Posts By / Matthew Bennett

Making a Contribution: REF and Buses

I suspect that this may win an award for the most contrived title!  Let us deal first with the issues of buses.  The reference is simply to the fact that I have not posted for a while and have more than one post to make this week!  Having dealt with the minor issue of the title we should perhaps turn to the main event, which has nothing to do with buses and everything to do with acknowledging contribution.

On Thursday of this week the REF Academic Steering Group (RASG) which I chair will meet in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor to recommend the final selection of outputs, and associated staff, across all the Units of Assessment in which we intend to make a return in REF2014.  Just to be clear our submission is made in November of this year but the results are due in December 2014 which seems a life time away just now and I can feel the wait dragging already!

The point I would like to make, however, is that the inclusion of outputs is only one way of contributing to our REF submission and all researchers at BU have, and will, help shape our submission.  Outputs account for only 65% of the overall research profile in any given Unit of Assessment (UOA), the other 35% is down to environment (15%) and impact (20%).  Unlike RAE2008, data collection for REF2014 is based on HESA codes rather than the returned FTE and, therefore, metrics which support environment – research income, doctoral completions and esteem – are based on the collective performance within a given HESA code.  To put it bluntly they are not tied to specific individuals who have outputs that are returned. This means that even if a member of staff does not have outputs selected for inclusion, they may have contributed strongly to the research environment through leadership, income generation or student supervision.  Similarly impact is based on a series of case studies, two for the first 14.99 FTE and an additional one for every subsequent 10 FTE.  Again there may be cases where some individuals have generated impact case studies but don’t have sufficient outputs at the required threshold to be returned.  In many ways these individuals have contributed more than anyone to our REF submission.

So the message is a simple one: even if your outputs are not selected for submission this week, all staff are making some form of contribution to our REF submission.  We should also not forget those that are making a contribution through their teaching enabling others to focus on research.  REF is a collective not an individual endeavor.  It is a game, and yes it is a game of high-stakes, that we must play and play well to ensure that the reputation of BU as a leading research institution is maintained, something which is a core part of our collective commitment to Fusion and BU2018.

An introvert’s perspective of the Festival of Learning

When I was a postgraduate student at Edinburgh you had to do what was called colloquially as a ‘six month report’.  It was a rite of passage – a written report and a talk in front of the department – in order to be registered fully for your PhD; something like a transfer report in BU’s current system but earlier in your doctoral journey.  I had never spoken in public before apart from a few lines in various theatre productions as a kid (I was Sam as in Samneric in the Lord of the Flies once).  The rehearsal for the talk was an absolute disaster, a humiliation in front of my supervisor and friends.  My supervisor, who was Head of Department at the time and usually short on time and patience, helped me to sort a new structure and content for the talk probably to save his own embarrassment and this allowed me to ‘belt it out’ as he so eloquently put it.  So was born ‘Matthew the Performer’ something which I perfected rapidly through a series of external talks and in my early days as a lecturer.  I actually learnt to enjoy performing, could and still can, turn it on as required channelling my inner passion and enthusiasm for all things linked to research.  Presentations are now my bread and butter, but occasionally they still take their toll on a die-hard introvert, in a world of extroverts.

This was very true of my sandcastles presentation for the Festival of Learning recently; a success by most accounts, full of enthusiasm for the science of sedimentology and hopefully entertaining the audience of adults and children present.  My boys liked it so that is the feedback that matters to me most.  I passionately believe in the importance of public engagement and sandcastles provide me with an enduring vehicle to talk about geology and the amazing story of our planet!  The Festival was about public engagement and the public were engaged by all who contributed to it; amazing in fact and a testament to what we can do at BU.

The point I wish to make here however is that the cost of this piece of public theatre to me personally was huge; I didn’t quite spend the rest of the weekend in a darkened room but not far short!  I don’t mind admitting that my worst nightmare is a room full of strangers and a need to network and/or sell.  I can do it and well when needs must after years of practice, but the cost is often high.  I much prefer to talk to a few close colleagues and friends than a room of strangers.  I suspect that there are many people out there like me within BU, who crave for the solitude of the hills, a good book, a closed door and something creative to work on.  People are sometimes perplexed (and have often felt the need to comment) on the contrast between me in performance mode, or when observed talking to my close friends, and the version of me visible at other times as I walk for example across campus lost in moody thought oblivious (sorry!) to all that pass by.  So why bare my soul so publicly in this way?  Well I have just finished reading a fantastic book, which has won much praise and sold around the world entitled Quiet by Susan Cain.  It is simply fantastic and makes one proud to be an introvert in a world of extroverts!

Mancunian Abroad

Last week I was part of a Leadership Foundation delegation visiting a number of US Colleges and Universities in Washington DC and I thought I might take this opportunity to share a couple of observations.

The delegation visited a range of institutions from George Washington University with one of the highest fee levels in the US, to the NOVA in North Virginia a Community College, via George Mason University, Laureate and Howard University.  The US system is often held up as an example of a truly market orientated system; a direction of travel for the UK HE in light of UK student number reforms.  But I am not sure this is true.

It is certainly a system of huge diversity in terms of numbers and types of institutions – 7,400 by some definitions – each with a different mission and funding mix.  It is a system in which the student is surprisingly not to the fore and in which educational quality is not a preeminent concern, in fact almost irrelevant as a market driver it would seem!  The definition deployed by many of a satisfied student is a student that gives!  The percentage of alumni that give a donation, even if it is just a dollar, is a key metric of institutional student success.  The same is true of research there is no real measure of quality, with many institutions now openly and aggressively chasing research dollars to bolster their fragile financial models.  One has to wonder how the US has maintained a preeminent position within the research rankings and how long this can last?

The institution (and President [VC]) that impressed me most, and the one that I would work for given a chance, may surprise many of you since it was a teaching only institution.  Yes I know, for one who has committed his life to research I need to wash my mouth out now with soap for uttering such a statement!  NOVA is a Community College and effectively a vocational feeder college providing open entry education and turning out either vocationally trained professionals with associate degrees or individuals with sufficient credit to transfer to four year programmes and full degrees at other institutions such as George Mason University.  They don’t do any research, it is not part of their mission, but boy do they have a societal impact!  The vision on display through their inspiring President of the future economic needs of the State, of the social problems that might arise from a failure to meet them, of the work force skills needed to tackle these challenges and how to fill them was impressive: linking supply, demand and future societal need in one seamless skills escalator.  An outstanding role model of what could be achieved if we are brave in working with Bournemouth and Poole College in the future and with the schools that feed it.

