Category / COVID-19

Review of impact of Covid-19 on doctoral students and early career researchers in the UK

SMaRteN, in partnership with Vitae, is conducting research into the impact of COVID-19 on the working lives of doctoral researchers and research staff. Their aim is to provide insights to enable the sector to better support early career researchers.

The survey will be live for two weeks from Thursday 16th April – Sunday 3rd May. All doctoral students and early career researchers, usually resident in the UK or currently working / studying in the UK are welcome to participate.

You can participate here: www.smarten.org.uk/covid-19-study

Following the closure of the survey, SMaRteN will release anonymised data, enabling researchers and interested stakeholders to engage with analysis. Universities where the sample response size is large enough to ensure anonymity of respondents, may have access to their universities data. Vitae will release a summary of findings, analysed by their team, for university policy makers and funders.

SMaRteN, is the UK Research and Innovation funded student mental health research network  www.smarten.org.uk  @networkSmarten

Vitae is a non-profit programme supporting the professional and career development of researchers. www.vitae.ac.uk   @vitae_news

European Covid-19 Data Platform launched

The EC and EU member states have launched a new data-sharing platform ‘European Covid-19 Data Platform‘ to enhance coordination of the COVID-19 research. The aim of the COVID-19 Data Portal is to facilitate data sharing and analysis, and to accelerate coronavirus research. The Platform will consist of two connected components:

  • SARS-CoV-2 Data Hubs, which will organise the flow of SARS-CoV-2 outbreak sequence data and provide comprehensive open data sharing for the European and global research communities;
  • COVID-19 Data Portal, which will bring together and continuously update relevant COVID-19 datasets and tools, will host sequence data sharing and will facilitate access to other SARS-CoV-2 resources.

External guides for managing remote research

Given current Government guidance on the pandemic response, a number of research projects will need to be conducted remotely. Below are a number of external help guides/guidance articles that aim to assist researchers with this new way of working.

The UK Data Service’s guidance on online data collection

Warwick University’s article on using Skype to collect data

Guidance on conducting telephone interviews –
Article one
Article two

The resource ‘Fieldwork during the pandemic’

The UK Research Integrity Office’s ‘Internet-mediated research’ guide

Research should remain within the ethics approval that has been granted – if you need to make any changes as a result of COVID 19 (for example moving from face-to-face to remote interviewing) please email researchethics@bournemouth.ac.uk if a member of staff or your supervisor if a student.

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTORS: Comics in the Time of COVID-19 (edited collection)

An edited collection on graphic medicine and graphic storytelling related to the COVID-19 global pandemic

Editors:

Alexandra P. Alberda

Anna Feigenbaum

William Proctor

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infect millions, kill people around the world, dismantle political, economic and cultural infrastructures, and disrupt our everyday lives, we have seen a surge in amateur and professional creative activity in the comics medium. From blogs to Instagram, superheroes to public health, educational comics to graphic memoirs, etc., artists are engaging with a variety of genres, narratives, platforms and styles to tell stories.

This edited collection seeks to bring together a range of creative work, along with practice-based and critical reflections on what it means to make, share and read comics in the time of COVID-19. Bridging the fields of comics studies, memoir studies, graphic medicine and data storytelling, this collection also aims to explore our definitions of ‘what counts’ as graphic medicine and graphic storytelling.

We invite submissions in the form of comics, graphic chapters, interviews and other alternative formats, along with more traditional academic chapters.

Themes include but are not limited to:

-Histories, Comics and Global Health

-Comics, Superheroes and COVID-19

-Graphic Memoir and Self-Narrative

-Data Comics and COVID-19

-Political cartoons and other types of commentary

-Genre, narrative and style in COVID-19 comics

-Online publishing platforms and environments

-Shifting economies of comic creation and distribution

This collection aims to take a transdisciplinary and transnational perspective, with contributions written for the broadest audience. We particularly encourage submissions from comics artists, PhD and early career scholars, those from underrepresented communities in academia and people from the Global South.

