Posts By / Julie Northam

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

Happy new year! BU’s research highlights of 2015

20152015 was another great year for research at BU.  Here are the fabulous highlights for your perusal, in no particular order:

1. University rankings – During 2015 BU entered the ranking of the world’s top 500 universities for the first time (one of only two UK post-1992s in the top 500), as well as rising in all three major university league tables, published by The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Complete University Guide. For most of these league tables BU’s research strength and performance significantly contributed to the increase in position.

award2. External recognition for BU research – 2015 was a great year for research awards at BU. The SHIVA Project won the Outstanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research Award at the THE Awards (full story) in November 2015, the smartphone device for monitoring sensation loss in patients with diabetes designed by Dr Venky Dubey and Dr Neil Vaughan was awarded ‘highly commended’ in three categories at the Institution of Engineering and Technology awards (full story), Dr Kip Jones’ AHRC-funded film Rufus Stone was shortlisted in the AHRC research in film awards (full story), BU’s Emeritus Professor Paul Lewis was awarded an OBE for services to midwifery (full story), and PGR student Rosa Spencer-Tansley was awarded ‘Student Star of the Future’ in the Rock Awards (full story). BU’s Dr Sam Goodman became one of BBC Radio 3 and the AHRC’s New Generational Thinkers, making several appearances on BBC Radio 3 and Prof Ann Brooks was conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) in recognition of her world-leading social science research.  The BU research website won the Best Research Website award in the international eduStyle awards (full story) and was shortlisted at the Heist Awards in the best website category (full story). Research into facial recognition by Dr Sarah Bate and PGR student Anna Bobak was featured in the New Scientist in November (full story). BU was also awarded the Athena SWAN bronze award in 2015 in recognition of our commitment to tackling gender inequality in HE (full story).

Research-income-graph-2014-153. Growth in RKE activity – Our annual RKE income at BU has continued to grow. In 2014-15 our RKE income was c. £7m, up 16% on the previous year (this figure increases further when the NHS CPD income is added in). What’s particularly interesting is the change in where this income comes from: we are now significantly less reliant on UK Government funding (NHS, English Heritage, etc) and are successfully obtaining more prestigious research funding, such as UK Research Councils, British Academy, EC, etc.  BU’s Research Council income has increased by 148% since 2008-09 and has been our largest research funding stream for the past three years.  EU income has increased from c. £200k in 2008-09 to c. £760k in 2014-15 (an increase of c. 263%). Although still small, research income received from international sources outside of the EU is also steadily increasing. Our research council success rates for 2014-15 were respectable – BU’s overall success rate was 17% (12 bids submitted of which 2 were awarded) against a sector average of 28%. This is one of the highest annual success rates we have achieved as an institution. The two grants won were awarded by NERC. The sector average success rate with NERC was 26%, compared to BU’s impressive 67%.

4. Significant grants/contracts awarded – Over the past year, BU has been awarded hundreds of research grants and contracts ensuring the continued success of our diverse and wide-ranging research programmes. Highlights include:

  • A number of UK Research Council grants including funding from the ESRC to enable our researchers to work on the issue of dementia-friendly architecture and the need to create care homes that are easily navigable by people with dementia (£200k, PI – Jan Wiener), funding from NERC to develop an integrated software system for the 3-d capture and analysis of footwear evidence (£90k, PI – Matthew Bennett) and funding from the AHRC to explore regulating the e-platform in China (£80k, PI – Lingling Wei)
  • A grant from the prestigious European Research Council (£315k) to explore the little-known Hyksos period of Egyptian history. BU researchers are working as co-investigators with partners all across Europe to find out about the origins, impact and legacy of this enigmatic era of Egyptian history (PI – Holger Schutkowski)
  • A number of grants from the European Commission including £310k for the PROTEUS project (PI – Abdelhamid Bouchachia), £170k for the SMART ETHIC project (PI – Barry Richards), £150k for the NuFEAST project (PI – Jane Murphy), £150k for a project looking into strategies for the mass customisation of jewellery (PI – Alexander Pasko) and £130k for a project looking into innovative remote sesnsing techniques in ecosystem modelling (PI – Ross Hill)
  • A number of grants from the National Institute for Health Research, including grants to develop a sustainable research programme to prevent falls and promote physical activity among older people with dementia (£515k, PI – Samuel Nyman) and to investigate whether early mobilisation after ankle fracture enhances recovery (£85k, PI – Zoe Sheppard)
  • The Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who provided £700k of seed funding for BU’s new Orthopaedic Research Institute to purchase state-of-the-art gait analysis equipment and eventually establish new research laboratories (PI – Tom Wainwright)
  • Support from English Heritage to carry out further post-excavation assessment of the Swash Channel Wreck (PI – Dave Parham)