I was less impressed by the social engineering behind cohort creation at George Washington University which aims at creating an influential peer group for life; a ready-made old boys/girls network.  Laureate was interesting and their ability to bring scale to online courses impressive, but a relative small part of their business in reality.  Their real focus seemed to be on global acquisitions, investing capital to help partner institutions overseas lever the maximum potential from their brands.  I was left with the impression of a powerful, politically well-connected institution with ambition, but one based on maximising the potential from other institutions brand and market position.  Perhaps exactly what one might expect from a private for profit provider and one that sees the future in the societal and global need for inexpensive mass education.

It’s worth just touching on Howard University, one of the oldest historically black universities, a relic of the policy of racial segregation in the US based on the Plessey Principle of ‘separate but equal’.  One of the things that struck a chord with me was a simple statement made by the International Director: ‘the challenge is between attracting better students versus constantly working to make the students one has better’.  I thought this was superb because it focuses attention on the key challenge not on the quality of input, but the enhancement we as educators need to provide to an individual.  That is a real focus for educational enhancement and student satisfaction!

Lots to think about but I keep returning to the issue of quality and its measure, or more precisely the lack of a consistent measure of it within the US system.  Quality and its measurement is at the heart of our system, both within research and education, and as we face the final preparations for REF and are in the middle of our institutional quality audit I have been reflecting on how lucky – yes lucky – we are to have such robust and strong measures of quality.  In my view they make our higher education system one of the best in the World and long may they live!

Congratulations and Good Luck

April had a high level of activity around bids being submitted and awarded, with Schools winning consultancy contracts, research grants and organising Short Courses.

For ApSci, congratulations are due to Pippa Gillingham for her award from the Royal Entomological society, to David Parham for his contract with English Heritage for SWASH post-excavation, to Emilie Hardouin for her award from The Fisheries Society of the British Isles, to Mark Maltby for his consultancy with Central Bedfordshire Council, to Jonathan Monteith for his consultancy with Barbara Farquharson, to Richard Stillman for his consultancy with Natural Resources Wales, and to Miles Russell for his short course introducing Roman Britain.  Good luck to Luciana Esteves for her application to the Royal Society, to Paola Palma for her contract to English Heritage, to Anita Diaz and Demetra Andreou for their individual applications to the European Commission and also to Anita for her application to the EU Lifelong Learning Programme, to Jonathan Monteith for his consultancy to the Forestry Commission, to Fiona Coward for a short course introducing World Prehistory, and to Kate Welham for a short course introducing Archaeology.

Congratulations to the Business School for Andy Mullineux’s AHRC award on responsibilities, ethics and the financial crisis.  Good luck to Yasmin Sekhon for her British Academy application, to Ruth Towse and Maurizio Borghi for their joint application to AHRC, as well as Maurizio’s second application to AHRC, to Hiroko Oe for an application to the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee, to Fabian Homberg for his application to the SWIFT Institute on gender diversity in the finance industry, to Isaac Ngugi and Gordon Liu for their application to ESRC, and also to Juliet Memery, Dawn Birch, Chris Chapleo and Jeff Bray for their application to ESRC on the perceptions of the High Street retailing experience.

For DEC, congratulations to Hongnian Yu for his successful European Commission award for RABOT, and to Marcin Budka for his consultancy with Western Union Financial Services Inc.  Good luck to Sarah Bate and Nicola Gregory for their application to the British Academy on the role of eye movements in the recognition of moving faces, also to Jane Elsley and Andrew Johnson for their individual applications to the British Academy, to Christopher Richardson for his short course on Digital Economy and Assurance for UKUD International Education Consultants, to Simon Thompson and Biao Zeng for their contract to Chongqing University, to Katherine Appleton for her application to The Humane Research Trust, to Siamak Noroozi, Philip Sewell and Mihai Dupac for their application to Remedi.  There were a number of applications to the European Commission, and so good luck goes to Hongnian Yu for his two applications, as well as Zulfiqar Khan for his, and Abdelhamid Bouchachia and Hammadi Nait-Charif for theirs.

For HSC, congratulations are due to Keith Brown for his KTP with Dorset County Council, to Caroline Ellis-Hill for her short course Masterclass on action research, to Jane Murphy and Joanne Holmes for their short course on nutrition for older people living in the community, to Clive Andrewes for his short course from the Strategic Health Authority, to Edwin Van Teijlingen for his short course for a Masterclass in interviewing in semi-structured interviews, to Sarah Hean for her contract from Offender Health South West, and to Anthea Innes for her contract with the Alzheimer’s Society. Good luck to Jonathan Parker for his application to the British Academy, to Rosie Read for her application to NORFACE, to Vanora Hundley, Zoe Sheppard and Jennifer Leamon for their application to National Institute for Health Research, to Peter Thomas for his contract to Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, and to Les Todres and Caroline Ellis-Hill for their contract to the Burdett Trust for Nursing for a strategy for improving ‘what matters to people’ to enhance dignity in care.

Congratulations to the Media School for Liam Toms and Mike Molesworth for their individual consultancies with Work Research Limited, and to Janice Denegri-Knott for her two consultancy contracts with Work Research Limited, to Laura Hampshaw and Matt Northam for their short course with the RBCH on WordPress, to Sofronis Efstathiou for a conference with SKILLSET, to Stephanie Farmer for her consultancy contracts with the National Trust and Grapevine Telecom Ltd, and to Heather Savigny for an annual conference for Media and Politics Specialist Group.

For the School of Tourism, congratulations go to Nicky Pretty for her contract with Godolphin Company, to Crispin Farbrother for his short course in wines, to Lisa Stuchberry for her contracts with Bournemouth and Poole College, Borough of Poole, and Holburne Museum, to Jon Hibbert for his contract with Liz Lean PR Ltd, and to Richard Gordon for his conference on International Disaster Management.  Good luck to Keith Hayman and Simon Thomas for their short course to Hall & Woodhouse Ltd, to Nicole Ferdinand and Mary Beth Gouthro for their contract to King’s College London to research Carnival Futures: Notting Hill Carnival 2020, to Neelu Seetaram and Stephen Page for their application to the British Academy, to Miguel Moital for his application to the European Commission.

Finally, congratulations to Colleen Harding in HR for her award from the Leadership Foundation for HE for transformative approaches to career progression for academic staff aspiring to leadership roles, and good luck to Bogdan Gabrys, Hongnian Yu, Dimitrios Buhalis, Ross Hill, Keith Phalp, Ben Parris, Kate Welham, Alexander Pasko and Dean Patton for their EPSRC application for a Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Science.

Congratulations and Good Luck

March had a good deal of activity around bids being submitted and awarded, with Schools winning consultancy contracts, research grants and organising Short Courses.

