March 26, 2021, by Rob Ounsworth

Help shape our vision for research

Update from Professor Dame Jessica Corner

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West this week launched a university-wide consultation on our new research strategy.

We are asking all staff across our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia to help shape our vision for the future of research at the University of Nottingham.

Professor West said: “Research is integral to everything we do as a university.

“We encourage our whole community – colleagues from all job families as well as researchers and staff who support research – to join this consultation.”

In the initial phase of the consultation, we are asking you to respond to a simple set of questions. We have already had a good number of responses – thank you.

We will be reflecting on your insights and, over the coming months, further engagement activities will feed into the consultation.

Senior leaders in Ningbo, China and Semenyih Malaysia will champion the consultation across their communities.   

The deadline for responses to this initial phase of our research strategy consultation is 5pm, Friday 23 April.

We will report back to you, and in December 2021 will launch our new research strategy, which will run from 2022 to 2027.

Discover how you can get involved

Thank you for your support. Your goodwill and our shared sense of purpose will help shape the next chapter for research at Nottingham. Please join us in this conversation, share your ideas and thoughts, and encourage others to do so.

BBSRC fellowship successes

I am delighted to share news of two fellowship awards from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Bipin Pandey, of the School of Biosciences and a member of the Future Food Beacon of Excellence, has been awarded a three-year BBSRC Discovery fellowship. This £400,000 award will support his development as a future research leader. Bipin’s study into how roots respond to soil compaction will help develop crops better adapted to demanding environments.

Daniel Booth, a  Nottingham Research Fellow in Medicine, has been awarded a £1m, five-year BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship to support him to establish his first independent research group. Dan’s fellowship will build on his work investigating how to remove the mitotic chromosome periphery (MCP) through a protein called Ki6, which may reveal new preventative measures or treatments for cancer.

David Phillips Fellowships are highly competitive. Of the 12 candidates interviewed, two were from Nottingham and this is our first David Phillips award in a number of years. This is a fantastic achievement.

British Academy Wolfson Fellowship

Dr Jake Hodder of the School of Geography has been awarded a British Academy Wolfson Fellowship. These fellowships – one of only six awarded in the UK – support early career researchers who show exceptional talent in both research and public engagement. The three-year fellowship will support Jake’s research into the impact of the League of Nations on the early African American civil rights movement in the United States. The fellowship funds new research in London, New York and Geneva alongside a bold public engagement programme which includes local primary schools, an exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society and a BBC radio show.

NIHR recognition

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has made a £22m award to its School for Primary Care Research (SPCR) to support primary care research over the next five years, and also renewed the University of Nottingham’s membership of this group of nine leading academic institutions. Our School of Medicine and its collaborators have a reputation for outstanding research in primary care and I am delighted our contribution to strengthening national provision in this critical sector continues to be recognised. We are also committed to developing early career researchers, and an additional £10m award from the NIHR Academy to support capacity building across SPCR is also great news.

Professor Kapil Sayal, who leads the Children and Young People Mental Health and Wellbeing research group at the Institute of Mental Health, has meanwhile been appointed as a NIHR Senior Investigator. This is recognition by the country’s largest health and care funding body of an outstanding research leader.

Interim Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science

Professor Zoe Wilson will become the university’s interim Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor for Science, taking up her role from 12 April to 31 July 2022, succeeding Professor Kevin Shakesheff who will be joining the Open University. Zoe is currently APVC for Research and Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Science, and also leads on the reopening of campus facilities following Covid-19 lockdowns.

Arrangements to recruit a successor for Professor Wilson as Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science will be confirmed in due course.

Professor Sarah Sharples to become chief scientific adviser on transport

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People, Professor Sarah Sharples, will become Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Transport in July 2021.

Sarah will advise government ministers and civil servants on all aspects of policy on science and technology, promote good practice in STEM-related areas, and facilitate communication on high profile STEM-related challenges for government. She will undertake her role as a secondment, retaining one day a week as professor in the Faculty of Engineering.

The university will commence recruitment to secure Sarah’s successor as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and People later this year to ensure they can start in role during the autumn term.

World-class health researchers advise MPs

The Institute for Mental Health, supported by the Institute for Policy and Engagement, has submitted a compilation of research, projects and key recommendations to support the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry on the mental health of young people and children.

The submission draws on our world-class research to suggest ways to build on mental health interventions and demonstrate best practice, and included contributions from Professor Paul Crawford, Professor Ellen Townsend, Dr Aislinn Bergin and Dr Gary Winship. The report highlighted 12 recommendations, including developing policy and strategy to mobilise the creative industries as contributors to the health of the nation, and implementing preventative programmes in schools and colleges to help young people develop resilience and tackle key risk factors.

Find out how the Institute for Policy and Engagement can provide support and expertise to academics looking to engage with policy-makers

Graduate Teaching Assistant programme

Postgraduate research students make a valuable contribution to our community, not least in supporting teaching and as inspirational role models for undergraduate students.

To reflect this, we are working towards a new model of recruiting PGRs on fixed term contracts as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), to deliver teaching-related work, while gaining valuable experience and income.

A teaching development programme will further support GTAs and other PGRs with their personal and professional development in delivering teaching, leading to membership of Advance HE.

The GTA programme, which will replace the current system of hiring PGRs as teaching affiliates on a casual basis, is being introduced as a pilot exercise in one or more schools during the next academic year.

This excellent progress is thanks to a working group led by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeremy Gregory and included representation from faculties, unions and other colleagues from across the university.

Information and support for researchers using NHS data 

A reminder that researchers across the university who use NHS data have an obligation to use guidance as set out by the NHS Data Security and Protection Toolkit (NHS DSPT).

The university makes an annual submission of our compliance and failure to meet the NHS Toolkit requirements can limit access to this type of data.

For further information and support, please see:

Research and Innovation resources, including  our own operating procedures and an NHS Data Management Workflow

Data management plan (DMP) toolbox

Information on research ethics and integrity

Information security and compliance

View a training session on research data compliance

Advice on doctoral standards

QAA, the agency safeguarding quality in UK higher education, has issued new advice on doctoral standards for research students and supervisors. This advice was produced in response to concerns expressed by PhD students about the impact of the pandemic on their ability to carry out research and complete their studies on time.

The QAA  guidance aligns with the support and advice that the university has offered our postgraduate research community since the start of the pandemic, and I hope it will further re-assure doctoral candidates impacted by the pandemic about the standards of their awards.

PGR annual progression review

The Researcher Academy is looking at how PGRs’ annual progression review process in schools and faculties could be improved. You can help shape this work, which is part of the wider PGR Initiative, by taking part in a survey.

A time to reflect and to look ahead

This week, we reflected on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and its impact on the UK. Not only has our expertise played a truly significant part in the UK’s response to the virus over the past 12 months, we have promoted the value of science as we rebuild and plan for the future. I very much look forward to conversations with you as we renew our research strategy to help us overcome these challenges.

Best wishes

Jessica Corner's signature

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









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