Posts By / Julie Northam

Reminder of BU’s Bridging Fund Scheme for researchers

Golden gate Bridge wallpaperIn summer 2015 we launched the new BU Bridging Fund Scheme which aims to provide additional stability to fixed-term researchers who continue to rely heavily on short-term contracts usually linked to external funding. This situation sometimes impacts negatively on continuity of employment and job security and can result in a costly loss of researcher talent for the institution.

The new Bridging Fund Scheme aims to mitigate these circumstances by redeploying the researcher where possible, or where feasible, by providing ‘bridging funding’ for the continuation of employment for a short-term (maximum three months) between research grants. It is intended to permit the temporary employment, in certain circumstances, of researchers between fixed-term contracts at BU, for whom no other source of funding is available, in order to:

(a) encourage the retention of experienced and skilled staff, and sustain research teams and expertise;

(b) aconcordat to support the career development of researchersvoid the break in employment and career which might otherwise be faced by such staff;

(c) maximise the opportunity for such staff to produce high-quality outputs and/or research impact at the end of funded contracts/grants.

To find out more about the scheme, including how to apply for bridging funding, see the scheme guidelines.

This is a great step forward for BU and for BU’s researchers and is an action from our EC HR Excellence in Research Award which aims to increase BU’s alignment with the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (further information is available here: https://research.bournemouth.ac.uk/research-environment/research-concordat/).

RKEO faculty-facing staff – when and where?

RKEO has a number of posts that directly support colleagues in the Faculties with bid preparation and submission and the post-award management of grants and contracts. These staff members spend approximately 50% of their time based in the Faculty offices. Information on when and where you can expect to find them when they are working in your Faculty is available here on the Research Blog here: http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/contact/faculty-facing-staff/.

Stern review of the REF – contributions welcome

ref-logoBIS have initiated a review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF), chaired by the President of the British Academy, Lord Nicholas Stern.

The review aims to ensure that future university research funding:

  • is allocated more efficiently;
  • offers greater rewards for excellent research; and,
  • reduces the administrative burden on institutions.

The call for evidence was published on 28 January and BU will be submitting an institutional response to the review. You are invited to contribute to this response.

The call for evidence, question set and timeline are available on the I-drive: I:\R&KEO\Public\Stern Review of the REF

If you wish to contribute, use the ‘questions’ document to frame your responses. The internal deadline for sending your feedback to Julie Northam is Wednesday 17 February. The draft response will be discussed by the REF Committee on 29 February, and the final draft shared with UET on 10 March.

When considering your responses please bear in mind Bournemouth University’s response to the green paper on HE which contained similar questions on the future shape of the REF. You may find it helpful to consider other responses to the green paper to understand the range in perspectives provided by institutions and groups. You can search for responses online. Suggested responses you may wish to read include:

I look forward to receiving your feedback and suggestions. Any queries, please let me know.

Julie

Leisure Studies: Call for Papers – Human Rights in Events, Leisure and Sport

leisure studies journalJayne Caudwell joined Bournemouth University in November 2015. She is Head of Research and Professional Practice in the Department of Events and Leisure. Jayne is one of the guest editors for forthcoming Leisure Studies journal Special Issue: Human Rights in Events, Leisure and Sport. See web link for details of the Call for Papers. Please forward to colleagues who might be interested.

http://explore.tandfonline.com/cfp/pgas/rlst_cfp_humanrights

The Research Lifecycle

If you haven’t checked out the BU Research Lifecycle yet then you most definitely should! Our Research Lifecycle diagram is a jazzy interactive part of the BU Research Blog that shows the support and initiatives that are available to staff and students at each stage of the research lifecycle. The information is general enough so as to apply to all disciplines and you can use it to organize and identify the many activities involved in your research. You can explore the Research Lifecycle to find information on how to get started with:

1. Developing your research strategy

2. Developing your proposal

3. The research process

4. Publication and dissemination

5. Impact

RKEO will be adding to the Research Lifecycle to ensure it always contains the most up to date information to support you with planning, organising and undertaking your research.

You can access the diagram from the links in this post or from the menu bar that appears on all screens in the Research Blog.

