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Research Policy

International Perspectives on COVID-19 and University Research

With the prospect of a vaccine now becoming a reality, thoughts are already turning to recovery, and how we can build a better post COVID-19 world. 

It is in this context that several notable reports have recently emerged, among them this one commissioned by Springer Nature.

Unequivocal in its recognition of the role of University research in the COVID-19 recovery, the report identifies three priorities (and a series of corresponding actions) for governments, policymakers and other stakeholders: 

  • Priority 1 – Protect research capacity (CAP1-5)  

CAP1 – Rebalance research effort to tackle changing national and global priorities 

CAP2 – Develop blended online and offline research methods 

CAP3 – Strike new partnerships to counter ‘research nationalism’ 

CAP4 – Address instability and structural inequality in academic career pathways 

CAP5 – Reform postgraduate research training 

  • Priority 2 – Transition to open science (OS1-5)  

OS1 – Increase investment in digital infrastructure 

OS2 – Redefine roles for commercial and community actors 

OS3 – Enable innovation in peer review 

OS4 – Embed preprints in publication workflows  

OS5 – Adopt open science as the ‘new normal’ 

  • Priority 3 – Secure research funding (RF1-5) 

RF1 – Ring-fence research funding to underpin managed systemic change 

RF2 – Realign research investment towards biomedicine, digital and green technologies 

RF3 – Incentivise external partnerships, from discovery research to deployment 

RF4 – Reform funding procedures to deliver greater agility and responsiveness 

RF5 – Co-ordinate solutions to improve research system sustainability 

The full report can be found here.

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Research Policy

Résumé for Researchers

Opening up conversations about researcher evaluation 

Résumé for Researchers has been created to support the evaluation of individuals’ varied contributions to research. Find out more about the background to the tool in The Royal Society blog here. 

Sustained excellence in research requires a range of contributions

By creating a working environment that is both challenging and supportive, researchers help improve the flow of ideas, encourage talent to join their organisations and nurture future generations of researchers. To make the decisions concerning the people that create such an environment, decision-makers need to be able to assess the previous contributions made by individuals. 

Over the years, the research community has developed ways of assessing contributions to the development of new ideas often by focusing on individuals’ portfolios of outputs and the impact of their work. However, a researcher’s overall contribution to research goes beyond their easily attributable outputs and impact. Too narrowly focused performance indicators can make it harder to see, reward or nurture the full range of contributions that are necessary to create the environments that enable excellence and steward it for the future. To recognise these wider contributions, the Society aims to prompt conversations on the evaluation of researchers.

Showing the full range of an individual’s contributions to excellent research

To prompt such conversations the Society has developed Résumé for Researchers, which is intended to help researchers to share their varied contributions to research in a consistent way and across a wide range of circumstances. 

Résumé for Researchers is not designed to replace more granular information where needed. The strength of the tool lies in its ability to provide a concise overview of an individual. It draws from other established and internationally recognised biosketches, assessment matrices and application forms, as well as having the Society’s own evaluation methodology at its heart.

A flexible and adaptable tool

Résumé for Researchers can be adapted for a range of different processes that require a summative evaluation of a researcher. To be effective, the tool must provide value when used by researchers in a wide variety of situations. These include those working in different disciplines, at different career stages and by those who work independently as well as those who work in large teams.

The Society has tested the Résumé with a range of different groups and organisations, including senior leaders in academia, the national academies, industry professionals, early-career researchers and career development professionals.  

What does it look like?

We propose that Résumé for Researchers is a structured narrative document with four modules and space for a personal statement and personal details. An outline of the structure with guidance notes for each of the constituent sections is included below. You can also download this template of the suggested structure (PDF). The four-module narrative section has a suggested total word limit of 1000 over two pages, with the individual deciding how to distribute that across the modules. It has guidance on what could be included in each module, but the individual decides what information to include. The outputs and success measures found on a standard research CV, such as publications, funding and awards, fit naturally within the modules. However, the Résumé for Researchers tool allows these achievements to be put in the broader context of the researcher’s activities.