For a gallery of existing COVID-19 comics graphicmedicine.org is a great resource: https://www.graphicmedicine.org/covid-19-comics/ Also, check out the hashtag #covid19comicsforgood

Please submit a 300-word abstract, script or description of your proposed contribution to covid19comics@bournemouth.ac.uk by May 31st, 2020.

HE Policy Update for the w/e 15th April 2020

Hi all, a short update this week, with a couple of important updates

Office for Students update

The Office for Students issued another update to providers on 14th April.

They confirm the on-going uncertainty on access to government schemes for HE providers – there are hopes that this will be resolved (in a positive way) later this week. The update says:

  • We understand that the two coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes and the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility are open to higher education providers, although final confirmation about eligibility for these schemes has still to be determined. We will continue to work with the Department for Education and HM Treasury to get further information about eligibility and will provide further information as soon as we can.

 

And this on the TEF:

  • As you will be aware, we were previously planning to develop and consult on a new framework for the TEF during the first half of 2020. The impact of the coronavirus crisis means that we do not currently have a date for the next TEF exercise. We will provide further information as soon as we can. We intend to consult on the future TEF scheme after the government has published the Independent Review and its response to the Review’s recommendations. Publication of the subject-level TEF pilot reports has been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Some commentators (see Johnny Rich here) are seeing this as a major step – an indefinite postponement of TEF using the virus as cover. After all, there are rumours that the Pearce review is not very positive about the TEF.

But this could be over-egging things. The OfS has postponed all its consultations and hasn’t yet set new deadlines for any of them – so this is just the OfS being consistent. Don’t read too much into the postponement, folks – we would be very surprised if TEF goes away, even though the 2020 data will be weird.

There is comment from Wonkhe here:

  • From the looks of the scant paragraph we get it would seem that this is a temporary measure, and that there would be every expectation that we would get a new date in time. But it is not hard to imagine this indefinite pause as a quiet death for a basket of metrics that has failed to capture the imagination of the audience it sought…..
  • It could, of course, be argued that the current situation suits everyone involved perfectly well. The Government seems in no hurry to publish a review of TEF that is likely to have been less than glowing, the OfS doesn’t need to respond to it or consult on it (making it easier to integrate TEF into the mainstream of regulation), and TEF remains on pause forever. Nobody loses face, the decision to cancel TEF is never explicitly taken (so the government never goes back on a manifesto promise) but it is quietly understood that no future work will be done on an indicator that signally failed to indicate anything.

 

[PS there is still no news from UKRI on the KEF deadline extension]

The Office for Students has a webpage which brings together all their guidance, FAQs and the Ministerial letters, which is a useful resource. They keep adding to the FAQs – what we are all waiting for now is the next news on admissions, due on 20th April

  • We have created a provider guide to coronavirus which includes information about our regulatory requirements, FAQs, and links to all letters and guidance issued by the OfS. There is also a student guide with FAQs and signposting to sources of information beyond the OfS.

 

Support for Universities

Universities UK issued a package of measures to address concerns in the sector – and shared it with Gavin Williamson in a telephone call.

They highlighted the many challenges to the sector, the work that we are doing to support the national effort and our staff and students. They asked for specific confirmation that confirmation that universities are eligible for the Job Retention Scheme (furloughing staff), and the Business Interruption Scheme and the Corporate Financing Facility and recommended a range of actions, including:

  • increasing funding for research and covering the full economic cost for UKRI funded research;
  • introducing a one year “stability measure” in the form of a student number cap equal to the number of UK and EU students forecast for 2020-21 plus 5% and a new sector agreement on fair admissions practices that would, amongst other things, restrict unconditional offers at volume;
  • provide further funding for courses that support key public sector services, including nursing and healthcare and some short and part-time courses;
  • a transformation fund to support universities to reshape and consolidate through federations and partnerships or mergers;
  • bridging loans and support for changes in lending terms, reprofiling funding allocations including the student finance payments towards the beginning of the academic year, and halting the planned cuts in teaching grant; and
  • mitigating the impact on international recruitment by providing flexibility of visa requirements and delaying changes that would apply to EU students after Brexit who would join in the 2021 academic year.
  • We don’t know when there will be a response, if at all.

