Category / international

UUK have published International Research Collaboration After the UK Leaves the European Union. The information below summarises the main thrust of the document.

 

Benefits of Research Collaboration

International collaboration is vital as it enables individual academics to increase their impact through pooling expertise and resources with other nations to tackle global challenges that no one country can tackle alone. Cross-nation collaboration increases citations and combined talents produce more innovative and useful outcomes.

 

The paper emphasises that the researchers themselves need to drive the collaboration and have choice. Selecting ‘Britain’s best new research partners’ is infeasible as sectors have different needs and Britain needs to collaborate with the countries with the richest talent and expertise. Funding needs to be well-structured and flexible to allow this.

 

The foreword on page 2 states “We should look to developing new networks and funding arrangements that support collaboration with major research powers” both within Europe and internationally. “The primary focus should be on delivering excellent research”, the government should seek to access and influence the 9th Framework Programme (Horizon successor), alongside new funding sources to incentivise collaborations with high-quality research partners beyond the EU. UUK call for a cross-government approach to supporting international research and the drawing together of the current disparate funding mechanisms, including “promoting research collaboration opportunities as a central pillar of the UK’s offer to overseas governments and businesses.”

 

Collaborative Partners

While its important to work with both EU and non-EU partners the report notes that research with other EU member states collectively makes up the largest pool of collaborators. “Research undertaken with EU partners like Germany and France is growing faster than with other countries – hence while it is vital that the UK takes every opportunity to be truly global in their outlook, the importance of collaboration with EU partners should not be underestimated.”

 

Almost all the growth in research output in the last 30 years has been brought about by international partnership. In 1981 less than 5% of UK research publications had an overseas co-author. Whereas Figure 1 below demonstrates how collaboration has changed, illustrating how domestic output has plateaued and non-UK collaborations accounts for recent growth.

 

Figure 1: The trajectory of international co-authorship on research publications from Imperial, UCL, Cambridge and Oxford.        (Data: source, Web of Science; analysis, King’s College Policy Institute).

 

 

Table 1 below highlights the UK’s major collaborative partners demonstrating a mix of EU and non-EU partners (non-EU partner in bold).

 

Table 1: Countries co-authoring UK output (2007-2016).

The UUK report reminds that research is a form of diplomacy leading to alliances and memoranda between national academies. The international links create esteem and demonstrate the wider engagement and status of an institution which is attractive to international students and staff.

 

 

Addressing Collaborative Barriers

Addressing the barriers to research collaboration is more than just funding, the report calls for:

 

  • Better information on capabilities and strength of UK researchers

 

The report states there needs to be better understanding and matching of research and innovation strengths between partners and potential collaborators, with clearer articulation of these and provision of contact points at the research organisation, funding agency and sector levels.

 

The circulation of people and ideas is fundamental to international research collaborations: National policy frameworks of all partners must be flexible enough to support international exchange, enabling critical human resources – including technical expertise – to flow between systems.

 

  • Cultural barriers need better understanding

 

The report highlights South Korea and Taiwan as attractive collaborators because of their research-intensive economies, strong technology investment, excellent university system, and high-English speaking rate. However collaboration is challenged by geography, proximity and cultural differences.  UUK report that communication problems are a key barrier alongside the uncertainty about research profiles of UK universities and significant differences in research governance.

 

Researchers working within different national contexts will have experience of different research cultures. These can be a source of strength and innovation, but also create challenges that must be understood, acknowledged and addressed. This requires time, but can be mitigated by the development of shared understandings, priorities and policy frameworks.

 

  • Policy and funding stability is essential

 

Stability, certainty and trust are required if successful international research collaborations are to be fostered. Partners need to have confidence that the policy and funding environment will not be subject to unexpected or dramatic change after they have invested the time and resources necessary to develop productive and beneficial partnerships. Stability and certainty in both policy and funding environment is a key facilitator.

 

  • Bilateral agreements with defined funding facilitated by a coordinated application process

 

The report effectively highlights the difficulties of ‘double jeopardy’ (Roberts, 2006) whereby all partners need to individually secure funding across a sustaining period to both commence and fully complete. Furthermore while countries commission and pay for the research it depends on individual motivation for success. Individuals make research choices that further their career and are fundable. EU links exist because researchers at well-funded institutions saw mutual net benefits, however EU collaboration proliferated because mutually assured Framework Programme funding supported it.