For Applied Sciences congratulations are due to Rob Britton for a successful month of March with several awards obtained which include the Environment Agency, Barbel Society and the University of Toulouse; to Ross Hill for his consultancy contract with Joint Nature Conservation Committee; to Roger Herbert and Richard Stillman for their consultancy contract with Natural England to assess Birds of Prey in Chichester Harbour; to Pippa Gillingham for her short course on GIS for Environment Managers.  Good luck to Pippa with her application to the Royal Entomological society; to Emilie Hardouin and Demetra Andreou for their individual applications to the British Ecological Society; to Anita Diaz for her application to the Soil Association; to David Parham for his application to English Heritage; and to Adrian Newton for his application to DEFRA.

Congratulations to the Business School for Donald Nordberg’s award from the British Academy to research ‘News Media as corporate governance watchdogs’.  Good luck to Huiping Xian and Sachiko Takeda for their application to the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation (DAJF) and to Hiroko Oe who has also applied to DAJF.

For DEC good luck with the consultancy contract submitted by Marcin Budka and Bogdan Gabrys to Western Union Financial Services; to Simon Thompson for his application to the Multiple Sclerosis Society to investigate post-traumatic growth in people with multiple sclerosis; and for the TOSCANA application submitted by Mark Hadfield to the European Commission.

For Health and Social Care congratulations are due to Luisa Cescutti-Butler for her award from the EU Lifelong Learning Programme; to Keith Brown for his consultancy contract from Hampshire County Council; to Anthea Innes, Michele Board, Vanessa Heaslip and Sue Barker for their consultancy training for Gracewell Healthcare; also to Anthea for her short course with RBCH; to Michele Board for her short course with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust; to Susan Clarke for her short course with Solent NHS Trust; and to Clive Andrewes for several short courses with Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, Southern Health, North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust together with Bernie Edwards, Wessex Deanery and NHS Bournemouth and Poole.  Good luck to Elizabeth Rosser and Andrew Harding for their application to the General Nursing Council for England and Wales Trust; and to Ann Hemingway, Sarah Hean and Lee-Ann Fenge-Davies for their application to the European Commission.

Congratulations to the Media School for Kris Erickson’s award from the ESRC; Jian Chang for his award from the Royal Society to research ‘Mobile Physically based Computation for Computer Animation’; to Tom Watson, Anastasios Theofilou and Georginana Grigore for their award from The Arthur W Page Centre; to Liam Toms, Graham Goode and Melanie Gray for their consultancy contract with Dorset County Council; and to Stephanie Farmer for her consultancy contract to develop a web site for Richard Cole.  Good luck to Bronwen Thomas and Julia Round for their application to AHRC; to Julian McDougall, Mark Readman and Marketa Zezulkova for their application to EPSRC; and to Iain MacRury and Richard Berger for their application to EPSRC; to Jian Jun Zhang for his application to the EPSRC for continued funding for the Doctoral Training Centre; to Laura Hampshaw with her short course with the RBCH; and to Dan Jackson, Einar Thorsen and Christos Gatzidis for their application to HEA.

Finally, for the School of Tourism congratulations go to Lisa Stuchberry for her contracts with NHS Dorset, Dorset County Hospital and Bangor University; to Stephen Calver for his contract with Bournemouth Borough Council; to Sarah Hambidge for her award from the Bournemouth Borough Council for the Bournemouth Arts Festival; and to Jon Hibbert for his award from Resort Development Organisation.  Good luck to Nicky Pretty for her application to the National Trust.

Best wishes

Matthew

New APF Process goes live today!

Currently all research and knowledge exchange bids require an Activity Proposal Form (APF) to be signed off by the applicant, Dean and, depending on the value, members of UET and the Board.  To date the APF has focused on financial issues, primarily the financial recovery of a proposed bid or grant.  Currently the APF process has been a paper based system rather than one which allows for electronic approval.  This is about to change with one important addition!

The APF has to date not required any sign-off with respect to bid quality, yet submissions of poor quality endangers both personal and institutional reputations. In future all bids will require a dual sign-off one focused on financial issues and one focused on quality.  The quality will be determined by a senior academic within a particular school, typically the Deputy Dean for Research/Knowledge Exchange and other nominated assessors.  This will all be wrapped up in a new paper-free system. 

The redesigned APF process will introduce a formal three stage approval process which will work as follows:

Stage One: An Intention to bid form will be completed by the Principal Investigator (PI) in conjunction with RKE Operations and approved before the PI can progress with the bid.  As part of this process, the PI will nominate a quality approver from a School’s approved list.  Out of courtesy the PI is expected to inform the nominated Quality Approver that they will receive the bid in due course.   Once the form is completed and RKE Ops have entered the details on RED, the Authorised School signatory will be sent the bid electronically, which they will receive in the form of an email containing a link.  Clicking on the link will direct them to the APF Approval Screen to make their decision.  If UET/Board Member approval is required then it will follow the same process and they will receive the link also.

Stage Two: Each School’s Deputy Dean Research/Knowledge Exchange has provided a list of Quality Approvers.  Training is being provided to the Quality Approvers during February and March.  When the bid is ready the Quality Approver will be sent the bid electronically to confirm that it is of sufficient quality to be submitted for external funding and they will approve the bid via link as per Stage One.  Sufficient quality is defined as ‘without causing reputational damage to the individual or BU’.  The Quality Approver will be required to justify their decision and may also provide feedback to help the applicant fine tune the final bid.  If a bid has been through the Internal Peer Review Process this step will be largely automatic.  Quality approval is only required for: (A) competitive research bids (e.g., RCUK, Charities etc.) regardless of value; and (B) competitive knowledge exchange bids such as tenders and contract research bids where the value is in excess of £50k.  If a bid is declined by a Quality Approver RKE Ops will inform the Dean and Internal Peer Review Team to trigger support and guidance to the PI to improve the quality of the bid if there is sufficient time.  The Dean will be responsible for informing the PI that their bid has been declined on the grounds of ‘Quality’ and will provide them with feedback.  Appeal can be made directly to the PVC who will adjudicate differences of opinion on the basis of their own review of the bid. 

Stage Three: Final approval is only required if finances within a bid have changed  significantly from those set out in Stage One.  RKE Ops will decide whether this is the case and whether re-approval is required. 

For all stages of approval, all approvers will be sent an email containing a link to the bid; relevant documentation will be provided in the link; comments can be added to say why a decision was made (these will appear on the APF); and no log-in to RED is required.

The RKE Operations team will provide the PI with the Intention to Bid form.  Jo Garrad, RKE Operations Manager, has provided a user guide explaining the new process to all those involved in the approval stages.  If you would like a copy of the user guide then please contact Jo Garrad.

A Request for Help or Coming of Age?