Careers guidance resources for researchers

career-developmentIn October we launched a suite of careers guidance resources for researchers and their managers. The resources include detailed guidance on how to progress from a research career to an academic career as well as information for PhD students on postdoctoral research positions. There is also information on other career pathways including administration/management within HE and research careers outside of HE. The resources have been enhanced over the past few months and now include a number of case studies for different career pathways.

BU academics publish in the Special Anniversary Issue of the Journal of Children and Media

children and media journal coverBournemouth University’s Dr Ashley Woodfall and Dr Marketa Zezulkova have recently been published in the Special Anniversary Issue of the Journal of Children and Media. The journal is the most significant interdisciplinary one in the field of children and media, and the special issue features big-picture commentaries and analyses that address the challenges and opportunities facing children and media researchers.

As the journal editorial states: Ashley Woodfall and Marketa Zezulkova focus on the lived media engagement of children as dialogic and holistic, requiring us “to recognise the child as entry point, centre and interpreter of their media experience and learning.”

The paper is available on an open access basis, funded by BU’s open access publication fund.

Woodfall A & Zezulkova M., 2016. What ‘children’ experience and ‘adults’ may overlook: phenomenological approaches to media practice, education and research. In: Journal of Children and Media. 10(1) 98-106.

 

 

Over 5,000 posts added to the BU Research Blog!

5000A milestone has been achieved – over 5,000 blog posts have gone live on the BU Research Blog since it was launched in March 2011. To celebrate this, here are some interesting and impressive stats about the blog:

The homepage has received 56,422 unique visits to date – that’s c. 1,000 unique views per month.

The most popular page, other than the homepage, is the research ethics page which has received almost 14,000 visits so far.

Top ten most popular posts to date are (excluding funding/conference opportunities):

1. Thoughts on writing recommendations for a research thesis – 14,469 views. Authored by Edwin van Teijlingen.

2. Want a Marie Curie Fellowship? Our four times winner shares his experience – 13,898 views. Authored by Rudy Gozlan.

3. Referencing Dutch, Flemish and German names in the Harvard system – 11,940 views. Authored by Edwin van Teijlingen.

4. Journal citation reports 2013 now available – 8,021 views. Authored by Emma Crowley.

5. Writing a lay summary is easy, right? – 7,708 views. Authored by Julie Northam.

6. Welcome to our first Grants Academy members – 3,768 views. Authored by Caroline O’Kane.

7. Sneaky and dishonest?: Covert research a much maligned, forgotten jewel in the crown – 1,348 views. Authored by Jonathan Parker.

8. Journal impact factors explained – 1,304 views. Authored by Anita Somner.

9. The help and advice was invaluable – 1,274 views. Authored by Corrina Lailla Osborne.

10. Launch of the BU open access publication fund – 1,055 views. Authored by Julie Northam.

cupcake53% of sessions are started when someone find the Blog via Google and 15% are started via the Daily Digest email.

60% of visitors are from the UK, 7% from the US and 3% from India.

Thank you to all our contributors and readers for making the BU Research Blog a huge success!

Corrina and Jim

Nominations invited from ECRs to join the REF Circumstances Board

ECRsThe BU REF Circumstances Board has been established to oversee the individual staff circumstances process for the post-2014 REF exercise. This includes:

  • determining whether individual staff circumstances submitted by BU academics meet the REF eligibility requirements;
  • verifying the evidence provided;
  • calculating the reduction in outputs using the methodology set out in the REF guidance documentation and the ECU case studies;
  • contributing to BU’s culture of equality and diversity.

ref-logoThe Board is chaired by a Senior HR Manager with support from the Equality and Diversity Adviser and a member of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office. These post-holders will be selected based on their prior knowledge and expertise in individual staff circumstances and equality and diversity issues. Membership will also include three academics and an early career researcher (ECR).

We are now seeking expressions of interest from ECRs who are interested in joining the Circs Board. Successful applicants will be required to attend meetings of the BU REF Circumstances Board (schedule tbc, but likely to be one or two meetings per year), be aware of the REF guidance and regulations, undertake equality and diversity training, and promote a positive culture of equality and diversity at BU. We therefore ask for your commitment, active contribution and, most importantly, confidentiality due to the sensitive work of the Board. In return you will be involved in an important cross-University committee, gain an insight into the REF and equality a diversity (both highly topical issues in the sector), and be engaged in academic citizenship.