 

The report suggests a mechanism for effective research collaboration is to create more flexible agency-level bilateral agreements with associated secure funding. A Memorandum of Understanding should identify common priorities and mutual research standards yet this should be backed up by a research fund. Page 6 describes collaboration with Brazil as an example of this.

 

Furthermore, UK research funding beyond the EU is highly dependent on the ODA budget which limits research themes and fundable countries. Post Brexit the UK needs new money without ODA type restrictions to support collaborations with partners not eligible for EU funds.

 

Note: UUK have also released a second report on whether free trade agreements can enhance opportunities for UK higher education post Brexit.

 

References

Roberts, Sir Gareth. (2006). International partnerships of research excellence.

 

 

European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) event on Thursday, 27th April 2017

Working with local businesses? Why not alert them to this opportunity?

 
The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are the European Union’s main funding programmes for supporting growth and jobs across the EU. They form part of the UK Government’s overall growth activity. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) aims to improve economic and social cohesion in the European Union by focusing its investments on areas such as innovation, research, and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Borough of Poole is hosting a workshop to maximise the quality of the funding applications in Dorset, with the collaboration of the Departement for Communities and Local Governement (DCLG), the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the ESIF Technical Assistance in Dorset.

The event is targeting public and private organisations looking at submitting an application to the current ERDF calls in Dorset, published on GOV.UK. Speakers from the Dorset LEP and from DCLG will cover the ESIF priorities for Dorset, the call criteria and the national ERDF rules. The audience will have the opportunity to meet potential partner organisations and to discuss collaborative applications. One to one surgeries with Technical Assistance will be available in the afternoon (limited places).

The current ERDF for Dorset calls are accessible on the Gov.uk website

Event details – Thursday, 27th April from 10:00 – 15:00 at the Civic Centre, Poole.

Registration is required but the event is free to attend. More information is also available on the Dorset LEP website.

If BU staff are unable to attend but would like to find out more, Emily Cieciura, RKEO’s Research Facilitator: EU & International, will be attending, along with other BU staff.

 

HE Policy Update w/e 7th April

Higher Education and Research Bill: the Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords this week with little fanfare. An amendment relating to the ‘transparency duty’ (publishing further information on applicants’ backgrounds for better WP policy targeting and transparent admissions) was moved but withdrawn. This followed reassurance from the government that they will require the Office for Students to consult on the transparency duty. Eight minor government amendments were agreed, full details can be read in Hansard. The Bill will reappear in the Commons after the Easter recess, when as noted in last week’s update, the opposition and cross bench amendments are expected to be removed.

Brexit: The Commons Select Committee for Exiting the EU released their report The Government’s negotiating objective: the White Paper. Wonkhe report that not all members of the committee agreed with the conclusions in the report. Pages 68-71 cover science and research and reiterate previous calls from the sector for the immigration system to support researchers and students and for the UK to continue to participate in Horizon 2020.

Tuition Fees: In a non-binding debate in the House of Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour) moved that the House of Lords regrets the 2016 changes to the tuition fee regulations and loan conditions which have worsened circumstances for some students, particularly WP and part time students. Lord Stevenson stated it is “virtually impossible to challenge what the Government are doing” and suggested that fee increases, the ending of maintenance grants, and introduction of income-contingent tax liabilities had not achieved what they had set out to do for the public purse whilst burdening students with ever-increasing debts. He asked for clarification on the “huge gap” in public finances the system was creating and explained that his motion would call on the Government to report annually to Parliament on the impact on the economy of increasing graduate debt, provide estimates of payback rates and an estimate of the annual cost to the Exchequer of the present system. Stevenson and other Lords also criticised the linking of fees to the TEF.

The voting was close and the motion to regret was agreed by the Lords.

Speaking for the Government Viscount Younger of Leckie expressed his disappointment about the vote and stressed that the Government’s policy intention remained to link fees to the quality of provision via the teaching excellence framework.

A second motion to regret has been tabled for Wed 26 April by Lord Clark of Windermere to move that the House of Lords regrets the introduction of tuition fees and removal of bursaries for NHS students.

