January 15, 2021, by Michael Slade
Joining Horizon Europe: exciting opportunities for our research
Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Amid the current gloom, some very good news – the UK can look forward to associating with Horizon Europe, the EU’s new €95.5bn framework programme for funding research and innovation.
It has emerged from the Brexit deal that UK organisations will be able to fully take part in Horizon Europe alongside EU states, and it is anticipated we will be able to respond to the first calls in spring.
Being able to participate on a level playing field and as an equal partner with fellow European research institutions is wonderful news and tremendously important in these challenging times.
We urge our researchers to continue dialogues and open up new conversations with our European colleagues. By staying alert to opportunities we will build our profile as an adventurous, European-facing university, and secure further successes, such as the €2m European Research Council Consolidator Grant awarded to the School of Medicine’s Dr Stam Sotiropoulos at the end of last year to develop new MRI technologies for mapping the human brain.
Our commitment to your safety at this challenging time
As the third national lockdown continues, I also wish to update you on the university’s continuing action to keep our researchers safe.
Last week’s government announcement of the latest lockdown reconfirmed that we should continue research from home wherever possible, but where research cannot reasonably be carried out at home, it can continue in our Covid-secure campus buildings, in line with government guidance.
The university is continually reviewing its protocols to ensure we continue to meet or exceed all guidelines and restrictions. At building and school level, health and safety groups meet frequently to review Covid procedures and proactively ensure we are doing all we can to keep people safe.
However, I also recognise that colleagues may have personal concerns and may wish to limit their access to buildings for their own wellbeing or that of their loved ones. I am sure that your colleagues, supervisors and managers will be sympathetic and work with any researchers who would welcome the opportunity to work more flexibly. Please discuss any concerns – or thoughts about how we can do things better – with your line manager, supervisor or your school’s director of postgraduate studies. We will listen to you and support you.
While tremendous work is keeping our buildings Covid-secure, we must also all take personal responsibility to keep each other safe: isolate if you suspect you have come into contact with the infection, follow guidance on social distancing, wear a face mask and wash your hands regularly, and follow your building’s protocols.
Please continue to act responsibly. At such a critical and worrying stage of the pandemic, thoughtful behaviour and care for others has never been so important.
Covid testing on campus
For further reassurance on a personal level, please remember that Covid-19 testing is available for staff. If you are visiting campus to carry out or support research, you are strongly advised to be tested once a week.
Please visit our pages on Covid-19 testing. All staff, including postgraduate research students, can access the university’s testing service at one of our dedicated testing stations. Staff working from home can also access the testing service, but please do not take any unnecessary risks in travelling to our testing stations.
Postgraduate research students
Our postgraduate research students (PGRs) received an update from Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long on what the third national lockdown means for them.
A virtual town hall was held for PGR supervisors this week, which provided a briefing on the lockdown, Phase 2 PGR Covid-19 extensions and changes to UKRI international PGR eligibility.
Phase 1 funded Covid-19 extensions for doctoral students
The deadline to apply for Phase 1- funded Covid-19 extensions is Friday 22 January. Most PGRs who are eligible for phase 1 funding have already been considered, but if you are a doctoral PGR whose original completion date was between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 and you are funded by a University of Nottingham Studentship or a Studentship from UKRI, the Wellcome Trust or British Heart Foundation, please apply as soon as possible and before Friday 22 January. This is in order that we can move onto considering applicants with later end dates who are part of the phase 2 funding. Details and forms for applications are on the R&I SharePoint.
We are very much aware that many of our PGRs are facing a difficult and stressful time. We will continue to engage with you and will shortly share further information to PGRs and their supervisors on the steps we are taking to address concerns and further support you.
Critical workers in higher education
The Department for Education (DfE) has written to universities to clarify guidance on critical workers in HE and access for their children to schools and colleges.