5. RKEO structure – Back in September 2014 we launched the new RKEO structure, one of the aims of which was to improve the service offered to academic colleagues. During 2015 we undertook a number of feedback exercises to ascertain whether the new structure was having the desired impact in the Faculties. Our major service excellence project ran in two inquiry cycles in 2015, with improvements made in response to each round. The last lot of feedback indicates significant improvements in all areas. We also ran our pre- and post-award surveys in 2015, the feedback to which was largely positive. Anecdotal feedback from Faculties indicates that the relationship between academics and RKEO has improved over the past 12 months which is great news. We will continue to strive to embed the new structure and strengthen relationships and processes throughout 2016.

ORI launch6. New RKE institutes launched – During 2015 two new research institutes were launched – ORI and ISLHE. In October 2015 BU launched the new Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) with the intention of working across the University and with local hospitals and industry partners to carry out research that will improve patient care and develop clinician practice in the UK. ORI is being led by Professor Rob Middleton and Associate Professor Tom Wainwright, both of whom have national and international reputations for their research work. The Institute for Studies in Landscape and Human Evolution (ISLHE) was launched in February 2015 and is establishing an interdisciplinary research programme focused on the interaction of human (hominin) ancestors with the landscape. ISLHE is led by Professor Matthew Bennett and Dr Sally Reynolds. Also in 2015 BU launched new policies and procedures for the establishment and review of RKE Institutes and Centres. We are still in the process of implementing these and aim to have a full list of verified RKE entities in early 2016.

FoL 20157. Festival of Learning 2015 – The third Festival of Learning took place in July 2015 and was a resounding success, attracting over 5,000 visits to more than 200 free activities/events and receiving excellent feedback across the board from attendees. The Festival is the largest and most successful public engagement event that BU has ever run and is now established as a major event in the RKEO and BU calendar. The next Festival will take place in June 2016; preparations are already taking place. Read more about the Festival of Learning 2016 here: submitting a proposal to the next FoL.

IRW8. Launch of sparkly new initiatives – BU launched a number of amazing new research initiatives this year, including: the inaugural public lecture series, the annual Interdisciplinary Research Week, the termly Lightning Talks series, 14:Live – the lunchtime research chat, a research spotlight series, RKE academic induction events, Research Photo Competition and the BU Bridging Fund scheme. We also published a new Bournemouth Research Chronicle and are now preparing the next edition. We welcomed our first intake of undergraduate research assistants in semester 2 and second intake in summer 2015. The BU Research Staff Association, led by Michelle Heward and Marcellus Mbah, went from strength to strength in 2015. We launched the new BU Research Twitter account @BU_Research.

9. RKEO’s external engagement – RKEO have continued to engage externally to raise the profile of RKEO and BU, to further professionalise research management and to gain credibility and kudos within the sector. RKEO staff have presented at a number of key conferences this year: Julie Northam and Jo Garrad presented at both the AUA and ARMA Conferences in 2015, ran a webinar for the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) and had an article published in the Protagonist.  Jenny Roddis and Julie Northam continue to undertake additional external roles, Jenny as a Qualification Assessor for ARMA’s Certificate in Research Administration and Julie for ARMA’s Certificate in Research Management and also as an external peer reviewer for Vitae. Jayne Codling and Rachel Clarke continue to be active externally, particularly with regional businesses and organisations.

Roll on 2016!

Careers guidance resources for researchers

careerIn 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.

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/.

Nominations invited from academics to join the BU REF Circumstances Board

ref logoThe 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.

The Board is chaired by a 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 two academics and an early career researcher (ECR).