Science Communication: The Science and Technology select committee have reported on their inquiry into science communication. The report notes that public interest in science is high and rising yet most people still lack a personal connection or understanding of science, and there is low trust in science journalism. The committee report concurs with the Stern recommendation for REF to synonymise impact with associated policy-making. Furthermore, the Government has abandoned the intended anti-lobbying clause in government contracts and grants because for research grants it sent the wrong message, discouraging instead of encouraging the widest and fullest possible science communication and engagement.

The full report examines communication of science, including through social media and reaching young people. It also tackles the misrepresentation of scientific results in the media. Highlighting inaccurate interpretations of statistics, and distortion of results to sensationalise the story as source of public suspicion. The report calls for government to ensure that a robust redress mechanism is provided for when science is misreported.

It also recommends exploring multiple aspects of diversity, instead of just gender, so young people have a wide range of role models to inspire them to pursue STEM careers. There is an interesting section (paragraphs 13-21) on outreach to schools and young people in relation to the STEM skills gap and whether science communication has a role to play in addressing the STEM gap particularly through redressing negative messaging.

Recruitment: The latest UCAS statistical release reconfirms the known drop in applications – UK students down by 4% (c.25,000), EU 6% down, international applications increase by 2%.

Apprenticeships: It’s been a busy news week for apprenticeships – the Apprenticeship Levy for business is now in force and the Institute for Apprenticeships was launched on Monday. It has been confirmed that degree apprenticeships will be regulated by HEFCE (QAA) through the Annual Provider Review process, with the quality of training provision inspected by Ofsted, except where the apprenticeship standard contains a prescribed HE qualification – this will be assessed through joint working (HEFCE/Ofsted).

A recent Commons select committee report on apprenticeships has criticised the government’s apprenticeship policy stating it will not resolve the skills gaps as it is not sufficiently focussed on specific sectors nor targets key regions where training is lacking. The Committee also warns that schools are still failing to promote non-university routes.

Technical and Further Education Bill: this Bill has been amended and passed by the Lords. The Lords debate noted improvements are needed in learner support when private providers fail, alongside clarity for targeting apprenticeships in the engineering, construction, IT skills shortage areas. The Bill will now return to the Commons. If you would like more

Other news:

The Times covers Exeter University’s online masters degrees – fees will be £18,000 (same fee for UK and international students).

Radio 4 broadcast A Degree of Fraud, which covered the contract cheating services that provide bespoke essays. UK Essays claim to have sold 16,000 essays during 2016. It is reported that students can purchase a guaranteed 2:1 essay within 12 hours for £450. The broadcast also recognises Lord Storey’s campaign for parliament to outlaw bespoke writing services. You may remember this was covered in an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill which was withdrawn following reassurance from Jo Johnson who has asked the QAA to take steps to combat the ‘essay mills’.

Wonkhe discuss Hobson’s potentially mobile international student survey and look at the positive and negatives of a branch campus with a nod to the Brexit context.

The Guardian presents case studies of two disabled students who are failing to complete their studies after the reduction in disability benefits. It highlights how the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a ‘gateway benefit’ meaning students that lose it are then ineligible to access other supports such as universal credit or carer’s allowance. It is recognised that students with mental health disabilities are particularly affected.

Lily Boulle, student at the University of East London, went to Citizens Advice for help and found she was “locked out” of the benefit system. “There’s absolutely nothing you can get as a student unless you have PIP. It doesn’t make sense.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Disabled students… may be eligible if they need to take time out from studying due to their condition.”

The Equality Challenge Unit published experiences of gender equality in STEMM academia which expresses disadvantages experienced by women academics (more teaching and admin, less research time, less training, limitations due to caring responsibilities) and intersects the data with ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age.

Deadline Extended: Machine Learning in Medical Diagnosis and Prognosis

The deadline has been extended to the 14th of April , 2017.

This is a call for papers for the Special Session on Machine Learning in Medical Diagnosis and Prognosis at IEEE CIBCB 2017.

The IEEE International Conference on Computational Intelligence in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (IEEE CIBCB 2017) will be held at the INNSIDE Hotel, Manchester from August 23rd to 25th, 2017.

This annual conference has become a major technical event in the field of Computational Intelligence and its application to problems in biology, bioinformatics, computational biology, chemical informatics, bioengineering and related fields. The conference provides a global forum for academic and industrial scientists from a range of fields including computer science, biology, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, statistics, and engineering, to discuss and present their latest research findings from theory to applications.