The Résumé for Researchers structure

Personal details 

Provide your personal details, your education, key qualifications and relevant positions you have held.

MODULE 1 – How have you contributed to the generation of knowledge? 

This module can be used to explain how you have contributed to the generation of new ideas and hypotheses and which key skills you have used to develop ideas and test hypotheses. It can be used to highlight how you have communicated on your ideas and research results, both written and verbally, the funding you have won and any awards that you have received. It can include a small selection of outputs, with a description of why they are of particular relevance and why they are considered in the context of knowledge generation. Outputs can include open data sets, software, publications, commercial, entrepreneurial or industrial products, clinical practice developments, educational products, policy publications, evidence synthesis pieces and conference publications that you have generated. Where outputs have a DOI please only include this.

MODULE 2 – How have you contributed to the development of individuals? 

This module can be used to highlight expertise you provided which was critical to the success of a team or team members including project management, collaborative contributions, and team support. It can include your teaching activities, workshops or summer schools in which you were involved (for undergrads, grads and post-grads as well as junior colleagues), and the supervision of students and colleagues. It can be used to mention mentoring of members in your field and support you provided to the advancement of colleagues, be it junior or senior. It can be used to highlight the establishment of collaborations, from institutional (maybe interdisciplinary) to international. It can be used to describe where you exerted strategic leadership, how you shaped the direction of a team, organisation, company or institution. 

MODULE 3 – How have you contributed to the wider research community? 

This module can include various activities you have engaged in to progress the research community. It can be used to mention commitments including editing, reviewing, refereeing, committee work and your contributions to the evaluation of researchers and research projects. It can be used to mention the organisation of events that have benefited your research community. It can highlight contributions to increasing research integrity, and improving research culture (gender equality, diversity, mobility of researchers, reward and recognition of researchers’ various activities). It can be used to mention appointments to positions of responsibility such as committee membership and corporate roles within your department, institution or organisation, and recognition by invitation within your sector.

MODULE 4 – How have you contributed to broader society? 

This module can include examples of societal engagement and knowledge exchange. It can include engagement with industry and the private sector. It can be used to mention engagement with the public sector, clients and the broader public. It can be used to highlight positive stakeholder feedback, inclusion of patients in processes and clinical trials, and other impacts across research, policy, practice and business. It can be used to mention efforts to collaborate with particular societal or patient groups. It can be used to highlight efforts to advise policy-makers at local, national or international level and provide information through the press and on social media.

Personal statement

Provide a personal statement that reflects on your overarching goals and motivation for the activities in which you have been involved.

Additions 

Mention career breaks, secondments, volunteering, part-time work and other relevant experience (including in time spent in different sectors) that might have affected your progression as a researcher.

A Template is available here.

This is related to Governments initiative around reducing bureaucracy in UKRI bidding.

This post was written by Steph Bales, Director of Research and Innovation Services

Categories
Research Policy

Research Policy News, September 2020

UKRI data shows positive success rates in smaller HEIs

Research Professional suggests smaller less research intensive universities have the same likelihood of winning of funding as those in research intensive institutions. Read the article here and book onto one of our research funding workshops.

Regional Disparities in Research Funding

Research Professional find little has changed in the last 40 years in terms of regional allocations of research funding – see the article here. The levelling up agenda looks set to address this – look at some of the recommendations that would enable levelling up in the NESTA report on The Missing £4 Billion

Wellcome Trust – Changing Research Culture

As part of their work on reimagining research cultures, Ben Bleasdale from the Wellcome Trust has written on whether COVID-19 could change research culture for the better.

If you are interested in finding out more about responsible research and innovation, why not book on to one of our workshops.

Reducing the Bureaucratic Burden of Research

On 10 September, Ministers Donelan and Solloway, and Lord Bethell, announced a series of wide-ranging measures aimed at relieving the administrative and bureaucratic burden on the research, innovation and higher education sectors.

The measures proposed – which span all aspects of sector operations – represent a bold attempt to “support the research, innovation and higher education sectors through this challenging and uncertain time”.