Nomination procedure:

The vacant roles on the BU REF Circumstances Board are:

  • 1 x early career researcher (ECR) representative

Anyone interested should submit an expression of interest stating your interest in equality and diversity, why you think equality and diversity is important for the REF and why your involvement would strengthen the BU REF Circumstances Board (max 300 words). Your nomination should state your name, job title and Faculty.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 29th January 2016. Nominations should be emailed to Julie Northam, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from any BU staff member on an academic contract, however, you must be independent from REF preparations (for example, applicants cannot be UOA Leaders, impact champions or output champions).

ECRs in this context are defined as members of staff who started their careers as independent researchers on or after 1 August 2015. In line with the REF guidance, an individual is deemed to have started their career as an independent researcher from the point at which:

  1. They held a contract of employment which included a primary employment function of undertaking ‘research’ or ‘teaching and research’, and
  2. They undertook independent research, for example, leading or acting as principal investigator or equivalent on a research grant or significant piece of research work.

If you have any queries, please speak with Julie Northam in the first instance.

Reminder of BU’s Bridging Fund Scheme for researchers

Golden gate Bridge wallpaperIn summer 2015 we launched the new BU Bridging Fund Scheme which aims to provide additional stability to fixed-term researchers who continue to rely heavily on short-term contracts usually linked to external funding. This situation sometimes impacts negatively on continuity of employment and job security and can result in a costly loss of researcher talent for the institution.

The new Bridging Fund Scheme aims to mitigate these circumstances by redeploying the researcher where possible, or where feasible, by providing ‘bridging funding’ for the continuation of employment for a short-term (maximum three months) between research grants. It is intended to permit the temporary employment, in certain circumstances, of researchers between fixed-term contracts at BU, for whom no other source of funding is available, in order to:

(a) encourage the retention of experienced and skilled staff, and sustain research teams and expertise;

(b) aconcordat to support the career development of researchersvoid the break in employment and career which might otherwise be faced by such staff;

(c) maximise the opportunity for such staff to produce high-quality outputs and/or research impact at the end of funded contracts/grants.

To find out more about the scheme, including how to apply for bridging funding, see the scheme guidelines.

This is a great step forward for BU and for BU’s researchers and is an action from our EC HR Excellence in Research Award which aims to increase BU’s alignment with the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (further information is available here: https://research.bournemouth.ac.uk/research-environment/research-concordat/).

What is BU doing to support research staff?

EC HR Excellence in Research Award logoIn January 2013 BU was awarded the HR Excellence in Research Award from the European Commission in acknowledgement of our progress to date and commitment to further improving alignment between BU policy and practice and the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. As the number of research staff employed at BU continues to grow, the embedding of the principles of the Concordat becomes even more important.

As part of the award, BU has an externally approved action plan to strengthen support for research staff and their managers. The action plan is reviewed regularly by the Research Concordat Steering Group.

Achievements to date include:

Giving research staff a valued voice:

  • The BU Research Staff Association (RSA) was launched in autumn 2014 to provide research staff with a forum to discuss issues linked to the implementation of the Concordat. The RSA chairs (Marcellus Mbah and Michelle Heward) are planning wider engagement activities for 2015-16, including establishing the RSA as an informal network to share learning/experiences as well as developing a seminar series for BU researchers to showcase their work.
  • The formal membership of URKEC, which reports into Senate, has included a research staff representative as an established member since January 2013. From autumn 2015 the Faculty RKE Committees have included the local implementation of the Concordat in their remit and a research staff representative as an established member.
  • Research staff are increasingly provided with opportunities for undertaking public engagement activities. For example, the lightning talks event at the Festival of Learning 2015 featured presentations from eight research staff and one PGR to c. 25 attendees (average event score of 8.3/10, with 10 being excellent). The concept has now been developed for BU staff and students with one event taking place each term. The format is being developed for the FoL 2016 and other public engagement events.
  • BU took part in the national Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS) in 2013 and again in 2015. The results have been shared with RCSG, URKEC, DDESG, Faculty RKE Committees, etc.

 

concordat to support the career development of researchersProviding research staff with greater job stability:

  • The BU Bridging Fund Scheme was launched in August 2015. It permits the temporary employment, in certain circumstances, of researchers between fixed-term contracts at BU for whom no other source of funding is yet available.
  • The mandatory recruitment and selection training has been updated to include reference to giving due consideration to the wider skill set of researchers including transferable skills and attributes. The aim is to ensure that researchers are given the best opportunity to advance their career.