In the distant past I helped to give birth to several textbooks.  I wrote a lot of stuff in the easy days of the 90’s, when life was simpler and sleep was for wimps!  One of these textbooks has endured, the one closest to my heart.  It was written with my PhD twin – he was erosion and I was deposition – a friendship forged in the Cairngorms attempting to paint frozen pebbles on avalanche slopes that has endured for over 25 years.  Glacial Geology was first published in 1996 and a second edition was squeezed out between other projects in 2009.  The book still sells and still manages to delight its authors when found on a dusty shelf in academic bookshops; finding the book shop is the greater challenge these days however.  As a 17 year old the book is not in bad shape and I am intrigued by the idea of keeping it alive so that we can celebrate its twenty first birthday.  Having a tradition view on these things I am taking this landmark as 21 not 18 by the way.  In its life it has seen a lot of change in me, in higher education and in the field to which it provides a general introduction.  This change is the point of the post, in case you had begun to wonder?  My co-author and I have been approached by the publisher about a third edition, which is a daunting prospect given my lack of time, a problem shared by my co-author who holds a similarly challenging role in Wales.  The challenge is worse however since the publisher not only wants a new book, but also a fully interactive e-version with a website and learning resource.  Sadly it is to be a book for the modern digital age when paper and few good pictures are no longer enough.  So sitting in my in-box is a draft proposal from my co-author – curse his efficiency – with some suggestions about how we might approach the e-version; video clips of classic landforms, pod casts of key concepts, interactive diagrams which you can explore with your finger or mouse, and a hyper linked bibliography.  Neither Neil, nor I profess to be experts in this field and that is the purpose of this post, to seek your help.  What would you do?  What would you include? Where are there good examples that we can look at and follow?

Revision to the Activity Proposal Form Process

Currently all research and knowledge exchange bids require an Activity Proposal Form (APF) to be signed off by the applicant, Dean and depending on the value members of UET and the Board.  To date the APF has focused on financial issues, primarily the financial recovery of a proposed bid or grant.  Currently the APF process has been a paper based system rather than one which allows for electronic approval.  This is about to change with one important addition!

The APF has to date not required any sign-off with respect to bid quality, yet submissions of poor quality endangers both personal and institutional reputations. In future all bids will require a dual sign-off one focused on financial issues and one focused on quality.  The quality will be determined by a senior academic within a particular school, typically the Deputy Dean for Research/Knowledge Exchange and other nominated assessors.  This will all be wrapped up in a new paper-free system. 

The redesigned APF process will introduce a formal three stage approval process which will work as follows:

Stage One: An Intention to bid form will be completed by the Principal Investigator (PI) in conjunction with RKE Operations and approved before the PI can progress with the bid.  As part of this process, the PI will nominate a quality approver from a School’s approved list.  Out of curtsy the PI is expected to inform the nominated Quality Approver that they will receive the bid in due course.   Once the form is completed and RKE Ops have entered the details on RED, the Authorised School signatory will be sent the bid electronically, which they will receive in the form of an email containing a link.  Clicking on the link will direct them to the APF Approval Screen to make their decision.  If UET/Board Member approval is required then it will follow the same process and they will receive the link also.

Stage Two: Each School’s Deputy Dean Research/Knowledge Exchange has provided a list of Quality Approvers.  Training is being provided to the Quality Approvers during February and March.  When the bid is ready the Quality Approver will be sent the bid electronically to confirm that it is of sufficient quality to be submitted for external funding and they will approve the bid via link as per Stage One.  Sufficient quality is defined as ‘without causing reputational damage to the individual or BU’.  The Quality Approver will be required to justify their decision and may also provide feedback to help the applicant fine tune the final bid.  If a bid has been through the Internal Peer Review Process this step will be largely automatic.  Quality approval is only required for: (A) competitive research bids (e.g., RCUK, Charities etc.) regardless of value; and (B) competitive knowledge exchange bids such as tenders and contract research bids where the value is in excess of £50k.  If a bid is declined by a Quality Approver RKE Ops will inform the Dean and RKEDO Internal Peer Review Team to trigger support and guidance to the PI to improve the quality of the bid if there is sufficient time.  The Dean will be responsible for informing the PI that their bid has been declined on the grounds of ‘Quality’ and will provide them with feedback.  Appeal can be made directly to the PVC who will adjudicate differences of opinion on the basis of their own review of the bid. 

Stage Three: Final approval is only required if finances within a bid have changed  significantly changed from those set out in Stage One.  RKE Ops will decide whether this is the case and whether re-approval is required. 

For all stages of approval, all approvers will be sent an email containing a link to the bid; relevant documentation will be provided in the link; comments can be added to say why a decision was made (these will appear on the APF); and no log-in to RED is required.

The APF Process is being piloted in HSC throughout March and the official go-live date for all Schools will be 2 April.  The RKE Operations team will provide the PI with the Intention to Bid form.  Jo Garrad, RKE Operations Manager, will provide a user guide explaining the new process once the pilot has been completed.

Congratulations and Good Luck

February had a good deal of activity around bids being submitted and awarded, with Schools winning consultancy contracts, research grants and organising Short Courses.

For Applied Sciences, congratulations are due to Richard Stillman for his consultancy contract with the Welsh Government, to Mark Maltby for his consultancy contract with Central Bedfordshire Council, to Andrew Ford for his two consultancy contracts with WPA Consultants and Axent Embroidery, to Ralph Clark for his consultancy contract with the Environment Agency, to Phillipa Gillingham and John Stewart for their award from Natural England.  Good luck to Daniel Franklin with his application to the Marine Management Organisation, to Emilie Hardouin for her application to FSBI, and to Rob Britton and Richard Stillman for their proposed consultancy with DEFRA.

For DEC, good luck with the applications submitted by Katherine Appleton to the Humane Research Trust, by Simon Thompson to the Royal Society, and by Tania Humphries-Smith to the HEA. 

For HSC, congratulations are due to Anthea Innes for her award from the NIHR and also good luck with her application to Bournemouth Churches Housing Association, as well as her consultancy training for Gracewell Healthcare together with Michele Board, Vanessa Heaslip and Sue Barker, and finally, for Anthea and Michele Board’s short course with RBCH.  Good luck also to Edwin Van Teijlingen for his application to NIHR.

Congratulations to the Media School for Liam Toms consultancy contract with Kestrel Medical Ltd, to Rebecca Jenkins for her consultancy contract with Craft Strategy Ltd.  Good luck to Stuart Allan and Einar Thorsen for their application to ESRC, and to Darren Lilleker, Dan Jackson, Richard Scullion, Einar Thorsen and Shelley Thompson for their application to ESRC, to Julian McDougall and Kris Erickson for their application to The Spencer Foundation, to Carrie Hodges and Janice Denegri-Knott for their application to the British Academy, to Iain MacRury, Chris Williams and Steve Harper for their consultancy bid to SKILLSET, and to Liam Toms with his consultancy bid to Work Research Limited.

