November 23, 2022, by Rob Ounsworth
Climate change: we are determined to make a difference
Research update from Professor Neil Crout
Following COP27 in Egypt, I am pleased to share news of how our researchers are delivering climate solutions that are having impact at local, national and global level, from a new energy system set to reduce carbon emissions and homeowners’ bills at an award-winning community energy scheme in Nottingham, to the UK’s first study of how people using wood-burning stoves can help reduce the health risks posed by wood smoke around their homes and in their communities. The School of Geography’s Richard Field, is meanwhile leading a £1 million project to inform the development of the world’s first biodiversity credit standards, to help businesses and governments to quantify their impacts on the natural world.
And as global leaders head to Indonesia for the G20 Summit, our partnership with Southeast Asia’s largest economy is helping to develop infrastructure for the development of electric vehicles and a new net zero translation centre in West Java, to support the transition of Indonesia’s most populous province a net zero economy, with an initial target of renewables meeting 20% of its energy needs of 50 million people by 2025.
We are the world’s second most sustainable university, according to the UI Green Metric World University Ranking’s latest survey for 2021, and sustainability informs every aspect of life and work on our campuses.
You can find out more on our C0P27 pages, which highlight how our researchers are dedicated to tackling the most complex and urgent challenge of our time.
Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West has also reflected on COP27, writing that universities must play a vital role in tackling the greatest challenge of our time by accelerating the delivery of sustainable technologies and solutions.
Research investment to support sector while Horizon negotiations continue
The government has announced almost £500m in funding for the UK’s R&D sector to mitigate the “increasing pressure on UK universities and research organisations” caused by ongoing uncertainty over UK participation in Horizon Europe. On Monday 21 November, Science Minister George Freeman made a written statement to the House of Commons indicating that details of the government’s planned alternative to Horizon would be published shortly.
Some £280 million of the new funds will be distributed by UKRI, including just over £70m each for both the UKRI World Class Labs fund and the Research Capital Investment Fund, as well as £100m in QR funding for English universities, with additional funding for the other UK nations. The package also includes £30m for the Talent and Research Stabilisation Fund, designed to help with talent retention in the absence of Horizon association.
Discussing new approaches to KPIs for research
University Senate met recently and a number of interesting questions came up about research. One was about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). I thought it might be worth sharing the main points.
We have two research KPIs – income/head and proportion of our outputs in the top 10% by field weighted citation. We are also using additional indicators for long form outputs and these are especially relevant in Arts and some areas of Social Sciences. The KPIs are not objectives in themselves but intended to be useful measures to help us judge our increasing research excellence. We want to do great research that leads to improvements in the KPIs, not make tactical changes to ‘game’ the KPIs. University Council has agreed university level ambitions for these KPIs – setting them at a pragmatic rather than magical level.
Faculty KPIs have been agreed following discussions and these will be cascaded to their schools/divisions/departments and reflect local challenges and opportunities. The KPIs work best in aggregate, because, as well all know, when we get down to individuals there is a large variation in contribution (some people big research portfolios, others big teaching contributions etc.) that reflect local requirements. This is a new process and we have just had the first ‘proper’ forecast of the income KPI which is actually rather encouraging. We are at the beginning of this use of KPIs and I am sure it going to evolve as we go along.
Institute of Physics honours brain scanner pioneers
Exceptional young scientists Elena Boto, Ryan Hill and Niall Holmes of the School of Physics and Astronomy have been recognised by the Institute of Physics for their work in helping to transform brain imaging with the development of a new kind of wearable brain scanner.
They were awarded the Clifford Paterson Medal for their pioneering role in developing wearable, lightweight brain imaging technology that uses quantum sensors to measure magnetic fields above the scalp (a process termed magnetoencephalography or MEG) that provides images of human brain function with unprecedented accuracy, even whilst the patient is moving.
Congratulations to seven of our researchers who have been named among the world’s most highly cited researchers. The prestigious Highly Cited Researcher list, which is collated by Clarivate to celebrate scientists and social scientists who demonstrate significant influence through publication of multiple papers. As signatories of DORA – the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment – the university is committed to avoiding journal-based metrics as a measure of research excellence. Nevertheless it is lovely to be able to celebrate the influence of our researchers. It is also an opportunity to put this success in the context of our commitment to changing culture around publication metrics and supporting diversity.
Our institutional processes have been updated to reflect the use of responsible publication metrics and key principles have been developed to ensure recruitment and promotion better respect diversity of disciplines, career stages and backgrounds.
Our highly cited researchers are:
Simon Gosling, Professor of Climate Risk and Environmental Modelling, School of Geography
Stamatios Sotiropoulos, Professor of Computational Neuroimaging, School of Medicine
Morgan Alexander, Professor of Biomedical Surfaces, School of Pharmacy
Steve Alexander, Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, School of Life Sciences
Clive Roberts, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology, School of Life Sciences
Gerardo Adesso, Professor of Mathematical Physics, School of Mathematical Sciences
Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Plant Sciences, School of Biosciences
Six of the list also featured in 2021’s list and are joined this year by Professor Gosling (who, like many of his peers here, has previously featured in Clarivate’s annual listing).
Find out more about DORA and the use of responsible publication here.
Author exposes the true cost of cobolt
Congratulations to British Academy Global Professor Siddharth Kara, Rights Lab Associate Professor of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, whose book Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2023. Cobalt Red is a first-hand investigation of the cobalt mining industry in the Congo. Cobalt is an essential component in mobile phones, electric car batteries and laptops. Yet most of the world’s supplies are hand-mined in the Congo by exploited labourers and children, working in appalling and dangerous conditions.
Introduction to trusted research
This has become a seriously hot topic and its important that we recognise the security risks around our research. The Trusted Research team (Research and Innovation) has launched online introductory sessions open to all staff and students and are working hard to translate the requirement sinto practical advice and guidance. The aim is to highlight the importance of security in international collaboration and ensure your research and knowledge exchange activities are fully protected.
Book a session: Introduction to Trusted Research and Export Controls
Trusted research is applicable to anyone who has international collaborations but is particularly relevant to researchers in STEM subjects, dual-use technologies, emerging technologies and commercially sensitive research areas.
UNICAS: bringing together cross-disciplinary research groups
UNICAS – The University of Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Analytical Science – brings together cross-disciplinary groups and provides internal funding to catalyse novel research projects involving analytical science.
Postgraduate and early career researchers can apply for awards of up to £5,000.
Academic, technical and research staff can apply for up to £15,000.
To be eligible to apply, lead applicants must have attended a UNICAS sandpit, – where delegates have the opportunity to present one-slide-in-one-minute to either highlight their expertise, research interest, potential interest for collaboration and/or research problem.
Sandpits are now open for registration:
Monday 12 December, 12pm – 4.30pm, Jubilee Campus
Wednesday 11 January, 12pm – 4.30pm, Sutton Bonington (hybrid)
Wednesday 25 January, 12pm – 4.30pm, University Park (hybrid)
Nottingham’s Universities launch ambitious researcher training project to solve local community challenges
The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University are bringing together researchers, community-focused organisations and citizens to improve the lives of communities across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
The Co(l)laboratory programme will train 50 PhD students and 50 ‘Citizen Scientists’ to undertake research projects that support the development of the local economy, increasing productivity, driving growth and improving wellbeing.
The team is inviting community-focused organisations to get in touch and help shape these research projects.
Once the first research priorities have been defined, project teams will be recruited and research is expected to commence throughout the next year.
Community-focused organisations are invited to find out more about the project and to register their interest here.
With very best wishes
Professor Neil Crout
Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange
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