We are now seeking expressions of interest from academics 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), ensure they are 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:

  • 2 x academic representatives
  • 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). You must also state whether you are applying to be an academic member or an ECR. Your nomination should state your name, job title and Faculty.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 11th December 2015. Nominations should be emailed to Julie Northam, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Circumstances Board.

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.

CSR – highlights for research and KE

george osborneOn Wednesday the government outlined their plans for spending over the next five years in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and Autumn Statement. The main points in relation to research and KE are:

Research councils:

  • The Nurse Review recommendations will be implemented (see an overview of the recommendations here).
  • Subject to legislation, the government will introduce a new body – Research UK – which will work across the seven Research Councils.
  • Innovate UK with remain and will be integrated into Research UK.

 

Budget:

  • The BIS budget will be cut by 17% (£2.2bn).
  • The science budget will be protected in real terms.
  • This includes a new £1.5 billion Global Challenges fund to ensure UK science takes the lead in addressing the problems faced by developing countries whilst developing our ability to deliver cutting-edge research

 

Research Excellence Framework:

  • The government will take forward a review of the Research Excellence Framework in order to examine how to simplify and strengthen funding on the basis of excellence, and will set out further details shortly.

 

Funding, priorities and investments:

Health and social care:

  • £5bn more to be invested in Health Research, key priorities being the genomes project, anti-microbial resistance and tackling malaria.
  • £600m additional funding will be available for mental health.
  • £150m will be invested in launching a competition for a Dementia Institute with the remit of tackling the progression of the disease.
  • Women’s Health charities/sector will be invested in, as will military charities.

Science and technology:

  • £1bn will be invested in energy research, with a key priority being the reduction in costs of low carbon energy.
  • Defence budget will be increased from £34bn to £40bn – emphasis will be on new equipment, capabilities and fighting cybercrime.
  • Investment in a new Cyber Innovation Centre in Cheltenham to supporting cyber excellence across south west.

Arts, sports and culture:

  • Arts and culture budget will be protected and £1bn will be invested.
  • The Arts Council will be invested in.
  • Funding in UK Sport will be increased in run up to the Olympic Games in Rio.

Knowledge exchange / enterprise:

  • £12bn invested in local growth fund.
  • 26 Enterprise Zones to be created including 15 in towns and rural areas. Two new zones are planned for the south west region.
  • Innovate UK will remain but based on a grant system with £165m in loans will be on offer. It will be integrated into Research UK (overarching body of the Research Councils).
  • Funding to Catapult Centres will increase.

Reminder of BU’s Bridging Fund Scheme for researchers

Golden gate Bridge wallpaperBack in August 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.

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/).

You can read the full guidelines here: BU bridging fund scheme guidelines v1 070815

Nominations invited from academics to join the BU REF Circumstances Board

ref logoThe 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.

The Board is chaired by a 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 two academics and an early career researcher (ECR).

We are now seeking expressions of interest from academics 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), ensure they are 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:

  • 2 x academic representatives
  • 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). You must also state whether you are applying to be an academic member or an ECR. Your nomination should state your name, job title and Faculty.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 11th December 2015. Nominations should be emailed to Julie Northam, Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk).

Expressions of interest will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers who are responsible for agreeing on which applicants to invite to serve on the BU REF Circumstances Board.

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.

Nurse review of the research councils – key messages:

sir paul nurseSir Paul Nurse published his review of the UK research councils on 19 November. The full report is available here: Ensuring a Successful Research Endeavour: Review of the UK Research Councils by Paul Nurse. This follows close on the heels of the HE Green Paper (see this blog post for an overview), which stated that it would take the finding of the Nurse review into account alongside feedback received to the consultation.

The key messages of the Nurse review are:

Nurse strongly argues against the merger of the seven research councils.

Instead he recommends the establishment of a new body to oversee research – Research UK, “evolving out of” RCUK. Governance should include representation from government, HEFCE, Innovate UK as well as the research councils.