 

Improvements to the procedures and support for research staff:

  • Induction processes and resources have been significantly improved. The ‘New to BU’ webpages now include a specific section on support available to researchers. The Academic Career Development Programme now identifies three induction events for new staff, including the RKE Induction to which all new academic and research staff are invited. All new research staff and their managers receive information about the Concordat, RSA, etc. soon after joining BU.

The Research Lifecycle

If you haven’t checked out the BU Research Lifecycle yet then you most definitely should! Our Research Lifecycle diagram is a jazzy interactive part of the BU Research Blog that shows the support and initiatives that are available to staff and students at each stage of the research lifecycle. The information is general enough so as to apply to all disciplines and you can use it to organize and identify the many activities involved in your research. You can explore the Research Lifecycle to find information on how to get started with:

1. Developing your research strategy

2. Developing your proposal

3. The research process

4. Publication and dissemination

5. Impact

RKEO will be adding to the Research Lifecycle to ensure it always contains the most up to date information to support you with planning, organising and undertaking your research.

You can access the diagram from the links in this post or from the menu bar that appears on all screens in the Research Blog.

FOSTER e-learning resources on open science and open access in Horizon 2020 now freely available

Open-Access-logoThe European project FOSTER (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research) aims to establish mechanisms for researchers to embed open sciences in their daily workflow, thus supporting them to optimize their research visibility and impact and comply with the EU open access policies.

Two of the current courses are particularly relevant for BU staff:

  • Introduction to open science: provides a general introduction to the various components and philosophies of open science including why open science is essential to rigorous, reproducible and transparent research, as well as to future research evaluation criteria focused on societal impact. This is relevant to anyone undertaking research.
  • Open access to publications in Horizon 2020: provides information on how to adhere to the H2020 mandate by depositing publications in open access and therefore ensuring they are freely available. This is relevant to anyone currently working on a Horizon 2020 research project and anyone considering applying to Horizon 2020.

These resources are freely available from the FOSTER website.

Five Minutes with Ulrich Herb on Open Science: “Open Science must be adapted to disciplinary specificities”

sociologyYesterday the Research Blog featured a post on open science, what it entails and how it is different to open access. In a recent interview conducted by OpenAire, open science veteran Ulrich Herb shares the main findings of his research on the extent of open research practices in the discipline of sociology, as well as his wider thoughts on the history and future of the Open Science movement. This interview originally appeared on the OpenAIRE portal here.

 

Ulrich_HerbWhat do you understand by the term “Open Science”? Is it a cohesive phenomenon?

Open Science, as I understand it, is the area of Open Knowledge that deals with scientific information. Open Knowledge, in turn, is knowledge that can be used, edited and distributed according to Open Source principles. The ideal of Open Science is to make all objects involved in the research cycle openly accessible in this sense.
Open Science, as generally understood, is mainly about the objects or items of scientific work, such as text, data and software, but also includes “Open Review” (of text, data and possibly code), as well as “Open Metrics” as scientific para-information. Review and metrics are crucial since they often don’t merely report on the impact of science but can actively steer it as scientists often strongly orient their actions towards such evaluative criteria. In Open Review and Open Metrics the focus is less on OA to research products per se, but on transparency in the evaluation and assessment of scientific work. However, ideally reviews and the raw data that underlies metrics should also be made openly accessible.

 

openscienceYou studied the state of play of Open Science in Sociology. What were your main findings?

OA to journal articles is well established in Sociology. This is especially true for the German-speaking world, where it is strongly promoted by journals that often allow the published versions of articles to be made available in Green OA at the end of an embargo period or even make them Open Access themselves. In addition, Closed Access journals usually have liberal OA policies as regards Green OA. Gold OA journals in Sociology very rarely charge APCs; where they do so, charges are low. On the other hand, OA to book publications is very weak in Sociology. I attribute this to a lack of professional brand building among OA book publishers. OA books will likely become more standard as established publishers develop OA options or a disciplinarily-accepted publisher develops organically from the sociological community.
OA to research data and research software is almost non-existent in Sociology, in both the German-speaking countries and the rest of the world. There is a dearth of disciplinary training, as well as a lack of positioning by the community, for example occurs through the issuing of statements as commonly occurs in other subjects.
However, incentives to move towards data-sharing that exist in other disciplines are unlikely to be effective in Sociology. Data citations are not widespread in Sociology, probably as a result, firstly, of less emphasis in general on citations as a measure of impact than in STM subjects, and secondly because domains like theoretical Sociology do not produce data at all. Sociologists, more than natural scientists, seem still to consider data to be intellectual property and fear loss of control and misuse in regards to making data OA. Finally, Open Review and Open Metrics are very rare in Sociology.

