December 15, 2022, by Rob Ounsworth

Season’s greetings and welcome to my final research update of 2022

Research update from Professor Neil Crout

I would like to share highlights from the year and look ahead to 2023 as we will build on progress, with a focus on the support available to our research community.

I also wish to acknowledge the support and dedication of everyone contributing to research at the University of Nottingham.

REF and KEF: congratulations and thank you

Our results from the 2021 Research Excellence Framework – published in May – reaffirmed Nottingham as one of the country’s leading research institutions. We maintained our overall research power while improving our GPA position, in particular making a notable improvement in outputs assessment.

Through the assessment of impact REF endorses the role our research plays in benefiting society; in the REF2021 assessment period (2014-21), helped improve the lives of more than 100 million people.

We saved the NHS £2 billion, thanks to research influencing vaccine policies, evidencing the value of community pharmacies and helping GPs reduce prescription errors – and more.

Equally impressively our research informed legislation that affects every UK citizen, from road safety, to safeguarding children online, to protecting consumers.

I am grateful to colleagues who made our submission possible and helped deliver our very good set of results.

Meanwhile, the latest Knowledge Exchange Framework confirmed us as one of England’s leading universities for working collaboratively with industry and the public sector. Our partnerships with industry roll out our innovations and help secure sustainable, skilled economies. We are in the top 10% of universities working with business and 8th in the country for research with industry.

Delivering our renewed research strategy

In 2022 we renewed our research strategy until 2027, underpinning our commitment to addressing strategic and global challenges while planning for the unexpected. The aim is to support our researchers to undertake the highest quality of work.

Strengthening support for academics

Changes in Research and Innovation are designed to strengthen support to academics and allow us to be more agile – anticipating funding opportunities and focused in response to the societal challenges at home and abroad.

We’re making significant progress, specific ongoing initiatives include:

Enhanced wraparound support for strategic funding bids: with research development specialists helping to build scale into emerging areas of success, particularly those that are interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary.

A relaunch of the International Research Collaboration Fund with support for discipline-based partnerships coming soon.

Work is underway to improve systems and processes: this will broaden to all stages of the project lifecycle and include clearer and streamlined processes to simplify the administrative burden on researchers.  This was a top ‘ask’ in the strategy consultation and we will be able to share more about progress of this work in the near future.

Recruitment to our next round of the fellowship programme is under way; 55 candidates have been invited to submit full applications.

I would like to join Director of Research and Innovation Pip Peakman in thanking all R&I staff for their professionalism, hard work, dedication and good humour in delivering these changes

Supporting interdisciplinary research

We are committed to addressing key challenges through collaborative and interdisciplinary research.

The Flexible Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Fund supports the establishment of innovative interdisciplinary partnerships and encourages collaborations between existing teams with the vision to include external partners.

In 2022, we funded 18 initial projects; a number of which have accepted follow-on funding.

The next round of the Flexible Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Fund is open until 5pm on Wednesday 18 January 2023.  

Find out how to apply

UNICAS: bringing together cross-disciplinary groups

UNICAS (University of Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Analytical Science) brings together cross-disciplinary research groups to showcase expertise, discuss challenges and network.

It provides funding to catalyse novel research projects.

The next sandpits are:

Wednesday 11 January, 12pm – 4.30pm, Sutton Bonington (hybrid)

Wednesday 25 January, 12pm – 4.30pm, University Park (hybrid)

Register and find out more

The deadline for funding applications is 5pm Wednesday 22 February 2023

Academic Lead for Research Development

I am delighted to welcome Professor Vicky Chapman as Academic Lead for Research Development. Working with R&I and F-APVCs Vicky will provide academic input and leadership across our research development initiatives (such as UNICAS and the Flexible Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Fund mentioned above). Vicky has been working as a Global Research Theme Lead and played a major role in the re-design of our research support initiatives.

Researcher development

The Researcher Academy leads an exceptional programme of training and development, at all stages including our research leadership programmes.

You don’t need to take my word for it, BBSRC highlighted our focus on wellbeing in the 2022 Postgraduate Research Student (PGR) induction programme as best practice. The training and development programme for 2023 will continue to focus on inclusivity, with all researchers able to access courses/programmes ranging from fundamentals to data skills, peer mentoring and engaging with policymakers.

Leadership programmes for post-docs, early career researchers and research leaders are also available.

I would like to join Professor Lucy Donaldson, APVC for the Researcher Academy, in acknowledging the tremendous and tireless support given to PGRs by supervisors and many others in schools, faculties and the Researcher Academy.

Engaging the public and policymakers

The Institute for Policy and Engagement coordinated our engagement with thousands of people with our research at the annual Festival of Science and Curiosity, Festival of Social Sciences and Science in the Park. Visitors to Highfields and University Park accessed tracks over 26,000 times via four listening posts.

At the conference on Policy Impact in the Global South, the institute welcomed speakers from the Commonwealth, the African Union, UNICEF and international development agency GIZ.

The theme for the Institute’s annual conference, Nottingham Engaged, was ‘New Horizons; making a positive impact through policy and public engagement in the future’. Both conferences were a welcome return to in-person networking following the pandemic.

The Policy Impact Pathways Programme for early career researchers launched for the second year, this time accompanied by the Policy Impact Accelerator Programme for mid-career academics.

In February 2023, the Institute will launch its Social Sciences Net Zero Hub, showcasing the importance of social science research to policymakers.

The coming year will see the creation of a Research Advocacy team to support major research and funding priorities.

And the Institute will be applying for the Engage Watermark – granted by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) to recognise strategic support for public engagement.

Digital research

The Digital Research Service and the DTS Partnering & Innovation team are essential to many of our researchers.

In 2022, they launched:

UoN Research Link, a pilot tool for finding colleagues by expertise area and supporting interdisciplinary initiatives.

Trusted Research Environments(aka Data Safe Havens), a way to work with sensitive data provided by external collaborators.

And the Stratocore equipment and facilities management platform was renewed and extended to allow us to apply it across more of our faciltiies

In 2023, the team looks forward to implementing a new high-performance computer., which will underpin research across the University

All this activity in support of research could not be delivered without the dedication and goodwill of thousands of colleagues across our university. Thank you.

I wish you, your loved ones and family a restful winter break.

With very best wishes,

Neil Crout signature

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