It’s functions world include:

  1. – engaging with government on behalf of the research councils
  2. – formulation of the overall research strategy for the UK
  3. – cross-council strategy, including best practice in research funding
  4. – managing cross-cutting funds for multi- and inter-disciplinary research
  5. – development and maintenance of research data management systems
  6. – taking on some shared admin / business support on behalf of the councils

The individual research councils should concentrate on providing “high quality strategic leadership to their research communities” in the shape of international quality peer review; speeding up grant assessments; improving reporting systems; ensuring diversity and strengthening links with their research communities.

The dual support system of research funding should be maintained and government should set up a ministerial committee to coordinate strategic research priorities across government.

He argues strongly for the retention of ring fencing for the science budget.

Interesting academic impact stats from Scopus

Scopus logoI wanted to share with you some interesting academic impact stats based on BU’s publications. Looking at the period 2012 to date:

  • BU academics have published 1,888 outputs indexed in Scopus
  • These have received a total of 4,093 citations (2.2 per publication)
  • 20.6% were published in the top 10% of journals (based on the SNIP ranking) (UK average is 26.8%)
  • 39.7% were co-authored with colleagues at institutions in other countries (UK average is 46.8%)
  • 9.7% were in the top 10% of publications most cited worldwide (UK average is 18.9%)

Although BU is tracking below the UK average on these measures, it is not far below and BU’s performance is increasing significantly each year.

For advice on publishing you can speak with Pengpeng Hatch in RKEO or your Faculty Librarian.

Publications

 

The HE Green Paper and research – what does it tell us?

green paperNot much. The primary focus is on teaching excellence and social mobility, however, it does reiterate and propose the following about research:

  • Government is committed to the Haldane Principle, and therefore peer review and decisions on funding made by researchers.

 

Dual support system:

  • Government is committed to the retention of the dual support system (allocation of research funding via block grants (currently via the REF) and competitive calls (currently via Research Councils)
  • It is proposed to abolish HEFCE. HEFCE’s current remit in terms of research includes policy development and management of the REF and the allocation of research block grant funding.
  • The Paper provides some options for replacing HEFCE and delivering the dual support system in future:
    • Via separate bodies (as per now, i.e. a replacement for HEFCE’s research function and the Research Councils)
    • Via one overarching body (i.e. one super research body that controls both parts of the dual support system)
  • Neither of these are perfect. With option 1, one could argue that this would cause significant disruption in the sector and achieve no benefits to the current arrangement. With option 2, having one super research body calls into question how the integrity, transparency and fairness of dual support could be maintained?

 

Research Councils:

  • Sir Paul Nurse led a review of the Research Councils in 2015 and this is due to report soon. The Green Paper states that this will be critical in informing the final decisions made about research funding in future.
  • The Triennial Review of the Research Councils 2014 noted a number of efficiencies that could be made to the work process of the councils and the Green Paper proposes that these are addressed.
  • Government wants to ensure that discipline specific leaders remain a key part of the landscape.

 

Research Excellence Framework (REF):

  • The next REF will be held by 2021.
  • The review process itself will be reviewed with the aim of retaining the strengths of the current system (such as peer review), build on the successes (such as impact), and challenge the cost and bureaucracy associated with running such an exercise.
  • There is likely to be a greater emphasis on metrics.
  • There is the suggestion of running two types of REF exercise – a full peer review exercise periodically (e.g. every 6-8 years) with a mini REF held between full exercises (every 3-4 years) for which the focus would very much be on metrics.

 

You can read the full document here: Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice

The Green paper is open for consultation with the sector until 15 January 2016.

BU’s research income profile

Provided in this post is information about BU’s RKE income profile, covering the period 2008-09 to 2014-15. BU’s overall RKE income is increasing steadily, from just below £5m in 2008-09 to almost £7m in 2014-15 (this later figure increases further when the NHS CPD income is added in). Within this, the profile of our research income has changed – we are now significantly less reliant on UK Government funding (NHS, English Heritage, etc) and are successfully obtaining more prestigious research funding, such as UK Research Councils, British Academy, EC, etc.  BU’s Research Council income has increased by 148% since 2008-09 and has been our largest research funding stream for the past three years.  EU income has increased from c. £200k in 2008-09 to c. £760k in 2014-15 (an increase of c. 263%). Although still small, research income received from international sources outside of the EU is also steadily increasing.