 

What results where most surprising for you?

I was positively surprised by the prevalence of OA to literature in Sociology. However, I was disappointed to find such limited use of Open Review. Peer review is thought more problematic in Sociology than in STM subjects. This can be attributed to a few factors. To give just one example, Sociology is less concerned with what Schimank und Volkmann term “puzzle-solving”, so much as with discussion of fundamental principles. In addition, Sociology sometimes deals with ideologically charged issues that imply deep ethical/moral disputes. But since its review practice is problematic, Sociology could especially benefit from the transparency of the Open Review, because this allows checks to be placed on the objectivity of assessment.

The rarity of OA to data and software was surprising in a negative sense as well. Social science data is especially well-suited for secondary analysis. Open Data also has an ethical dimension: for example, the re-use of qualitative data derived from surveys with victims of abuse, would free such people from multiple requests for information regarding these events. And considering Sociology’s widespread use of the open-source statistics framework R, including its open repository infrastructure, mean that the scarcity of OA to research software in Sociology is disappointing. In sum, Sociology could benefit greatly from all the areas of Open Science, yet has yet to take up this potential.

 

open science principlesHow does Sociology most differ from other fields as regards the uptake of Open Science?

Besides the prevalence of OA to literature, the most striking difference is the level of hesitancy to Open Science that exists among sociologists, despite the potential benefits I just described and the good infrastructural conditions, for example, provided for Germany by GESIS or the R-environments. I think this can, however, be partly explained by the inherent characteristics of the discipline. There are, for example, important sub-disciplines like theoretical sociology which deal with scientific reflection upon the discipline itself and hence do not produce any data or software itself. Another particularity is the privacy issue: Sociology frequently uses very sensitive data whose non-anonymized disclosure is of course impossible, but which are worthless in an anonymized form.

 

Where do you see Science Open in five years? What are the main challenges to come?

Fueled by increasingly stringent funder policies and mandates, OA to sscientific objects like text, data and software will continue to increase. This will also be true for books, albeit to a lesser extent than for journal articles. As for Open Review, I am more skeptical. Although I myself like the idea, I don’t think open peer review will establish itself in Sociology. In metrics, I would like to see a proliferation of metrics whose data and parameters are openly visible and re-usable and can be read via open APIs. However, I rather suspect that commercial actors such as Elsevier and Thomson Scientific for citation or MacMillan as a provider of Altmetric or Ebsco as a provider of PLUM will prevail. It is to be assumed that those providers won’t open up their data. I hope that Sociology takes up Open Science to most fully realize its potential, albeit with the caveat that Open Science must be adapted to the aforementioned disciplinary specificities.

“Open science does not equal open access” – so what is it then?

open science principlesOpen science is the movement to make scientific research, data and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society, amateur or professional. It incorporates open access publishing as a key principle, alongside open data, open source, open methodology, open peer review and open educational resources. Examples of movements within open science include citizen science (whereby research is conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists) and open data (data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control). There is an excellent introduction to open science available here: what, exactly, is open science?

open science does not equal open access The open science movement is gaining momentum. Some research funders, such as the UK Research Councils and European Commission for example, now have mandates in place to enforce open access publishing and open data sharing as a requirement of receiving their funding. The RCUK public engagement strategy states the UK Research Councils will support collaborative and co-produced research (e.g. citizen science, community engagement and social participation) and the councils have funded a number of open science research projects, for example, EPSRC funded UCL’s ‘Extreme’ Citizen Science (ExCiteS) project and AHRC funded Oxford’s Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

A substantial and growing number of researchers are now embedding the principles of open science in how they design and conduct research. Dr Michael Pocock, an ecologist at CEH NERC, for example, is a keen advocate of open science and has led several citizen science projects with the aim of collectively undertaking hypothesis-led research. He has authored these excellent slides – Real science and real engagement: the value of citizen science.
openscienceThe European-funded project FOSTER (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research) aims to establish mechanisms for researchers to embed open sciences in their daily workflow, thus supporting them to optimize their research visibility and impact. The project has created an excellent resource bank that provides a general introduction to the various components and philosophies of open science including why open science is essential to rigorous, reproducible and transparent research, as well as to future research evaluation criteria focused on societal impact.