For the School of Tourism, congratulations go to Richard Gordon for securing funding for his short courses with the MoD and NEMA, and good luck to Jon Hibbert with his contract to Liz Lean PR Ltd, to Christian Lemmer and Crispin Farbrother with their short course to Wuhan City Vocational College, to Lisa Stuchberry for her contract to NHS Dorset, to Stephen Calver with his contract to Bournemouth Borough Council, and to Nicky Pretty and Lisa Stuchberry for their contract to Godolphin Company.

For applications and bids submitted, a number of people have submitted applications to the European Commission and so good luck to Adrian Newton, Kathy Hodder, Elena Cantarello, Judith DeGroot and Chris Shiel from Applied Sciences who are investigating Bio-regional approaches to sustainability transitions, to Jon Williams, Luciana Esteves and Christos Gatzidis also from Applied Sciences. To Ian Swain who is researching the Mediterranean diet against depression, to Katherine Appleton, Emili Balaguer-Ballester for their separate applications,  all from DEC, and to Abdelhamid Bouchachia (DEC) and Hammadi Nait-Charif (MS) for their application, to Anthea Innes and Michele Board from HSC with their Erasmus application, to Edwin Van Teijlingen also from HSC, to Stuart Allan from the Media School, and to Dimitrios Buhalis, Alessandro Inversini and Katherine King, all from the School of Tourism.

Finally, good luck to Jian Jun Zhang, Xiaosong Yang and Lihua You (all MS) with their application to EPSRC for an award in Human Robot Symbiosis in a shared Nervebot for phantom limb pain, to Jonathan Williams (HSC) for his contract to the International Tennis Federation concerning Lumbo-pelvic-hip motion sharing in tennis players.  In HSC, good luck goes to Keith Brown who is applying for two separate KTPs with Brent Council and Dorset County Council.  Good luck to Venancio Tauringana in the Business School, who has submitted an application to the British Academy’s International Partnership and Mobility Scheme.

Renegades

Now if I was a master of popular culture, which I am not having spent my youth with my nose in a book or walking on some lonely mountainside then I would be able to link the title to song lyrics or film titles in some witty way.  I have this nagging feeling that I should be able to do this, but have to admit to abject failure in the attempt; may be someone else can help?

The word renegade is an interesting one and for someone who is a natural rebel, tilting at the system, has some appeal.  But some of those systems are important and I find myself having to be an ‘enforcer’ of those systems.  So what systems am I trying to gently remind you of?  Well it is those that pertain to external bidding.  We have uncovered a few renegades recently who are for whatever reason – over enthusiasm is my favoured explanation – have been circumventing our well established systems for dealing with research and knowledge exchange grants.  The process is absolutely clear; all external bids whether they are for teaching, research or knowledge exchange must be costed by RKE Ops, logged on RED our internal funding database, signed off via an APF and subject before acceptance to a contract approval process.  I know that some of you see these systems as ‘bureaucracy’ or interference with academic freedom and another obstacle in the way of you doing your job.  I have heard all of this recently in response to the changes we are making to the APF process, but these systems are in place for good reason and it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves of what they are.

Well first off we have a standard costing methodology that ensure that we recover where possible the full cost of a research or knowledge exchange bid and when possible for commercial work make a small profit if this is appropriate.  Staff time needs to be costed as does the overheads that go with it from heat and lighting through to the IT and estate infrastructure we provide.  Even when the total value of an award is limited we need to know the true cost to the organisation of an activity, so that we can acknowledge and accept the implicit cross-subsidy that is occurring.  We also need to capture what we bid for in order to make our statutory returns to HESA and for Schools to monitor performance against both their budget and performance targets as set out in BU2018.  There is also a well-established hierarchy of financial and contractual levels at which different people within the organisation can approve things.  For example, anything above £500k needs a signature from a member of the BU Board.  Contracts need to be vetted to ensure that the terms and conditions are not punitive to staff or the University and that our intellectual freedom and property is being protected and preserved.  This is all routine and standard stuff for RKE Ops and is all taken care of for you; it is not a bureaucracy but a necessary process of making an application for external funding.

In the last three years RKE Ops have established a uniformity of approach and support across BU and are committed to improving the efficiency of their systems and the service they provide.  In fact we are in the process of reviewing both and will be making further changes later in the year to improve the service they offer.  There are occasional log jams, particularly around contract approval, but the more business we do on our own terms and conditions the less these are.  RKE Ops and I work with Legal Services to identify issues and challenges and I am always interested to hear of problems or sources of delay with a view to seeing what can be done to resolve them.  But no system is perfect and I would like to emphasise that ours is no more bureaucratic that of other HEI’s whatever people may say!  So my final parting shot is that these systems are there for a reason, are not an obstacle or an impediment to bidding, are not unusual within the sector and need to be complied with; not to do so is a matter with consequences. 

The renegades are being contacted individually and gently educated in the error of their ways and are I am sure they are just isolated cases, but I do want to reinforce the message.  If you are making an external bid of any sort talk to RKE Ops and they will not only help and support you but will make sure that the correct protocols are followed.

The Ethics of Fame

I was idly flicking between TV channels last night, as you do, desperate to find something to watch for a few minutes before bed.  I eventually latched in a frenzy of button pushing – the batteries in the remote need changing – on yet another programme about Richard III, this time the ‘untold story’.  There has been some discussion amongst my peers about the ethics of this whole saga; not the ethics of digging up a king, but the ethics around how this discovery was presented to the world.  There is no doubt that presenting it via a series of news conferences and documentaries has maximised the publicity for the University of Leicester but is this the most ethical way for research to be presented?

 Research is dependent on the process of ‘peer review’ as the gate keeper of quality.  Nothing without peer review should be accepted by anyone as accurate and without flaw, at least so the doctrine goes.  I would probably go as far as to argue that it is unethical and damaging to the reputation of researchers for work to be published that has not undergone rigorous peer review, receiving that quality stamp.  If we take an extreme case I am sure you will agree with me.  A research lab has new results which claim that child vaccination is dangerous; should they be allowed to publicise their claim, causing public hysteria, until their work has been rigorously peer reviewed and the faults and limitations exposed critically?  I am sure you would agree that peer review prior to disclosure has an essential role here?  What if the science was flawed?  But is this not the same, at least in principle, as the case of Richard III?  The quest for the media stories and for the associated glory is not always a positive attribute within academia, being simply an extension of the ‘fame cult’ which seems to haunt modern society were everyone apparently wants to be the latest one hit wonder! 