Measures of note include:

  • A new funding scheme to cover up to 80% of a university’s income losses from a decline in international students.
  • A new £200m investment to support researchers’ salaries across the UK – bolstered by a further £80m redistributed from existing UK Research and Innovation funds.
  • A significant streamlining of current research and innovation grant schemes.
  • Major reforms to the way student level data is collected and used.
  • And “a radical, root and branch review” of the NSS.

Alongside these measures, the Government has called on all HE providers to engage in their own fundamental review of internal systems and processes. There is, surprisingly, no mention of REF.

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Research Policy

Introducing the Government’s R&D Roadmap 2020

Following its budget promise to increase R&D spending to £22B by 2024/5 (and 2.4% of GDP by 2027) the UK Government launched its R&D Roadmap on 1st July, 2020. Light on detail, the roadmap, reaffirms the government’s longer-term spending commitments and sets out a list of development areas to realise its ambitions.

Business led innovation

The Government’s target that 2.4% GDP will be invested in R&D by 2017 assumes a significant part of that investment will be delivered through business led innovation. An Innovation Expert Group was established in August to shape innovation policy and prioritise actions which are likely to include unlocking finance for new innovative businesses, support for commercialisation through HEIF and an expectation that HEIs deliver on the principles set out in the knowledge exchange concordat . The roadmap states that Innovate UK (IUK) will ‘evolve further’ fuelling rumours that it could receive an even larger percentage of the science budget. ¾ of Teesside’s UKRI research funds come through IUK.

Levelling Up

Following autumn’s comprehensive spending review, the government will publish its UK R&D Place Strategy and set up a ministerial R&D Place Advisory Group to address long-term economic growth in the most disadvantaged areas of the UK through the levelling up agenda. Little has been revealed about the Government’s plans for a future place-based strategy, but Universities are expected to play a major role. NESTA’s recent report: The Missing £4 Billion; Making R&D Work for the whole UK (Forth and Jones, May, 2020) puts forward a number of recommendations on how R&D funds can support local growth and productivity.

(Post Brexit) International Collaboration

With participation in, or association with, Horizon Europe looking unlikely, the roadmap proposes the development of a ‘new agile offer’ to grow global collaboration that will support mobility of excellent researchers, develop partnerships with the world’s leading R&D-intensive nations and work with developing nations to tackle the UN’s sustainable development goals. However, to date no firm plans on replacement funding have been put forward. In 2019, the Adrian Smith Review Changes and Choices, outlined a number of proposals which may influence BEIS’ approach.

Research & Development Culture Strategy

Managing talent to attract, grow and retain outstanding researchers from more diverse backgrounds, is another commitment set out in the roadmap. This will involve developing a R&D Culture Strategy, reviewing the impact of COVID-19 on researchers, a new deal for PGRs, support for ECRs, investment in technicians, establishing an Office for Talent (to improve international mobility) and a ‘new offer’ linking research and innovation talent development to the levelling up agenda.

PMO Initiatives

A couple of initiatives led by the Prime Minister’s Office include government led ‘moonshots’ to address societal challenges – an idea which has emerged in recent years from Mariana Mazzucato at UCL and the creation of an £800M Advanced Research Programme Agency (ARPA) based on the US Defence Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA). It isn’t clear yet whether UK ARPA will be a virtual or physical research institute to back breakthrough technologies but it is expected to support high risk initiatives, tolerate high levels of failure and be staffed by professional programme/project managers. It is not clear how these PMO priorities differ from the UKRI societal challenges set out in the industrial strategy except that their governance outside of UKRI means their funding will not be tied to the Haldane principle (that decisions about research funding allocations are made by experts in the field).

Reducing Bureaucracy

Finally, the roadmap is delivering on its commitment to address bureaucracy for research funding decisions published here and includes moving to a two staged streamlined application process, the replacement of J-eS, replacing varied funder approaches to CVs and track record information by adopting the Royal Society’s Resume for Researchers, including all details in one call document, and embedding equality, diversity and inclusion best practice in application procedures.

This post was written by Steph Bales, Director of Research and Innovation Services