The Open Science Federation website is an excellent source of information and inspiring ideas of how to embed open science into your research. There is an open science Twitter account if you want to keep up to date with open science information from around the world – @openscience.

If you are interested in building open science principles into your next research project, then speak with your Research Facilitator.

RKEO faculty-facing staff – when and where?

RKEO has a number of posts that directly support colleagues in the Faculties with bid preparation and submission and the post-award management of grants and contracts. These staff members spend approximately 50% of their time based in the Faculty offices. Information on when and where you can expect to find them when they are working in your Faculty is available here on the Research Blog here: http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/contact/faculty-facing-staff/.

Lessons from Bowie – being a successful researcher

david bowieThe world today mourns the sad loss of David Bowie, thought of across the world as a legendary artist and performer. Part of this mourning involves a reflection on what it was that made David Bowie legendary. In doing so there are a number of parrallels with the world of research:

1. Being a pioneer and challenging the status quo – In the early days Bowie was a pioneer of glam rock and is considered to have joint responsibility with Marc Bolan for creating the genre. In doing so he recognised the lack of progression in rock music and challenged it by creating something new. John Peel said of the era, “The one distinguishing feature about early-70s progressive rock was that it didn’t progress. Before Bowie came along, people didn’t want too much change.”

Bowie’s lesson for research: change is a good thing and breeds creativity and new ways of thinking. Ensure your research contributes and progresses the field.

2. Interdisciplinarity – Bowie didn’t just pioneer glam rock; he also inspired the innovators of punk rock and pop music, amonsgt other genres. Biographer Thomas Forget said, “Because he has succeeded in so many different styles of music, it is almost impossible to find a popular artist today that has not been influenced by David Bowie.” He took his influences from many different sources and genres, melted them together and made new genres. He also moved seamlessly between genres. He worked collaboratively with musicians from across the musical spectrum including Bing Crosby, John Lennon, Queen, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz, etc. This enabled him to stay ahead of the crowd, move things forward and be considered an influential thought-leader across many genres.

Bowie’s lesson for research: take your influences from a multitude of different sources and disciplines and work collaboratively with colleagues from other fields.

3. Creativity – He reinvented himself, his music and his style numerous times to stay ahead of the pack and standout as unique and niche, and was described by many as a ‘one of a kind’. This creativity combined with an interdisciplinary approach and a challenge of the status quo enabled him to stay fresh and appealling throughout a career that spanned several decades. Bowie has become known as a ‘musical chameleon’, changing and dictating trends as much as he has altered his style to fit, influencing fashion and pop culture. He therefore brought innovation to music, style, fashion and ways of thinking.

Bowie’s lesson for research: ensure your ideas are creative and truly innovative. Ensure your idea hasn’t been researched before and will deliver something new to academic thinking and/or society.

4. Standing out from the crowd – The combination of the above resulted in Bowie standing out from the crowd. His work was recognisable, respected and on step ahead of other musicians. This increased his popularity and resulted in significant increases in the number of records sold.

Bowie’s lesson for research: when submitting a research proposal it will be in competition with many other proposals – ensure it is original, well-crafted and memorable. This will increase its appeal and its likelihood of being funded.

5. Inspired by current affairs and had a vision for future trends – Throughout his career Bowie was influenced by current affairs of the day and used these as mechanisms to shape his music and style (either through accepting them or challenging them) and to boost his popularity and success. He was also able to set the scene for future trends by staying one step ahead of the game.

Bowie’s lesson for research: keep abreast of current affairs as research funding often follows what is big in the news. Be willing to shape your research focus and ideas as a result of this. For example, the ebola crisis resulted in significant funding being made available for research into ebola, infectious diseases, disaster management, etc.

6. Get people on board – All of this enabled Bowie to sell his music, style and vision to millions of people, to influence individuals, groups, generations and genres.

Bowie’s lesson for research: research topics that are meaningful to people and society and ensure your research is done ethically. Consider the potential impact of your research to both academic and society when drafting research proposals.

