Jessica Corner

January 29, 2021, by Michael Slade

Care homes trial offers hope

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

In a troubling week for the UK in its fight against the pandemic, it is heartening that a University of Nottingham-led national study offers hope of reducing the impact of coronavirus in care homes.

Professor Philip Bath and Professor Adam Gordon from the School of Medicine are leading a National Institute for Health Research-funded trial aiming to better protect care home residents from Covid-19.

Up to 400 care homes will to take part in PROTECT, a trial of drugs that already show promise for treating Covid-19. If these drugs can also prevent transmission and reduce severity of the virus, there is real hope of protecting the most vulnerable while also allowing residents to enjoy visits from their families.

Another important study, led by Dr Bahar Tunçgenç from the School of Psychology and in partnership with British, French, German and American universities, is examining how collective behaviour influences adherence to Covid restrictions. Read Bahar’s paper in the British Journal of Psychology.

Midlands Innovation – a collaboration between our region’s eight-research intensive universities – has meanwhile reported that together we have helped deliver £90m of research to support efforts to tackle the pandemic.

It is also good to see the School of Medicine’s Professor Jonathan Van Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, supporting the fight against the virus at a national level. JVT has also been in Nottingham, administering vaccines to vulnerable people in the city.


New era for clinical research in Nottingham

The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust have today unveiled a shared vision of becoming world leaders in clinical and biomedical research and transformative patient care.

The new Nottingham Joint Research Office will strengthen our existing partnership and amplify our commitment to transform patient outcomes and boost our city’s worldwide reputation for advances in clinical care.


Renewing our Research Strategy for a post-Covid world

Research remains an absolute priority. To strengthen our commitment to delivering world-class research that changes lives, the university is renewing its Research Strategy. This new strategy will run from 2022-27 and will further support recovery and our mission of building a more resilient world.

We are now planning the design and delivery of the strategy, and this comprehensive process will be inclusive and reflect the values and goals of the university strategy. A vibrant and inclusive research culture is essential to our shared mission, and your input is highly valued. Please look out for details of how you can get involved as we consult with colleagues and together help shape the future of our research.


Postgraduate research students

I wrote this week to postgraduate research students, and to their supervisors, updating on the support being offered to our PGRs, and stressing important deadlines for extensions for periods of study and funding.

Under our Phase 1 funding for Covid-19 extensions, most eligible doctoral PGRs whose original completion date was between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 have been considered.

This is in order that we can move onto considering applicants with later end dates who are part of the phase 2 funding, as announced by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Long.

For phase 2, the university will provide an extension to registered study time of up to six months for those registered for a doctoral degree or MPhil prior to 1 March 2020 and have end dates after 1 April 2021 and before 30 September 2023. PGRs will not be charged a tuition fee for this extension.

This extension will be available on confirmation of need, and this should be done at, or close to, the final annual review meeting. PGRs about to go through final annual review, should consult with their supervisor and act now: use the forms below to record the impact of Covid on your progression and confirm your time extension.

Covid impact statement

Form for time extensions

Guidance for time extensions


Funding extensions

Doctoral PGRs who have stipend funding supported by one of: the University of Nottingham; UKRI, the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation, and have a funding end date between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2023 may be eligible for extensions to funding. The full process and guidance for applications for funding extensions will be announced on 1 February 2021.


My thanks to supervisors

We recognise the significant additional workload in supporting PGRs is one of the hidden costs of the pandemic, and the dedication of supervisors should not go unnoticed or unacknowledged. Your continued input and positivity is hugely appreciated.


Horizon Europe

Further to my recent blog, I’d like to reiterate that the first Horizon Europe calls are anticipated to be launched soon, with deadlines in spring. The UK is fully eligible as a result of our agreement to associate.

These initial calls are for the European Research Council Starting and Consolidator Grants: highly prestigious, large-scale grants (up to €3m) for ‘excellent’ individuals in the 2-7 and 7-12 years post-doc window respectively, and their teams, with exciting, innovative ideas. Faculty Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellors for Research and Knowledge Exchange will help ensure we can identify an ongoing pipeline of high-quality potential applicants. Upcoming Horizon Europe opportunities also include:

  • The ERC Advanced Grant call (similarly large-scale awards for ground-breaking research in any field but aimed at ‘established research leaders’) with deadline in August 2021
  • Marie Sklodowksa-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships (the new name for Individual Fellowships) – fully-funded, two-year projects for individuals up to eight years postdoc, requiring international ‘mobility’; deadline September 2021
  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Doctorates (the new Name for Innovative Training networks/ITNs) – like international doctoral training programmes, requiring consortia usually including industry

We don’t know the call dates yet but EU Development Manager Matt Rackley has access to the draft work programmes specifying the ‘top-down’ topics for which funding will be available for collaborative research projects. The university is subscribed to a collaboration platform called Crowdhelix that facilitates consortium building in response to these draft work programmes and can be used by any Nottingham academics, researchers or research development professionals.