The Opposition view

Research Professional has an interview with Emma Hardy, shadow Universities Minister. It’s an interesting read:

  • The model of intense competition is failing. Having read Universities UK’s submission to the government, letters from the University and College Union and other higher education organisations and interest groups, what is not surprising is the amount of consensus there is. If we continue down the same path of “unseemly competition” as UCU has warned, then some universities will face financial failure and as it stands the Office for Students has been clear that it will not bail them out.
  • As highlighted by UUK, the likelihood is that ‘cold spots’ will develop, exacerbating the regional inequalities and putting already disadvantaged students at a greater disadvantage.
  • There is a consensus around the need for change, and we should look to create a more collaborative system. UUK has already acknowledged that changes need to be made and that these could include “federations and partnerships”. Labour believes there should be greater collaboration between higher education, further education and adult community learning, to anchor those institutions in their communities and reform their governing structure.
  • Institutions offering similar academic courses in the same region could cooperate with the aim of staff development and educational improvement to benefit students and our national interest.

 

  • There needs to be a collective acknowledgement of the unpalatable idea of asking mature students who find themselves unemployed as a result of this crisis to commit to a lifetime loan of over £27,000 for a degree which the government knows they will never repay. Labour will continue to argue for free education for all as we face of challenge of upskilling our country in a post-Covid-19 world.

 

  • A higher education system funded by government, industry and commerce has the power to hold universities to a higher standard, and it should use this power to radically reform the terms and conditions of university staff and in particular the use of insecure contracts.
  • If we wish the UK to maintain its reputation as a world leader in research, then research grants must be balanced and distributed regionally to create regional institutions of excellence.
  • The Research Excellence Framework has been discredited nearly as frequently as the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework and the space provided by the suspension of the REF due to Covid-19 opens the discussion on what makes for effective accountability. If we are to build a future based on cooperation, and universities acting in the national interest, then market-based accountability measures serve no purpose.

 

This follows an intervention by Rebecca Long-Bailey, the new shadow Education lead, who wrote to Gavin Williamson last week, as reported by Research Professional

  • In a missive dated 9 April, that also addresses schools and further education policy, Long-Bailey—who finished second to Keir Starmer in the recent Labour leadership election—asks Williamson if he believes universities are “likely to require additional financial support” as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, and how decisions on such support will be made? She also asked the Department for Education to protect institutions from closure “for the duration of this crisis”.

 

  • She also asked if overseas staff working in universities would be offered the same one-year visa extension available to NHS staff and sought reassurances that international students’ visas will be extended where required.
  • “I believe in the current circumstances some additional support should be given to students,” Long-Bailey writes. Specifically, she calls for ministers to immediately suspend all interest on loans, waive tuition fees for the period that students are not receiving full tuition, and give students the opportunity to “defer to next academic year without needing to pay extra tuition fees”.
  • There should also be an assurance that students do not have to pay for accommodation that they are no longer able to use, Long-Bailey wrote, while those in receipt of a maintenance grant should be able to return all or part of it in exchange for it being written off.
  • The shadow education secretary also calls for clarity on student assessment practices during the Covid-19 outbreak and asks the government to “urgently consider” creating a student hardship fund for those who encounter financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic.

 

Opportunities

Finally, we are delighted that two members of academic staff have submitted evidence to an All Party-Parliamentary Group this week and we are very proud of the work that staff across BU are doing to support the national effort, and to contribute to the national debate.

If you haven’t done so before, now may be a good time to explore the APPGs active in your area of expertise and see if they are doing interesting work – the full list is here. Look under subject groups and follow the links  Some APPGs don’t update their websites very often (or have them at all) but some are very active.

And if you have a news story or a plan for research, or a solution to a practical problem linked to the virus, speak to the M&C press team or Becca Edwards.

Subscribe!

To subscribe to the weekly policy update simply email policy@bournemouth.ac.uk.