While the Government’s position remains that everyone who can work from home should do so, the DfE says research staff, including PGRs, may be prioritised for school places if they are:
“Responsible for research and other activities to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and for other essential research and supporting activity necessary to meet regulatory, legal, health and safety or other on-going requirements. This would include long-running research which cannot tolerate a break, staff or others looking after living resources (e.g. animals, plants or bacterial cultures) or hazardous materials; or those that are essential for the maintenance of equipment and facilities.”
However, please show understanding and consider family-friendly work practices to minimise the strain on schools and teachers. Please discuss this as necessary with your school or department, which will supply letters on a case-by-case basis to confirm status as a critical worker to enable your child or children to attend school in person.
Supporting the fight against Covid
At such a troubling time, I’m delighted to share further news of how our research is providing a glimpse of light.
The university is supporting the NHS Covid-19 vaccinations programme, with two local vaccination services opening across our campuses and staff and students stepping up to help administer the vaccine to patients.
This week the doors have opened at a new vaccination service based on King’s Meadow Campus, which is set to be one of the largest sites in Nottinghamshire providing the vaccine to patients from across the city and wider county.
It follows the launch of the first university-supported vaccination site at Cripps Health Centre on University Park Campus on Saturday 9 January, where the team has recruited 40 university staff and students to administer the jab. Incredibly, so keen were people to support the programme, they had more than 770 applications in just 72 hours.
The university has also played a key role in leading the distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to members of the public across the UK.
The regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reviewed the data collected by researchers, including those based at the University of Nottingham Health Service, which played a crucial role in the study and led to the vaccine being authorised for widespread use.
Researchers from across disciplines are also contributing to understanding of the impact of Covid, from a study on forced marriage by the Rights Lab, to an Innovate UK-funded team from the School of Law developing a new procurement framework to guide post-Covid-19 recovery in healthcare.
Meanwhile, a team led by Professor Silke Weinfurtner of the School of Mathematical Sciences has been awarded £4.3m by UK Research and Innovation to use cutting-edge quantum technologies to transform our understanding of the universe and black holes.
Helen Kennedy, Professor of Creative and Cultural Industries in the Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies, and Professor Steve Benford from Computer Science have secured £1.6m from the European Regional Development Fund to partner with Nottingham Trent University and explore how digital and immersive technologies can support the local creative and cultural sector.
Professor John Gathergood of the School of Economics and Director of Technology Paul Couchman have co-ordinated the university’s response to the UK Government’s National Data Strategy consultation, which explores the value of data to the UK economy and society. You can read about the exercise and the key points raised by University of Nottingham colleagues here.
Policy and public engagement award winners
Congratulations to the winners and all those shortlisted by our Institute for Policy and Engagement.
The Best Policy Impact Initiative award went to the Horizon Unbias team, led by Dr Elvira Perez Vallejos, for its influential work into keeping young people safe in a digital world.
The Survivor Voices, Stories and Images project, led by Dr Helen McCabe, empowers survivors of human trafficking to share their stories with the world and received the Best Public Engagement Initiative award.
The Institute’s Director, Stephen Meek, reflects on the awards and outlines all the winners.
Launch of the Automated Transcription Service
I was delighted this week to attend the online launch of the Automated Transcription Service. Congratulations to all involved – this a truly game-changing innovation from Digital Research. A recording of the informative presentation is here; you can also explore more about the service at a series of webinars.
UNNC a global leader in responsible research assessment
The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) has been highlighted as one of the institutions from around the world driving innovative approaches to research assessment.
UNNC was the first university in China to sign DORA, the Declaration on Research Assessment, and the case study looks at this pioneering process and culture change.
It features on DORA’s enhanced website, which includes tools and guidance on research assessment and the responsible use of metrics. You can also find out more about our commitment to DORA and support for researchers in achieving its goals at University Libraries.
At this particularly challenging time, my heartfelt thanks for your continuing dedication and commitment to keeping each other and our community safe.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange
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