These are the initial opportunities, and we’ll be supporting responses to them as well encouraging a strategic response to future Horizon Europe calls that will emerge on an annual basis.  If you have any queries please get in touch with Matt.


REF2021: on track and in good shape

I am delighted to confirm we remain in good place for REF2021. We are in the latter stages of preparation and on track to submit by the deadline at the end of March, with individual submissions being finalised and prepared for uploading to Research England. We are doing this in separate phases, with current work on outputs and impact to be followed by our environment statements in mid-February.

Nearly all our output submissions have been successfully reviewed and loaded and those remaining are close behind. From a technological point of view, the outputs are the greatest challenge, so it is good news that this work is progressing nicely.

Completing narrative impact and environment statements is also challenging – it will be a relief to all the dedicated staff involved that work on this demanding aspect of REF comes to fruition over the next few weeks.

In recognition of the impact of the pandemic, Research England has announced further modifications to support final preparations by universities for submission to REF2021. This includes additional flexibility in processes for submission and audit together with options for additional time in exceptional cases. We are reviewing our preparedness and, at this stage, we do not anticipate that the University of Nottingham will need to take significant advantage of these measures but it is helpful to have them available.

We are mindful of the huge impact of the pandemic on research and on all the work towards supporting our submission to REF2021. We will continue to show understanding and be supportive of colleagues delivering this hugely important work in such exceptional circumstances. Once again, my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved. It is also worth noting that our thorough preparations and progress pre-pandemic has made a real difference to where we are now.


Anti-slavery pioneer’s award

Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery and Research Director of the Rights Lab Beacon of Excellence, is today being recognised with a Catalyst Award by United Abolitionists, a US agency dedicated to stopping human trafficking.

Tomas J. Lares, founder of United Abolitionists, said: “Kevin Bales is considered in many anti-trafficking circles to be the father of the modern-abolitionists movement here in the United States.  He is truly a role model and has been an inspiration to countless abolitionists today.”

Elsewhere, the Department of History’s Dr Daniel Hucker is co-editor of a new book, The Munich Crisis, politics and the people, while the Future Food beacon is celebrating papers published by Molly Muleya, Eliot Own, Paulina Flis and Levi Yant.


COP26 Glasgow: a unique opportunity to influence climate change policy

In November, Glasgow will host COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference. This important event is a golden opportunity for researchers working to combat climate change to influence international policy on one of the biggest challenges of our time.

The UK government announced the Expression of Interest process for academics and others to apply to host events, set up creative installations or book exhibition space at the summit. The deadline for applications is 5 March.

To support our researchers wishing to get involved, the Institute for Policy and Engagement is teaming up with the university’s sustainability team to offer advice on developing a proposal, and the opportunity to bid for internal funding to support participation at the summit. An announcement will be made shortly, but if you want to find out more, please email Chris Sims at the Institute.


Supporting the career development of researchers

Our Vice-Chancellor has confirmed the university’s ongoing commitment to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Professor Shearer West said: “The University welcomes the new and revised Concordat and sees its implementation as a key strand of work in strengthening and enhancing our current provision to build a positive, inclusive and supportive research culture at Nottingham.

“We have a long-standing commitment to the support and development of our researchers and this commitment will build on our previous Concordat Action Plans and HR Excellence in Research Award which was renewed in 2020. The launch of the Researcher Academy in 2020 further reaffirms our continued ambition to build a research community where our researchers are empowered to thrive.”

Find out more on the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and our plans to implement its principles during 2021.


Staying safe and Covid-19 testing

A reminder that you should be working at home wherever possible but where your research cannot reasonably be carried out at home, it can continue in our Covid-secure campus buildings, in line with government guidance.

If you are working on campus, you are strongly advised to be tested once a week at one of our testing stations. We must all also be reminded to 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. More on safety on campus and staff Covid-19 testing.


Your wellbeing

We are all under considerable strain and your wellbeing remains our absolute priority. Please stay in touch with one another, and don’t hesitate to reach out to offer or seek support.

More on staff wellbeing

Researcher Academy wellbeing resources for postgraduate researchers

My very best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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