Comment, insights and analysis from the Research Development team at Northumbria University
Author: Scott McGee
Research and Funding Policy Manager for Arts, Design and Social Sciences. I have recently joined Nothumbria University from the University of Liverpool, and am looking forward to working with academic colleagues to help achieve their research ambitions.
Scott McGee (Research Funding and Policy Manager) will be in in Lipman 116 on Wednesday 8th March between 1.00-2.00 and 4.00-5.00. (I have to go to a committee meeting in the middle of the afternoon, but will come back!)
If you’re a member of academic staff, a postdoc or a research student in Humanities or Social Sciences, feel free to come along to ask a question about research funding, future calls for proposals or to discuss a specific bid in development.
The plan is to run these sessions fortnightly, so the next sessions will be 22nd March, 5th April and 19th April.
Northumbria University was recently approached to provide a Case Study for a HEFCE Report on HEI’s approaches to Interdisciplinary Research.
HEFCE were particularly interested in our Institute of the Humanities due to our strong REF performance in this area, and the new research found in the Humanities area in the Institute in Israel where you can find the MA In Israel among more degrees and subjects.
A series of interviews were conducted with staff involved in the foundation of the Institute, and the report and Case Studies have now been published by HEFCE.
There were no big surprises, with the focus on how not if to implement Stern’s recent recommendations. However there are a few significant revelations we can glean from the consultation:
Institution-level case studies could play a major role in the next REF, accounting for 10-20% or up to 25% of impact scores in two different proposals being consulted upon. However, as I explain below, this proposal has the potential to achieve the opposite of Stern’s intention to better capture interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts;
Larger units may only be allowed to submit 1 case study for every 20 staff they submit, based on the proposed definition of “research active” staff and HESA data that show there were approximately 130,000 eligible staff employed across the sector in 2014. It appears that HEFCE are not minded to accept Stern’s recommendation to “relax the tight coupling between the number of staff submitted to a Unit of Assessment and the number of case studies required”. Rather, a fixed ratio is being consulted on, based on the number of research active staff, with flexibility being granted for smaller submissions (which would only have to submit 1 case study, thereby revealing their scores). As a result, some less research intensive Universities (that were more selective in the staff they submitted to REF2014) could have to find twice the number of case studies they needed in 2014 if they want to make a submission in 2021. For example, a unit with 80 academic staff that only submitted their 10 best researchers could have done so with two impact case studies in REF2014 but may need to find four case studies to be able to make a submission to REF2021. This may incentivize the submission of low grade and in some cases “unclassifiable” case studies that are not based on credible research in order to enable submissions to be made;
They are available at the links below, and Northumbria University features on page 56 in the Case Study Review:
Following a consultation with Early Career Social Scientists earlier in the year, and the withdrawal of their Future Research Leaders scheme, ESRC have today unveiled the support they will be providing for ECR’s going forward.
Following the comprehensive review, they have launched a new set of measures to support early career researchers in three distinct stages:
Transition to Independent Researcher
Ten per cent of the ESRC’s studentship budget will be used to fund Postdoctoral Fellowships through the ESRC’s 14 new Doctoral Training Partnerships. Fifty Fellowships will be funded each year from an annual £4.7 million fund. Northumbria is to be a part of a set of new North-East Doctoral Training Partnership with other HEI’s across the region.
The Fellowships will be available to ESRC and non-ESRC funded doctoral graduates who are within one year of completing their PhD and will give them the opportunity to consolidate their PhD through developing publications, their networks, and their research and professional skills.
They are also introducing a New Investigator scheme, which replaces the Future Research Leaders scheme. This new strand of the existing Research Grants scheme will provide early career researchers with the opportunity to lead their first major research grant and gain experience of managing a research project and team. The scheme has an open date so that researchers can apply for it at any point rather than having to wait for an annual competition.
Other new developments from the review include:
Ensuring that all ESRC grant holders set out, at application stage, how they will support postdoctoral researchers’ continuing professional development.
Commissioning an international comparative review of the nature of the PhD in the social sciences – to establish the extent to which PhDs provide effective preparation for careers both within and beyond academia, and whether our doctoral graduates are competitive internationally.
Encouraging early career researchers to participate in other ESRC funding schemes, for example, requiring them to be included as co-investigators.
ESRC Chief Executive, Professor Jane Elliott said:
“A key role for the ESRC is to build new social science capability; we are responding to the needs of early career researchers as identified through extensive consultation. The new mechanisms we have put in place aim to respond to the needs of different disciplines and recognise different career trajectories, supporting the very best researchers through the difficult early stages of their careers.”
This is good news for Social Scientists everywhere, and we will share more details of the new provisions as they are formally announced and launched.
Not many people know the University subscribes to the ‘Research Professional’ system, and it is available to all members of staff. Whatever type of grant you need, Research Professional can help you find it!
It is available at www.researchprofessional.com/site/northumbria and has some great features that can be invaluable in finding research funding opportunities that match your interests, or the exact type of grant you are looking for.
We have been working behind the scenes to make the system even easier to use- staff can now log in with their staff details, and will receive a weekly email from the system with relevant opportunities related to their department. (You can easily unsubscribe from these emails from the link within it, and set up email alerts tailored to your own specific research area or career stage using the guides below.)
Under ‘My Institution’ you will also be able to find a specific page for your department that lists the key research contacts in your area.
Some of the other features of Research Professional include:
A massive database of international funding opportunities that is updated twice a week
Advanced search capabilities that can get you to the exact type of grant you are looking for. Search by grant type, discipline, funder amount, country and many more
Set up email alerts on tailored searches you have saved to be notified when a grant you are looking for is added to the database
Easily share opportunities you have found with colleagues or potential partners and download deadlines to your calendar
Comprehensive news service that keeps you up to date with major developments in the funding landscape, and email alerts in your area of policy interest
A quick user guide and instructional videos on how to use the system are below.
Northumbria University has recently formed an alliance with Call for Participants. This is an international service that allows researchers at the University to recruit participants for their research through a central website as opposed to social media channels and the university mailing lists. It gives researchers at the University a much wider recruitment pool to draw on through a site aimed at and appealing to the general public. There are a huge variety of research studies on the site actively recruiting participants already from Universities across the globe.
To acquaint new users with the potential and practicalities of getting their research project up on the site a number of webinars will be ran throughout the month of February. They will be held on the 10th, 17th and 24 February at 6pm, and you can sign up at the link below:
Colleagues are invited to come along to Rutherford Hall on Thursday 11th February 12-2 to network, celebrate and learn more about the University’s Athena SWAN Bronze award.
This is a national award from the Equality Challenge Unit that recognises an Institutions efforts to address gender inequalities and promote a culture of fairness and inclusion for all. Northumbria University was formally conferred with its award at a ceremony in December focusing on STEM areas, and this event will raise awareness of the work of the self-assessment team and local and faculty level initiatives.