedication

This has been an exceptionally challenging term and the Vice-Chancellor’s announcement this week of an extended festive break is very welcome. My thanks once again for your dedication and very best wishes.

Jessica Corner's signature

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

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