JANE FORSTER                                            |                       SARAH CARTER

Policy Advisor                                                                     Policy & Public Affairs Officer

Follow: @PolicyBU on Twitter                   |                       policy@bournemouth.ac.uk

 

COVID-19 funding and research

To support the response to COVID-19 the Research Design Service South West (RDS SW) has put together a useful resource page to help researchers. This includes relevant funding calls as well as more general information about the pandemic.

Don’t forget, your local branch of the NIHR RDS is based within the BU Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU)

The BUCRU/RDS office is currently closed due to Coronavirus.  Staff are still working and able to offer research advice remotely, call us on 01202 961939 or send us an email.

COVID-19 and the rise of Virtual Conferences

Yesterday we had a conference paper accepted by the EUPHA (European Public Health Association) International Conference.  When the paper was originally submitted to the EUPHA Health Workforce Research Section Mid-term Conference we had opted for an oral presentation in person at the conference in Romania this summer.  However, with the COVID-19 pandemic travelling to Romania to attend this conference is not an option for many (if not most) academics.  Therefore the organising committee took the initiative to re-arrange it as a virtual meeting.   Further good news for us is that participation will be free.

Of course, I am aware that some of the strengths of attending conferences include having unexpected discussions (often in the bar) with fellow academics and being away from the day job.  At the moment being forced to choose between postponing or cancelling a conference or changing to a virtual meeting conference organisers may want to reflect on  “… ask how conferences make a difference.”  This question was  originally raised in the book Academic Conferences as Neoliberal Commodities by Donald Nicholson [1].

We should have moved to more virtual meetings and  online conferences much sooner, but it is easy to say with hindsight!  The COVID-19 crisis has thought us that virtual classrooms, internet-based tutorials, Zoom meetings and online conferences can work, albeit with their limitations.  It is worth considering the return of investment of a conference [2] not just for the conference organisers (and funders) but also  individual academics as less travel will be saving time  and society as reducing  travel, especially international flights, will improve our carbon foot print.

 

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH)

 

References

  1. Nicolson. D.J. (2017) Academic Conferences as Neoliberal CommoditiesPalgrave Macmillan.
  2. Nicolson. D.J. (2018) Guest post by Donald Nicolson: The problem of thinking about conferences and Return on Investment (ROI) 

 

Opportunities to engage with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

COVID-19 Outbreak Expert database

A number of you have already signed up to POST’s database. It aims to provide policymakers and civil servants with information on researchers’ specialisms to help them identify experts across the UK whose work might inform responses to the pandemic. It is also a fantastic opportunity to obtain greater reach with your research and connect with networks that may not have been as accessible previously. The database is live and still accepting entries, so do take a look and see if there is an area you can contribute to. POST has outlined a number of topics but it is not exhaustive – if you think you can provide useful input in a relevant area not listed, you can still sign up. Please remember to notify the policy office and your faculty impact officer if you do so.

Survey on impacts, concerns and issues around COVID-19

If you sign up to the database, you will also have the opportunity to fill in a 15-minute survey sharing expert insights  into the short, medium and long-term concerns and issues you perceive relating to COVID-19 and its impacts. The results will be shared within Parliament and used to help inform POST’s work. POST will publish anonymised responses and/or a public synthesis of these insights with a list of acknowledgements to contributors (not directly attributed to individuals). The first set of responses is due to be analysed Tuesday 14th April and there may be a further round of analysis after this deadline if required.

Learn more about engaging with Parliament to achieve policy impact

POST aims to maximise Parliamentary engagement with academic research and has produced a useful video describing how Parliament uses expert research in its work, whether it’s scrutinising Government, debating important issues, or passing legislation. You can also access general resources, advice and information on how you can work with Parliament as a researcher here.

Free training webinars 

POST will soon be running a series of free 90-minute webinars, Parliament for COVID-19 outbreak experts. They will:

  • provide a brief overview of what Parliament is, does and how it uses research;
  • explore the different ways you might engage with Parliament through your research over the coning months – both in the context of COVID-19 and its impacts, as well as other areas; and
  • share tips about communicating with Parliamentarians and those who support them.

Most of this content is usually only available via paid-for training courses in London, and won’t only be relevant to COVID-19. Please share this opportunity with colleagues and we will let you know when registration is open.