The topics of interest for the special session include (but are not limited to):

  • Medical image classification
  • Medical image analysis
  • Expert systems for computer aided diagnosis and prognosis
  • Pattern recognition in the analysis of biomarkers for medical diagnosis
  • Deep learning in medical image processing and analysis
  • Ethical and Security issues in machine learning for medical diagnosis and prognosis

Up-to-date information and submission details can be found on the IEEE CIBCB 2017. The submission deadline is the 14th of April, 2017.

Please e-mail srostami@bournemouth.ac.uk with any questions.

*Spaces available – MSCA 2 day Bid Writing Retreat – 18th and 19th of April

Places are still available for the two-day bid writing retreat on 18th and 19th Aprilbook in now!

 

As the European Commission celebrates the support of over 100,000 researchers through Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, RKEO are pleased to confirm our arrangements for supporting this high profile call in 2017.

Support

Timeline

As this is a highly popular call, RKEO need to carefully manage the flow of work within RKEO but also for all your colleagues, who work together, to ensure that each application is approved and submitted correctly.

The call will open on 11/04/17, when further information will be posted on this blog.

Please ensure that the Intention to Bid is submitted to RKEO by 30/06/17. You can, of course, let us know earlier than this date that you intend to apply, so that we can provide you, and your potential fellow, with as much support as possible, right up to the closing date of 14/09/17. It is expected that early drafts will be sent to RKEO at the beginning of August, allowing time for all those involved to manage their workloads.

Communication

Once we know that you are thinking of applying, even before submitting the Intention to Bid, we can keep you up to date with announcements from the funder and other sources of help and support.

If you are considering applying and would like to receive updates, please contact Dianne Goodman, RKEO’s Funding Development Team Co-ordinator, so that we can register your interest and provide useful information, such as  the indicative timetable for actions prior to submission. If you are ready to submit your Intention to Bid, you can do this now, via Dianne. The allocated Funding Development Officer can then contact you.

If you have any queries or comments about this  scheme, please contact Emily Cieciura, RKEO’s Research Facilitator: EU & International

MSCA COFUND Call is now open!

Would your research group benefit from a doctoral or fellowship programme?

Would you like to help support the careers of researchers?

Does your research have the potential to be of international significance?

If so, take a look at the funding available through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action COFUND scheme!

‘The COFUND scheme aims to stimulate regional, national or international programmes to foster excellence in researchers’ training, mobility and career development, spreading the best practices of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.

This will be achieved by co-funding new or existing regional, national, and international programmes to open up to, and provide for, international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary research training, as well as transnational and cross-sectoral mobility of researchers at all stages of their career.’ (Participant Portal call page)

This call closes on 28th September 2017.

UKRO, as the UK National Contact Point for MSCA, is hosting the UK Info Day in the afternoon of 18th May, in London. This event is free or charge but you must register. Find out more on the UKRO website.

 

BU staff are strongly advised to register, via BU’s subscription, on the UKRO website, so that you can receive announcements concerning EU funding direct to your own inbox – make sure that you hear first!

If you are considering applying, please contact Emily Cieciura, REKO’s Research Facilitator: EU & International, in the first instance.

HE policy update w/e 24th March 2017

Higher Education and Research Bill – the third reading of the Bill in the House of Lords was scheduled for Wednesday and was about to start when the attack took place in Westminster, so the session was cancelled. It has now been rescheduled for Tuesday 4th April.  The current version of the bill as amended at the report stage is here. There is a short list of amendments for the third reading – these are usually “tidying up” amendments rather than the more substantive ones that we have seen in the earlier stages – and are monstly (but not exclusively) government amendments.  The Bill will then return to the Commons – probably after Easter – when all six of the opposition and cross bench amendments made by the Lords are likely to be removed – including the one decoupling TEF ratings and fee increases, removing the Gold, Silver, Bronze TEF system and replacing it with a pass/fail, and measures aiming to support international students and staff studying and working in the UK.

There may be government amendments proposed in the Commons to seek to address some of the concerns behind the amendments to the TEF, but it seems unlikely that there will be concessions on international staff and students in the bill as these issues will be relevant to the separate consultation on immigration policy, which we are still waiting for. There will therefore inevitably be another process of “ping-pong” . If the Lords don’t accept the position approved by the Commons (and any concessions made) then there is a risk that the bill will run out of time in this session.