RIP David Bowie.

REF review to be led by Lord Stern of Brentford

Lord SternSummary from press release:

The HE green paper (Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice) and the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, both released in November 2015, mentioned that there would be a review UK research funding and the REF as a mechanism for allocating funding. Further information about this review was released on 16 December 2015 in a press release from Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister (Government launches review to improve university research funding). The aim of the review is to reduce the burden and cost to universities and government that has become associated with preparing for, and submitting to, the REF, therefore ensuring the government gets the most return for its investment.

The review will be chaired by the President of the British Academy and former World Bank Chief Economist Lord Nicholas Stern. He will be assisted by a high-level steering group of academic experts, including the Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, Professor Julia King, and the Past President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Sir John Tooke.

Lord Stern commented: “Research assessment should not unwittingly introduce incentives for perverse behaviour, nor should it be overly burdensome. Excellence, properly defined, must remain the central basis for allocating support and funding for research. We will explore ways in which a simpler, lighter-touch, system for the REF might be developed.”

ref-logoThe review aims to:

1. Investigate different approaches to the evaluation of UK higher education research performance which can encourage and strengthen the emphasis on delivering excellent research and impact, while simplifying and reducing the administrative burden on the HE sector.

2. Draw on the evidence from the evaluation of REF2014 and consider other models of research performance assessment, which could provide robust means of informing future research funding allocations.
3. Provide options for future iterations of the REF focusing on a simpler, lighter-touch method of research assessment, that more effectively uses data and metrics while retaining the benefits of peer review. The review should ensure that a future process identifies and supports excellent research across the UK, including dynamic changes in research quality and emerging areas of research excellence, retains the frequency of approach of the current REF arrangements (at 5-6 year cycle) and secures the confidence of the HE/academic sector.

The full terms of reference for the review, including membership of the steering group, are available here: REF review terms of reference.

The outcome is due to be delivered in summer 2016.

 

Comments from the sector:

russell group logoUnsurprisingly many of the criticisms of the review have focused on the membership of the nine-member steering committee which includes seven academics and vice-chancellors from UK universities, all but one from members of the Russell Group. There are also no representatives from Wales, Northern Ireland or the funding councils and only one university in Scotland. Lord Stern defended the committee membership, saying he had looked for panel members from a “range of subjects” and for “people who are outstanding”. “Outstanding people are necessary to recognise excellence,” he said. “They are of the highest intellectual quality” and had experience in “running things”. The panel was not meant to be “a parliament of universities”, he said, but added that “we want to hear from everybody” about the future of the REF.

There have also been murmurings that the REF already offers a good return on investment, with costs estimated to only be 2.4% of the total funds its results will inform. If this is the case then is it even posible or desirable to reduce costs further?

The THE labelled Lord Stern as a ‘REF sceptic’, quoting a joint letter he wrote with Sir Paul Nurse in which he asked: “Have criteria of quality become too narrow and formulaic in some subjects? Are researchers feeling pressured to adopt short-term horizons and a narrow focus, and chasing publication rather than following their own judgements on which are the most fruitful avenues for research and most likely to yield major outcomes?” He also questioned whether the impact element of the REF was “insufficiently deep and broad”. The letter added: “is the REF incentivisation of universities to hire stars in the closing months, like an imminent transfer deadline in the Premier League, really a way to build a long-term scholarly department?”.

The suggestion of a more metrics-based approach is concerning, especially taking into account the recommendations in the Metric Tide report (July 2015) that concluded that metrics are not yet sufficiently robust to replace peer review or to be relied upon any more than they were in REF 2014.

Lord Stern defended the review, saying there was no “foregone conclusion” about the results, despite the HE green paper and CSR presuming it would lead to changes to the REF system. Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group said that the Russell Group was supportive of the review but would be concerned if it resulted in any dilution of the REF’s rigour and international reputation.

 

Further reading:

THE – Lord Stern review: no ‘foregone conclusions’ about future of REF, 22 December 2015

THE – REF sceptic to lead review into research assessment, 16 December 2015

Russell Group – Stern review of research funding, 16 December 2015

Times – Prove research is useful or lose funds, universities are told, 16 December 2015

University Alliance – University Alliance responds to the announcement of Stern Review of university research funding, 16 December 2015