 I know this bitterly from first hand.  In 2005 I was part of a research team which believed that it had discovered a series of footprints in Mexico which due to their age challenged early colonisation doctrine for the Americas.  The ideas were first subject to protracted review in the journal Nature and in parallel we were successful in being chosen to exhibit at the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Society in 2005.  Our desire to publically launch the work at the exhibition became progressively out of sync with our plans to publish it; the exhibition was an immovable date and the review process fluid and on-going.  In fact by that stage we had abandoned Nature and submitted elsewhere.  At the time of the exhibition the new paper was only just under review and was not actually published until January of the following year, 2006.  Our opponents had a rebuttal published in Nature in December before the publication of the paper they were rebutting!  I went on to prove that these footprints were not in fact footprints at all, a paper four years later that took courage and cost me the friendship of my former collaborators.  It was the right thing to do however.  I view the publicity back in 2005 now with some mild embarrassment; the idea was simply wrong and a more cautious approach would have served better.  It did raise the profile of optical laser scanning and lead to the invitation that took me to Kenya in 2007 and some very real footprints, in fact the second oldest in the world.  But in my heart, and with the benefit of hindsight, I know that the quest for publicity before ensuring the rigorous foundations of the claim was wrong and I learnt a hard lesson about the power of patience and of peer review as the great gate keeper.  Yes peer review may inhibit some of our more creative and innovative ideas and encourages conformism to existing research doctrine, but despite these faults it does stand as a bulwark against bad research.

 I am in no way criticising those involved in the Richard III story, they choose to break their story in the way they did for good reason no doubt; it was after all a huge secret to keep.  But I do believe that in most situations there is an ethical issue of good practice here and a principle that needs upholding.  It is a question that BU has faced quite recently with respect to some of its research on prosthetics at the time of the Paralympics and we held the line at the time that no disclosure should be made until work had been rigorously peer reviewed.  It is a line that I am proud of, founded on personal experience and basic common sense.

Good Luck and Congratulations!

December was unusually busy and January has also seen a great deal of activity around bids being submitted and awarded, with Schools winning consultancy contracts, research grants and organising Short Courses and Master Classes.  For DEC, congratulations are due to Chris Benjamin for his consultancy contract with TMSS, to Jonathan Cobb, Zulfiqar Khan, Reza Sahandi and Ian Swain respectively for securing match-funding for studentships and good luck to Siamak Noroozi and David Newell with their forthcoming short courses.

For HSC congratulations are due to Caroline Ellis-Hill for her award from the NIHR, to Jonathan Parker for winning both an award and a consultancy contract, to Anthea Innes for her consultancy contract with ECE Architecture, to Peter Thomas for his two consultancy contracts, and good luck to Sarah Cheesman with her short courses and also to Sue Way, Denyse King, and Alison Taylor with theirs.

Congratulations to the MS for Jian Zhang’s award for Intuitive Motion Data Retrieval and Synthesis, to Stuart Allan’s for his Gambrinus Fellowship, to Melanie Gray and Mike Molesworth for their consultancy contracts with Revelation Marketing, to Stephanie Farmer for her consultancy contracts, with Micronav and YYS International, and good luck to David McQueen with his short course on Media policy post-Leveson. 

For ST congratulations go to Heather Hartwell for securing match-funding for a studentship, to Adam Blake for his contract for a collaborative project with Price Waterhouse Cooper for delivery to HMRC and good luck to Richard Gordon with his forthcoming short courses, including training diplomatic staff.

For ApSci, congratulations are due to Emma Jenkins for her Early Career Researcher award from the AHRC, to Andrew Ford who, in addition to winning two NERC awards, has also secured consultancy contracts with Anesco and the Intellectual Property Office, to Genoveva Esteban for her KTP with Sembcorp Bournemouth Water Ltd, to Dave Parham for his consultancy contract, to Laura Basell and Tim Darvill for their awards from English Heritage, and to Richard Stillman, who has won had an award from Natural England, and secured contracts with DEFRA and the Marine Management Organisation. 

For applications and bids submitted, good luck to George Filis in the BS, who has submitted an application to the European Commission for a Marie Curie IAPP, and Dinusha Medis’ for an application to the Intellectual Property Office to investigate 3D Printing and IP Implications for SMEs, and to Heather Hartwell of ST for her application to the European Commission for a Marie Curie IAPP award, to Lisa Stuchberry for her two contracts with Bournemouth Borough Council,  and with Bangor University, Bournemouth and Pool College and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, to Heather Hartwell for her British Academy application, to Keith Hayman for his tender, and to Jon Hibbert with his Bournemouth Borough Council contract.

Good luck to Abdelhamid Bouchachia (DEC) for his application to the European Commission for an award to investigate Cognitive Robot Companion for Dynamic Learning, and to Tian Feng, Hongnian Yu and Keith Phalp who are also applying to the European Commission, to Zulfiquar Khan for his application to the World Bank and his forthcoming conference on Advances in Engineering Design and their Industrial Applications, to Sarah Williams for her application to the Health Foundation, to Andrew Mayers with his application to the Department for Education,  and to Jacqui Taylor for her HEA application.

In HSC, good luck goes to Keith Brown who is applying for three separate KTPs, and also contract for research with Somerset County Council, to Caroline Ellis-Hill for her application to The stroke Academy, to Anthea Innes, who has submitted an application to the European Commission, another to the MRC and a consultancy contract with Guild Care, to Peter Thomas who has submitted an application to NIHR, to Edwin Van Teijlingen for his application,  to Sarah Hean for her contract with the Health Foundation, to Association for Medical Education in Europe, to Lee-Ann Fenge-Davies for her HEA application and to Clare Cutler’s contract with the Alzheimer’s Society.

Good luck is due to Jian Zhang (MS) who has submitted two European Commission applications, to Heather Savigny with her AHRC application, Lihua You who has an application in to the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dean Wright with his consultancy contract with the iHEED Institute, and to Tom Watson with his application to The Arthur W. Page Center.

Finally good luck in ApSci to Adrian Newton, who has applications submitted to NERC and to the Yayasan Sime Darby Foundation, to Richard Stillman for his application to the Leverhulme and to Daniel Franklin for his NERC application and Mark Maltby for his AHRC application, to Rob Britton for his application to the The Fisheries Society Of The British Isles, to Tim Darvill with his English Heritage contract, to Bronwen Russell with her consultancy contract with Waddeton Park Ltd, and good luck to David Ossleton with his series of short courses for Forensic Lawyers.

Best wishes

Matthew

House of Lords & Open Access

Derek Ager wrote an absolutely lovely book called the Nature of the Stratigraphic Record which has become a seminal work within the field of earth history.  He alike n’s the stratigraphic record to the life of a solider in the trenches; long periods when not much happens punctuated by periods of blind terror!  At times I sometimes think this resembles the life of a Pro Vice Chancellor and yesterday was one of the those days of terror.  I gave evidence in front of the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee with respect to Open Access publishing.