To respond to concerns raised by the Lords, Jo Johnson and the sponsor of the bill in the House of Lords, Viscount Younger of Leckie have written a number of letters during the report stage.

  • 15th March 2017 – powers to enter and search
  • 6th March 2017 – regulation (compliance with the Regulator’s Code – will require a statutory instrument but government agree), role of the Competition and Markets Authority (the government believe there is no overlap between the OfS and the CMA). One government amendment clarified that in addition to promoting competition, the OfS should have regard to the benefits of HEI collaboration for students and employers.
  • 3rd March 2017 – defending the TEF and its metrics, setting out the context and background and confirming a commitment to ensuring that the TEF supports widening participation.

There has not been a response to the amendments that were passed, so we will wait to see. In the meantime, there were some interesting articles about the future for the TEF on Wonkhe on Monday:

Another concern raised by the Lords and also raised in Education questions in the Commons this week related to free speech. Jo Johnson, the universities minister, added that the bill would safeguard free speech by extending the duty to take reasonably practicable steps to secure freedom of speech to all registered providers. On the same day, Johnson also wrote to universities asking them to pay particular attention to this issue. He advised: “Policies and codes of practice should not simply be allowed to gather dust; they are crucial to demonstrating to students that free speech should be at the heart of our university system. They need to be meaningful documents that students and staff understand and, crucially, respect.”

Brexit – with the PM expected to serve formal notice to start Brexit negotiations under Article 50 next week, Peers debated EU membership and UK science after the referendum on 23 March. They urged the government to replace any money lost from EU research programmes with fresh money from Westminster, rather than with the extra £4.7 million allocated to science and innovation in the 2016 autumn statement.

The Parliamentary and Scientific committee have published a statement on science priorities for Brexit.  It asks for immediate actions, sets out negotiation priorities and changes to domestic policy.  It’s very short and readable – a list of proposals rather than a long summary of evidence and background

Its first statement is about staff and skills – it calls for immediate reassurance for EEA staff working in the UK, research about mobility of skilled workers to inform immigration policy and for the government to develop a communications strategy that champions Britain as a welcoming hub for research and innovation.

On funding, it says that there must be no decline in overall funding for science and innovation across all disciplines, calls for continued participation in Horizon 2020 and for the government to “set the closest possible association for the UK with EU research and innovation programmes”.  It also proposes a target of 3% of GDP for combined public and private R&D investment, with at least 0.7% of GDP invested in research and development.    It calls for a comprehensive review of all current public funding for UK research and development to ensure there is no gap as the UK leaves the EU.

It sets out requirements to ensure that UK-based researchers are able to collaborate, including funding and infrastructure for partnerships.  On trade, it suggests that all government departments should have scientific advisers, and calls for a comprehensive review of the current regulatory environment.

Student Loans – in a written answer to a parliamentary question Jo Johnson noted that the latest Student Loans Company statistics show that there were around 113,600 English student loan borrowers known to be abroad at the beginning of the financial year 2016-17. Of these around 22 per cent were EU-domiciled borrowers. The figures also show that the overall outstanding loan balance of these borrowers resident abroad was around £1.6 billion, of which around £220 million was held by EU-domiciled borrowers. He added in a separate answer that the Student Loans Company established a repayments evasion unit in 2016 to detect borrowers who live abroad and who fail to repay their loans.

Advance marketing – along with Professor Debbie Holley, I am presenting some policy briefings and workshops – read more and book via the intranet.

New midwifery paper by Dr. Jenny Hall

Congratulations to Dr. Jenny Hall in the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH) on the publication of her paper ‘Spiritual aspects of living with infertility: synthesis of qualitative studies’. [1]  Dr. Hall co-authored this paper in the Journal of Clinical Nursing with colleagues from Ireland and Portugal.

This international team conducted review and synthesis of qualitative research to seek a deeper understanding of the spiritual aspects of patients’ experiences of infertility.  They concluded that infertile couples’ experiences of infertility may offer an opportunity for spiritual care particularly related to the assessment of spiritual needs and the promotion of spiritual coping strategies. Moreover, effective holistic care should support couples in overcoming and finding meaning in this life and health condition.

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH