Enhancing Research Culture

Enhancing Research Culture

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What can the higher education sector do to address the challenges of developing and improving research culture?

About this event

Research England is delighted to invite you to you next online engagement event on Enhancing Research Culture.

We aim to stimulate thinking on what the higher education sector can do to address the challenges of developing and improving research culture. The event will showcase good practice and share learning, which we hope will help to kickstart a wider conversation.

Who should attend?

The event is relevant to a diverse range of senior roles, including Pro-Vice Chancellors for Research and Innovation, Directors of Research, Research Culture leads, Deans, Research Managers, and professional services managers.

While this is a Research England event, we recognise that there are many areas of common interest across the UK and, therefore, institutions in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are also welcome to register.


David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, will introduce our two keynote speakers from the higher education sector, who will share their experiences as research leaders and the research culture journeys of their institutions:

  • Simone Buitendijk, Vice Chancellor, University of Leeds
  • Lisa Mooney, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Sheffield Hallam University

Melanie Welham, UKRI People and Culture Champion and Executive Chair of BBSRC, will talk about UKRI’s role in supporting research culture and invite questions and responses from the sector.

Steven Hill, Research England’s Director of Research, will convene a discussion panel of three RED Fund projects, showcasing their models of good practice, sharing learning and describing the diversity of their partners:

  • TALENT Technical Careers Programme – Kelly Vere, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy, University of Nottingham
  • UK Reproducibility Network – Emily Farran, Professor in Developmental Psychology, University of Surrey
  • Prosper: Unlocking Post-Doc Career Potential – Anthony Hollander, Pro-Vice Chancellor (R&I), University of Liverpool

There will be five breakout sessions. When you register, you will be invited to prioritise your top three choices from the following options:

1. Trusted Research: a taster session

Colleagues are continuously working to better understand the requirements of the Trusted Research agenda and its impact on staff and partnership working. This taster session is intended to increase awareness of how we are collectively responding to this evolving landscape and what further work may be required. We will explore how we can work together to strengthen our individual and sector responses to risks and threats to ensure the continuation of international collaboration which is at the heart of our HE system.

This session will build on current guidance and practice available across the sector to ensure we continue to foster a culture that can respond proactively to anticipated challenges. It is a chance for you to find out more about the risks and opportunities associated with the Trusted Research agenda and what it means for your institution’s research culture.

2. Octopus: the new primary research record for science

Launching in spring 2022, Octopus is a new platform designed to reset the incentive structures of scientific research, in order to reward best practice and foster an improved research culture. Funded by Research England (UKRI), and in partnership with Jisc and the UK Reproducibility Network, Octopus aims to replace journals as the place where primary research is shared first. Not only is it free (both to read and to publish work), and fast (as publication is instant, with peer review post-publication), but Octopus is designed to be ‘fair’ as well: with incentives for good research practice, for insightful critiquing, and for collaborative work and interdisciplinary linking.

In this session, Octopus’ designer, Dr Alexandra Freeman, will outline the system and how it is envisaged as a key way to help researchers, institutions and funders move towards a culture that rewards what we really value in science. It is an opportunity for research leaders to consider how their institutions incentivise and reward good research practices and how Octopus can support their research culture strategies.

3. Improving access and participation for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in postgraduate research study

We will hear about the plans of a range of the forthcoming projects, funded by the £8m joint Research England and OfS funding competition, to improve access and participation for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in postgraduate research (PGR) study. The funded projects are innovative in scope, scale and focus, addressing the issue of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic participation in postgraduate research education to an extent that has not been seen in England to date. The projects will be delivered over the next four years and will improve access into research, enhance research culture and the experience for postgraduate research students, and diversify and improve routes into a range of careers.

The session will be led by Jonathan Piotrowski and will be relevant for a range of audiences from senior leadership to those planning and leading interventions to improve research culture. It is a great opportunity to discuss different models to diversify your research pipeline and address EDI issues in your institutional research culture.

4. Fostering an Open Research Culture

Open research, including but not limited to open access and open data practices, ensures research is accessible, transparent, reproducible and cooperative. It underpins quality and efficiency in the research process, and ensures outputs are readily shared and available for re-use, helping to deliver knowledge, economic and social benefit. While open research has been recognised for some time as the mode of research to which we aspire, we are now seeking to move towards more established change so that open research is the default.

Nationally and internationally, there is increased recognition by both policy makers and the research sector of the importance of open research and initiatives to support it. This session will explore how research organisations, UKRI and other funders and stakeholders can positively incentivise and support a culture of open research. The session will provide opportunity to share existing good practice and initiatives, and to identify opportunities to embed and support a culture of open research and innovation.

5. Research Integrity

From the automotive to the airline industry, embedding quality assurance into everyday practice improves both the working environment and the outputs. One way to achieve this is by making it both safe and usual for everyone to share concerns when they think something is not right. While academic research is not like a production line, its quality is influenced by the culture in which it takes place. A culture that enables and supports academic challenge, while protecting those involved, is most likely to lead to robust research.

The Royal Society / UK Research Integrity Office “Integrity in Practice” toolkit outlines some practical ways to promote such a culture, and the UK Reproducibility Network increasingly facilitates peer support between researchers within and between institutions. However, recent reports and discussions with those working in the sector suggest that challenges may remain.

We would like to invite institutional leaders to have a ‘Chatham House Rules’ discussion with UKRI on whether researchers across their universities genuinely feel able to raise concerns informally and constructively within the norms of academic discourse, and whether there are roles for sector or national bodies (such as the new UK Committee on Research Integrity) to help.

A more detailed agenda will be circulated closer to the event, along with more information about our keynote speakers and the RED Fund projects on the discussion panel.

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