They are currently investigating the implementation of the Open Access policy which was endorsed by Government and RCUK funding bodies following publication of the Finch report.  Of particular interest are the issues around article processing charges referred to by the acronym APC’s.  You may recall if you are an avid reader of the blog that the UK has endorsed following the Finch Report so-called Gold Open Access in which the author pays an upfront fee so that the reader can have unrestricted open access on publication.  The exact opposite from the current subscription based model.  The so-called Green Open Access model based on the use of institutional and subject based repositories is favoured by many within the academic community but not directly by government policy.  The cost estimate of the shift to Gold Open Access is variously placed at between £30 and £50 million and imposes an increased burden on already stretched research funds.  In theory in the long term subscript charges should fall but given that the UK contributes just 6% of global published output it is unlikely to happen quickly.  In September 2012 the Government arbitrarily gave £10 million to support 30 research intensive institutions and in November announced interim measures to come into force from April 2013.  Rather than simply support all RCUK grant holders the government adopted a complex algorithm which favours research intensives.  The algorithm calculates ‘direct labour costs’ in RCUK funded projects as a proxy for ‘staff effort’ and uses this to calculate an APC value.  The more ‘effort’ within a grant the more APC’s one apparently requires to publish that work.  So if you have lots of RCUK grants, with lots of staff costs within them you get more cash, irrespective of the quality or nature of that research.  Despite the fact that approximately 20% of BU’s research is RCUK funded and is outstanding we don’t exceed the £10k threshold and therefore will not receive any APC funding.

The obvious result of such a policy is off course to favour research intensive institutions and is yet another unintended driver towards research concentration in the UK.  One of the most useful things that the University Alliance, the mission group to which BU belongs, has ever done is the report it published in June 2011 on the perils concentrating research funding.  This is a beautiful and influential piece of work that demonstrates comprehensively that there is no link between research quality and the size of a research group; quality shines out wherever it is within the sector.  Quality can drive growth, but size does not necessarily drive quality.

So sandwiched between the PVC’s for Oxford and Imperial I felt somewhat out of place but was able to hold my own, and make the points that I wished to make drawing attention to the challenge that institutions like our own, that don’t currently receive APC support, face and to draw attention to issues of research concentration.  So where does that leave our own staff?  It is worth noting that we launched our own APC or Open Access fund two years ago and that demand has grown by 32% over that time and we are committed as an institution to ensuring that our researchers can publish in the most appropriate place for them to be read and cited irrespective of whether it is open access or not.  It is likely that we will double our Open Access Fund again this year and are committed to finding the funds to do so.

Sunday Evening

The house is quiet, tea has been had, the week’s ironing done and I am sitting at my computer reviewing studentship proposals ahead of next Friday’s panel meeting.  I have never liked Sunday evenings – the prospect of the week ahead, the lost weekend and the sense of time passed.  In fact it is safe to say that until my late teens Sunday evenings were always grim since school was something of a challenge.  These day’s Sunday evenings – and today’s is no exception – are full of work displaced from the week before.  It brings back memories of last minute homework panics!  My mood this evening, however, is also not helped because the studentship applications in front of me are not great.

First up the scheme is under-subscribed with just 28 match-funded proposals against 45 possible studentships, although the fully funded proposals are better 11 against 5.  But the real issue for me is that there are few good ones in the pile despite a lot of external funding.  Some School’s appear to have barely bothered; just one application from the School of Tourism for example and just three from the Media School.  DEC has a total of 16 applications which is more impressive and tops the list, while the Business School has 8, although disappointing that there are none with external match-funding.  Aside from these rather disheartening figures, the quality of the proposals is not what it was last year and there are proposals from some very senior Professors in the pile which are not well written.  There are a few proposals from less experienced staff, who are perhaps learning their trade, but these are not the majority.  It is sad to say that many of those with match funding will need to be returned for revision before they can be funded.

Writing a studentship proposal – any short proposal for that matter – is an art and takes thought and effort.  It is certainly not something that can be dashed off in five minutes on a Sunday evening!  There is nothing in my book more insulting than someone who blatantly takes an internal funding call for granted.  They provide the opportunity to hone ones skills in a safe environment, to perfect ones technique for when it matters externally, to impress your colleagues with your skill!  With the exception of a couple in the full-funded pile, where the quality is better generally, I am singularly unimpressed!  I have posted before about the art of the short application – the Weetabix Tie Breaker – and the skills are those of a good journalist who is able to hook the reader in via the first few lines and draw them in to the case.  The art of persuasive writing is in fact an art.  The hook must be followed by a compelling case with a clear rationale and a statement of method that demonstrates that the project is tractable, but above all else the case needs to demonstrate that the project will provide fantastic doctoral training and a launch pad for a student’s career.  Proposals that start with a statement of clumsy aims, with no hook or context, or simply try to bombard the reader with facts to bludgeon them into thinking that this must be important don’t meet the mark.  Proposals that fail to provide the context or make clear how the proposed research will impact on the stated problem also miss the point.  There are one or two good examples of the art of the hook; a couple for example start with some well-posed and provocative questions, but don’t follow through to link the questions to the research that follows and in one case the impact is lost through the use of some appalling syntax.  Others proposals have a mix of listed methods and techniques but no real central hypothesis or question, while in complete contrast some run out of space for any method!  While I am on a roll I will also tackle the problem of the words ‘novel’ and  ‘innovative’ nice adjectives but without any justification for why something is innovative or novel they are completely hollow!  In fact unsupported statements like that are red rag to this bull.  My final point is that other proposals seem unable to look beyond the needs of the match-funder to provide a wider context for the work leaving a depressing prospect for any doctoral student.

A proposal needs to be compelling – hook the reader in the first couple of lines, be clear about what the research will deliver, how it is original and will address the stated problem, why it is societally important, why it is timely and must be done now, how it will be done and what the student will gain by doing the research.  This is all easy to say, but hard to do.  There is more development work to be done here not just in helping individuals develop the skills to seek match-funding, which might help explain the low numbers of proposals, but also to sharpen the skills of the proposal writer.  I have been talking to Staff Development recently about such a programme aimed specifically helping staff to seek match-funding and then to ensuring that it is not wasted.  A bit late for the current round but for next year we will start a programme of support from April onwards.

It is time now to call it a day – warm milk, a book and my bed are calling.  Not a great Sunday evening but what’s new.

Art and Science: a common core?

A friend forwarded a couple of links to me recently about the relationship of science and art and particularly the dynamic that exists between them.  The pieces, one inspired by the other, set a number of thoughts running.  The first was the importance for many scientists/researchers of the scribbled conceptual diagram – in fact I have note books full of them.  Cartoons of reality that help researchers articulate arguments, scope concepts and summarise complex ideas.  In this sense art is a route to clarity of thought which is essential for good science writing, or at least in my humble opinion.  I can hear you questioning whether such cartoons are actual art – scribbled on the back of meeting agendas, squeezed into the margins of note books, on the back of drafts of papers – but I would argue that they are and their elegance in conveying ideas and thoughts process is as real and striking as any painting.

