Neil Crout

September 21, 2022, by Rob Ounsworth

Welcome to the new academic year

Research update from Professor Neil Crout

Welcome to the new academic year and my first update as interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange.

I look forward to working with you in securing the goals of the university’s renewed research strategy and sharing news of support and opportunities for researchers, as well as celebrating your successes.

Research culture survey: what you told us

In April, my predecessor Professor Dame Jessica Corner invited you to take part in our first university-wide survey of research culture at Nottingham.

I am delighted to share the survey’s initial findings and an update on next steps as we work together to better understand how to build a positive research culture and environment, where everyone who carries out or supports research can achieve their very best.

Across the university, 870 colleagues completed the survey and you told us that most people in our sample:​

Feel they are well-led where they work​
Feel that their leadership team cares about them, is accessible and committed to the EDI agenda​
Know what is expected of them and feel able to meet expectations​
Feel they have the support of colleagues​
Feel their ADC (Appraisal and Development Conversation) reviewer cares about their wellbeing​

There remains, however, much to do. In the survey you also told us:

A majority of respondents feel pressured to work long hours​
A majority feel they could achieve more here at the University of Nottingham​
Less than half feel mental health is appropriately supported​
Only a minority feel that underperformance or poor behaviours are constructively challenged​
A large minority feel that research processes and systems do not support them in their research

We are very grateful that colleagues from job families across the university took the time to complete the survey. Your input is informing staff-led working groups, where colleagues are focusing on co-creating practical steps towards improving local research cultures.

Find out more
Findings from the survey

Please contact us if you would like to get involved in our research culture events, share an idea or find out more.

We are meeting with colleagues at school level to discuss the findings of the survey and what we can learn from them. We will also publish School findings where these are available. Please also look out for a series of informal Café Culture get-togethers, where we can spark conversations and share ideas and experiences.

Thank you for your continued support. We want all colleagues from every job family to be heard. For meaningful change, we need as many of us as possible to contribute and be involved.

Together, we will help shape a research culture where everyone can feel part of a community, thrive, and be supported in achieving their highest ambitions.

Cost of living: support for PGRs

The university has reaffirmed its support and outlined help and resources for postgraduate research students (PGRs), who may be facing challenges due to the rising cost of living.

All eligible PGRs on University of Nottingham-funded scholarships will receive increased financial support from October 2022.

Our commitment follows UK Research and Innovation’s announcement  that it is increasing its minimum student stipend for the 2022-23 academic year by 13% compared to the 2021-22 stipend. The Leverhulme Trust and the Royal Society have also increased their stipends for this year in line with UKRI.

This means that PGRs who receive UKRI minimum stipend support from the university, either through a UKRI training programme or a university-funded scholarship, will see an increase by £2,059 for 2022/23 compared to the 2021-22 rate.

We know that many self-funding PGRs and those with additional responsibilities or expenses who may not benefit from this support will also be facing financial difficulties. There are university hardship funds available for anyone struggling to make ends meet, including a childcare support fund and if you are in financial difficulties please contact the financial support team.

As ever, in the first instance we encourage you to contact your supervisors or programme director.

Research and Innovation: update on refreshed structure
Research and Innovation Director Pip Peakman is welcoming staff into new roles as R&I completes the first phase of a transition to a new operating structure, which is designed to strengthen support to academics and allow teams to be more agile in anticipating and seizing funding opportunities.

R&I’s restructure aligns with delivery of the university’s renewed research strategy for 2022-27 and will further enhance Nottingham’s ability to be strategic and focused in response the challenges facing the UK and societies around the world.

Pip said: “I am delighted that we have increased our resources within Research and Innovation. I recognise this has been an unsettling time for R&I staff and I would like to thank the entire team for their patience and professionalism throughout the past few months.”

Following consultation on a new operating structure in January 2022, an extensive recruitment process culminated in 27 appointments to new roles. Some existing roles changed and others remain the same, with the number of R&I posts overall increasing in the new structure.

Pip added: “We congratulate staff who have been promoted, including Catherine Jew, who becomes Head of Research & KE Development, and Ali Alshukry, Head of Research Integrity, Risk & Compliance, and welcome our new recruits, including Niall O’Loughlin who will be joining us from Durham University as our new Director of RKE Excellence and Strategy.”

Also joining Research and Innovation in senior new posts are Victoria Crossley – Strategic Lead (UKRI), and Catherine Allford – Head of RKE Strategic Management & Performance.

Read Pip Peakman’s R&I update

Scholars at Risk programme

The university is reopening the Scholars at Risk programme for new applicants.

The programme, initiated earlier this year as a response to the war in Ukraine, is open to researchers and PhD students who will be fully funded to come to Nottingham.

Funding covers accommodation, stipend, consumables, travel to the UK and welcome packs – as well as pastoral and mental health support to all scholars.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme has been a key element to enabling us to welcome scholars to Nottingham. The university will provide accommodation for scholars and full support to sponsors who nominate someone for funding.

If you would like to nominate a researcher or PhD student for the Scholars at Risk programme please read the information page on the Global Engagement Hub and complete a nomination form.

Celebrating your successes

I am delighted to some of the successes of colleagues from across our university. This is just a snapshot of the personal awards, publications, outputs and other achievements taking place across our university and having an impact in the world.

Wellcome funding for research to reduce stillbirths

Dr Lopa Leach, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Vascular Biology, Professor of Physics Penny Gowland and Dr Nia Jones, Associate Professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, are part of a multidisciplinary research team that has been awarded funding from Wellcome Leap’s In Utero programme.

The team, which also includes engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians from both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, aims to reduce the worldwide toll of stillbirths by improving understanding of blood flow through the placenta.

Fellowship from Royal Academy of Engineering

Professor Derek McAuley has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition of his work translating technology research into innovation, business value and real-world impact. Derek is Professor of Digital Economy in the School of Computer Science and Director of Horizon an interdisciplinary research institute funded through the UKRI Digital Economy programme.

New picture of global plant diversity

Dr Richard Field and Dr Franziska Schrodt, from the School of Geography have contributed to an international study, published in open access in Nature Communications, that produced unprecedented ‘local’ maps of global plant biodiversity to improve predictions of climate change.

Links between vulnerability and exploitation

Academics, from the Rights Lab – the world’s largest group of modern slavery researchers – alongside experts from the schools of Sociology and Social Policy and Health Sciences, are being funded by the Nuffield Foundation to examine the relationships between different types of vulnerability, such as learning disability, and exploitation.

Times Higher shortlisters

Our university’s reputation for excellence in research, teaching and student support has been recognised with shortlistings in the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards 2022 – the ‘Oscars of Higher Education.’

Clive Roberts, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology Pharmacy and Head of the School of Life Sciences, has been shortlisted as Outstanding Research Supervisor of the Year.

Gary Burnett, Professor of Transport Human Factors, Faculty of Engineering, has been shortlisted as Most Innovative Teacher of the Year

Finally, thank you for your support. I look forward to sharing many more opportunities and successes with you.
Very best wishes

Neil signature

Neil Crout
Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange

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