All of this is excellent news and shows how BU is increasing research income, especially from highly prestigious sources such as the UK Research Councils.

If you’re interested in applying for research funding then RKEO is here to support you through the process. Contact your Funding Development Officer early on in the process.

 

Research income graph 2014-15

BU’s research council success rates 2014-15

RCUK logoYesterday Jo added a post to the Blog about the national Research Councils’ success rates in 2014-15. This post is a follow-on from that one and provides the data at BU-level. The coverage is decisions made between April 2014 to March 2015.

BU’s success rate in 2014-15 was a respectable 17% with two bids awarded out of the 12 submitted. In 2013-14 BU’s success rate was 33%, also based on 12 applications. Although the success rate this year has decreased slightly it is still one of BU’s highest annual success rates with the research councils. The sector average success rate in 2014-15 also declined slightly, from 30% to 28%. The successful BU awards were:

  • NERC – Integrated software system for the 3-dimensional capture and analysis of footwear evidence (Prof Matthew Bennett)
  • NERC – X-band radar applications for coastal monitoring to support improved management of coastal erosion (Dr Luciana Slomp-Esteves)

The sector average success rate with NERC was 26%, compared to BU’s impressive 67%.

BU has had more grants awarded from the Research Councils over the past year than are reported here, however, the official stats only show results against the lead institution so successful bids where BU is the collaborating institution are not shown against BU in the data.

BU is especially keen to increase the quality of bids submitted to Research Councils and RKEO run a number of initiatives, such as the Grants Academy, to support you to design, write and structure competitive, fundable research proposals and to maximise your chances of being awarded funding. Anyone considering submitting a bid to a research council should speak with their Research Facilitator as early on in the process as possible. The Research Facilitators have extensive experience of reviewing research proposals and can provide you with expert guidance on how to shape your bid. You can also access guidance documents on the Research Blog here: http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/researcher-toolbox/je-s-guidance/

Read more about the demand management measures that the Research Councils have put in place here: Demand Management. As the councils are still seeing an increase in applications received alongside declining success rates then there is a possibility that demand management requirements will be stepped up in future. This may also form part of the BIS changes likely to result from the HE Green Paper published last week and the CSR decisions announced at the end of the month. We’ll keep you posted via the Blog of any developments.

BU signs the LERU statement on open access

LERU logoBournemouth University has today signed up to the statement Moving Forwards on Open Access proposed by the League of European Research Universities (LERU), released in October 2015. The document calls upon the European Commission and the forthcoming Dutch EU Presidency to actively support open access policies to ensure that research funding goes to research, not to publishers, by working with all stakeholders to bring sensible solutions to the fore.

no double dippingOne of the key aims will be to stop the practice of ‘double dipping’ whereby institutions effectively pay publishers twice – once via a journal subscription fee and secondly via article processing charges (APCs) for gold open access articles. LERU is calling on the EC to review the business models of open access publishing and cites practices adopted by some publishers that allow universities to offset APCs against subscription costs, thus lessening the danger of ‘double dipping’. The aim of this approach is to allow European research to have maximum impact by making it publicly available immediately and to release funds for universities to invest in further research.

green open accessThe other key agenda item is to achieve greater consistency in embargo periods for green open access. The current situation is that there exist a variety of embargo periods (ranging from six to 24 months plus) which is confusing for authors, readers and universities. The aim is to ensure these are as short as possible to ensure cutting edge research makes its way into the public domain as quickly as possible. There is also currently a lack of uniformity of embargo periods for publishers and journals in different countries, and LERU are proposing this should be standardised.moedas

LERU are currently calling upon the research community to sign up to the statement. To date over 3,000 individuals and institutions have signed up. The next step is for the statement and its support to be submitted to Commissioner Carols Moedas (research, science and innovation) and the Dutch EU Presidency in the first half of 2016.

The impact of the enshrining of the research intensive university

teaching-vs-research-chartEarlier this year a large number of academics across the UK completed the biennial Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS) run by Vitae. Looking through the responses from BU academics I was interested to note a number of conflicting responses on the theme of research vs education and which is more valued at BU, as well as in the sector as a whole. Some respondents reported that the primary focus is education, enhancing the student experience, student administration, etc. whilst other felt that research activity is valued ahead of education and that institutional developments over the past ten years have been to the advantage of research.