The pieces also made me think about how in the last 18 months I myself have embraced art as a painter.  Until recently I had never painted before in my life but took it up after turning out a half decent picture while painting one day with my boys.  Self-taught through the use of you-tube video clips, websites and a lot of trial and error I have advanced rapidly and exhibited a couple of my pictures last summer for the first time and have got to the stage where I am now brave enough to hang them on my office wall.  It provides me with what a colleague recently described as ‘flow’ relaxation and an hours painting of an evening has done wonders at placing life in better focus.  In fact I would go as far as to say ‘a painting a week keeps the doctor away!’  My art is inspired by my love of landscapes – mountains, hills, ice, snow, the artic and mountaineering in general – the same things which inspires my science and for me the linkage is clear and my art is simply an extension of my love of imagination, ideas and innovation the life blood of good research.  I would be interested to hear what you make of the blog posts in the two links below as well.

 

http://geology.about.com/b/2012/11/23/geologists-should-expose-themselves-to-art.htm

http://blogs.plos.org/attheinterface/2012/11/22/why-scientists-should-care-about-art/

Buildings for Fusion?

It is a while since I last posted mainly due to travel, a short trip to South Africa and then a week in Colombia promoting BU’s research and international agenda.  While to some the travel may seem interesting the schedule of meetings and travel logistics has been punishing.  But the reason for writing is not to excuse my lack of diligence with posting on the blog, but more to tell of an amazing building on the EAFIT campus in the city of Medellin.

Outside of the design engineering building at EAFIT

The exterior of this building is far from inspiring three floors of conventional offices sitting above five floors behind an open grill of vertical concrete pillars.  But the content of the five stories are inspired!  They consist of deck of concrete floors and mezzanines open in part to the outside expect for a green wall of vines and creepers between the concrete pillars!  The specification is basic, unlike the over specified buildings one finds at UK HEI’s, but beautifully elegant in design and function.  The floors house part of the Design Engineering School and embody the concept of Fusion, co-creation and put our plush living learning zones to shame!

Living and learning

Staff and students designed the building’s layout and did so around the concept of design function.  On the top floor, of the stack of five, there is a bare concrete level enclosed with glass, with staff offices (glass cubicles) and work stations for staff and students around and lecture theatres to the side.  All structures are modular with low movable white-wipe or glass partitions giving maximum flexibility and preventing expensive refit costs every time something changes.  This is where students co-create their design concepts with staff in a free and interactive environment with few formal barriers or obvious hierarchy.  This floor is also a true learning, living zone with X-Box play stations, TV’s, comfy sofas and refreshments to hand allowing students to rest and play between bouts of work and study.  The aim is to retain students on site and in the design environment.  In fact the provision of table tennis and pool tables, TV’s in most communal spaces was a feature of many of the Colombian Universities we visited, blending living and learning in one space.

Green Walls!

Co-creation in action

The floor or deck below is again enclosed by glass and is full of work stations and higher specification computers turning the designs from the floor above into realistic concepts.  The floor below contains materials testing laboratory and an amazing wall of sample materials – in fact a library of materials samples that students can examine and touch each with a web link to further information.  The floor below is full of robotics and electronics turning designs in to moving objects; students, academic staff, demonstrators and technicians use these spaces freely and together.  Below that on the ground floor is a floor of heavy machinery similar to that found in Tolpuddle House but laid out on one factory floor with staff offices – more flexible glass partitions – on a mezzanine floor above the shop floor.  The ground floor had no walls and is open to the outside, except for a growing wall of climbers; possible because of the climate and creating an elegant integration of indoor and outdoor space.

Material Wall at EAFIT

All the floors connect easily with one another and while the building specification is basic it is in keeping with the design environment and almost certainly much cheaper than the over specified HE buildings which are the norm in the UK.  For me however the inspiring bit is the co-habitation of a space by staff and students committed to the co-creation of innovative design and to the creation of new products at the core of the student experience.  An inspirational building demonstrating and living the principles we aspire to in BU2018 in the form of co-creation in a common and shared learning community within a functional, rather than flash space, with student’s at the core – the epitome of Fusion!

 

I was also extremely impressed by the Research Centre at Universidad de Antioquia.  A 50,000 metre square building housing all the Universities’ top research groups; only those highly rated in something akin to the REF are provided with space in this cross-disciplinary centre.  The space was completely modular with research groups inhabiting either one or two modules depending on their size.  Most of it was wet labs with postgraduate and staff offices in each module, although some modules contained just offices.  The beauty of a modular structure is that it allows groups to move without expensive refits and provides an equity of space for all groups.  While the modules are in themselves quite claustrophobic on each corner of the building where communal spaces – kitchens and meeting rooms used by all the research groups encouraging inter-disciplinary interaction and collaboration.  Again an inspiring use of space to encourage innovation and collaboration between research groups, built around an efficient and equitable use of space.  It set me thinking about what BU could do around the cross-disciplinary research themes and our need for more space for Postgraduate Research students.  It is worth noting that staff had offices and labs in the Research Centre, but were still grounded in their home Schools and Departments reflecting the fact that all researchers still had to teach and live the research-education duality.  It just struck me that such buildings were inspired ways of breaking down the cellular structure which sometimes inhibits our drive at BU toward collaborative and inter-disciplinary research.

Both these building are inspiring examples of how architecture can support and encourage inter-disciplinary research and in my view at least provides potential role models for BU future estate.

Secondment Opportunities

The BU Dementia Institute (BUDI) is the fastest growing research and knowledge exchange opportunity within BU.  A cross disciplinary institute committed to making a difference in the community in which we live.  Most of us have been touched by Dementia in some way through family or friends and it is one of the most important societal themes that current challenge us.

There are huge opportunities for BU staff to get involved in research and knowledge exchange bids and activity.  It is very much of its moment and growing BUDI fast enough to cope with the demand is a challenge.  BUDI needs staff from across BU to get involved and urgently.  You don’t have to be a health care specialist to particpate, they need psychologists, education experts, marketing and media experts, business and leadership professionals, economists, engineers, data analysts, project managers and computer scientists.  It is truly cross-disciplinary and an ideal way for staff to gain experience of research and knowledge exchange bids.

In support of BUDI I am pleased to announce on before of the Study Leave Committee (Fusion Investment Fund) five dedicated secondment opportunities for BU staff to get involved with BUDI.  Five opportunities for staff to be bought out of their current roles for up to 6 months to get involved directly with BUDI, to lead and contribute to research and knowledge exchange bids which will make a real difference in society.  Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the Director of BUDI Professor Anthea Innes and can apply at any time via the Fusion Investment Fund application form details of which can be found on the staff portal.  Why not get involved and make a difference?