From an internal perspective I found this interesting for two main reasons:

1. The BU strategy focuses on fusion – the equal importance of education, research and professional practice and how these support and strengthen each other.

2. Is it a case of research vs education, i.e. two separate activities each vying for time, or are these mutually supportive activities?

Looking externally, however, it is clear that over the past 50 or so years the sector at large has enshrined the research-oriented university and therefore the role of the research-oriented academic as an ideal model. We can see this in the way the majority of the league tables are constructed, with research metrics playing a dominant role. We can see it in the stratification of universities with the ‘elite’ institutions being those that are considered research-intensive. And we can see it in the concentration of funding and sponsorship for research that flows into these institutions, enabling them to remain research orientated.

But what are the consequences of this? How does this impact on the HE sector at large?

For starters, it has created a stratified hierarchy among institutions and within the academy where arguably none need exist. Academia has a multitude of different missions that need to be addressed by the profession as a whole. The focus on research as the holy grail devalues the breadth and diversity of universities and undermines the role they all play in advancing society.

Erving_Goffman_128x128Secondly there is a link between the rise of the importance of the research intensive university and the increased managerialism of higher education, i.e. that higher education and research must be efficient and productive and measurable. This as a policy in itself is not a bad thing – high quality teaching depends on research, reputation is built on scholarly output, and reputation influences an institution’s ability to attract students and staff. This favours research-intensive institutions that earn significant amounts of income and can ensure research activity forms a central part (and in some cases the majority) of academics’ roles. There are, however, few institutions where the research model fits and works and it becomes detrimental to those not in the top few as it causes greater tensions between teaching (the bulk of the work), research (usually a small portion of work) and time/energy. I don’t believe that life is rosy for those academics in the top tier of institutions – the pressures placed upon them to perform, bring in more and more funding, produce better quality papers in the top journals, etc. must be enormous. But that is a different type of pressure to that experienced in universities such as BU where the tension between teaching and research and time are very real. Goffman described this tension by stating that it makes an academic career “perhaps as complex and troubled as the moral career of the mental patient”.

Fusion glow edgeI’m not sure what the answer is that gives this a happy ending. It is likely there isn’t one and the tensions will remain, but BU’s fusion strategy and the new academic career framework should ensure that, internally at least, all activities are equally valued. None of the information in this post is new, however, sometimes it does us good to step back from the precipice and acknowledge the tensions before deciding the next step. We need to continue to play the game of the research-oriented university as this is what the sector is increasingly basing itself upon, but we must do it in a way that is right for BU and doesn’t tie us all up in knots. Any thoughts?

Have you been involved with an event designed for the external community?

Then we want to hear from you! 🙂

The University is currently compiling the data for the annual Higher Education – Business & Community Interaction survey (HE-BCI) due to be submitted to HESA shortly. Data returned is used to calculate our HEIF grant.

We are asked to submit details of social, cultural and community events designed for the external community (to include both free and chargeable events) which took place between 1 August 2014 and 31 July 2015.

Event types that should be returned include, but are not limited to:

  • public lectures
  • performance arts (dance, drama, music, etc)
  • exhibitions
  • museum education
  • events for schools and community groups
  • business breakfasts

We cannot return events such as open days, Student Union activity, commercial conferences, etc.

All events that we ran as part of the Festival of Learning, ESRC Festival of Social Science and Cafe Scientifique series are likely to be eligible for inclusion and we will collate this information on your behalf centrally.

If you have been involved with any other event which could be returned, please could you let your contact (see below) know the event name and date, whether it was free or chargeable, the estimated number of attendees, and an estimate of how much academic time was spent preparing for (but not delivering) the event:

  • SciTech – Norman Stock
  • FoM – Rob Hydon
  • HSS – Deirdre Sparrowhawk
  • FMC – Mark Brocklehurst
  • Professional Service – Julie Northam (RKEO)

The data returned is used by HEFCE to allocate the HEIF funding so it is important that we return as accurate a picture as possible.