The UK Parliament wants more academics to engage with them

From York to Dundee, over 50 academics and professional staff attended Wednesday’s information-packed Research, Impact and the UK Parliament event held here at Northumbria.

The key message was that the UK Parliament want academics and the research community to engage with them. They really really want to hear from YOU! This is great news as it could help you get your research into Parliament and make an impact on policy.

Here are their top tips:

  • The UK Parliament Universities Team have created a new Research Impact and Parliament webpage which is full of contact details and
    Palace of Westminster

    how to guides. Visit this page and explore all the links and resources.

  • Be active on twitter. Tweet about your research and follow @POST_UK and @YourUKParl.
  • Blog about your research. Write for informed, interested non-experts. This will make it easier for the research staff at UK Parliament to digest the information and recognise its value in meeting their specific needs and make it more likely that they will interact with you.
  • Sign up for email updates or follow relevant select committees on Twitter
  • If you respond to requests for evidence or make contact with Parliamentary staff, ensure you are writing for informed, interested, non-experts. Be concise, don’t use jargon and don’t expect them to already know about your expertise or research. When setting out your academic expertise (beyond answering the question asked or point of knowledge you are putting forward) link to your profile or additional pdf documents. This will ensure that the key message is not lost. Committees are cross-party, and you are most likely to be listened to if you are objective and do not (even unintentionally) appear to take a political side.
  • If you find out about an inquiry too late, yet think you have something valuable to say, email and ask if you can still submit.
  • Use the Parliament website to research which MPs, Lords, Parliamentary staff or committees will be interested in your research and make contact with them.

Find out more!

www.parliament.uk/research-impact

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s website

Caroline Kenny’s blog about the impact of academia on Parliament

Current open calls for evidence

See what the Universities Programme offers for academics

View Research Briefings from Parliament

www.parliament.uk/get-involved

Follow UK Parliament on Twitter:

@POST_UK

@YourUKParl

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REF 2021: Guidance Released

This afternoon HEFCE released the decisions on staff and outputs for REF 2021. Our very own Ruth Hattam was digesting the details over lunch and has come up with a useful bitesize summary. If that’s not enough REF for you you can always read the full thing (it’s only 19 pages): http://www.ref.ac.uk/media/ref,2021/downloads/REF%202017_04%20Decisions.pdf

  • All staff with significant responsibility for research are returned to REF provided they are independent researchers.  As expected, institutions not going with 100% submission will be able to determine the criteria for identifying staff with significant responsibility.  My reading of the guidance is that it will be possible to consider different criteria for different UoAs, although the rationale for all decisions will need to be captured in the Code of Practice (guidance summer 2018, provisional submission spring 2019).  Further guidance on significant responsibility criteria (determined in conjunction with main panels) will form part of the Guidance on submissions/Panel criteria – the final versions of which will not be available until January 2019.
  • Independent researcher criteria will build on REF 2014 definition and will be worked on with the main panels.
  • ORCID strongly encouraged by not mandated.
  • Average number of outputs is 2.5 per FTE submitted.
  • Minimum of one, maximum of 5 outputs per member of staff (this is a soft 5 with no limit on co-authored papers).  Staff can be returned with zero outputs through an individual circumstances process.  The unit of assessment can also make  case for ‘unit circumstances’ to reduce the overall number of outputs required.
  • Impact case studies will be 2 for up to 15 FTE, then one for each additional 15 FTE (up to 105 FTE when one additional per 50 FTE)
  • Staff census date is 31 July 2020.  Hefce intend to work with HESA ‘to enable close alignment between the information collected and the staff record and the submission requirements of REF.
  • Output portability is the simplified model (i.e. outputs can be returned at current and previous institution – with some caveats).  (85% of the 157 respondents supported this model).
  • The original Open Access requirement (i.e. deposit within 3 months of date of acceptance) will be implemented from April 2018, although there will be the opportunity to record exceptions when deposit is 3 months after publication.

 

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RCUK Energy Programme Regional Meeting – Notes and Observations

Hybrid system by Nenad Kajić
Hybrid system by Nenad Kajić CC BY-SA
Hybrid System by Nenad Kajić CC BY-SA

Last week I traveled down to Leeds to take part in the RCUK Energy Programme Regional Meeting. Although this was billed as a Research Councils UK event, EPSRC were definitely running the show, with an hour of the morning session dedicated to a presentation by Kathryn Magnay, Energy Theme Lead at EPSRC and most of the afternoon devoted to breakout sessions on different topics by various EPSRC Portfolio and Programme Managers.

The Energy Programme is a cross-Council collaborative effort to “position the UK to meet its energy and environmental targets and policy goals through high quality research and postgraduate training.” Alongside EPSRC, which leads the theme, BBSRC, STFC, NERC and ESRC are also involved in co-funding some programmes, as well as Innovate UK and BEIS.

Apart from EPSRC input, there were nine short presentations from Northern universities, including Leeds, Sheffield, York, Newcastle, Durham, and Northumbria. These gave a brief snapshot of energy-related research activity at the respective institutions and suggested that there is a diverse and thriving programme of research in this area.

Key messages:

  • The Energy theme will shift from predominantly managed calls to responsive mode funding. The EPSRC’s Council has a target of 60% Energy theme funding to be driven by the research community via responsive mode grant applications by the end of the delivery plan. However, there are no plans to establish separate panels for Energy themed applications. Normally they will be considered by Engineering panels (or Physical Sciences/Materials where this is the main focus). At the moment, the Energy applications will be ranked in the same ordered list as other types of proposals, but if there is sufficient demand then EPSRC will consider setting up a separate list for Energy themed bids.
  • EPSRC staff gave an overview of the three main responsive mode grant schemes: Standard Grants, Fellowship Grants, and First Grants: Standard grants are often collaborative and in the region of £500k – £1.2M, although smaller and larger values are possible; Fellowships support the development of future research leaders; First Grants are small short grants designed to kickstart your research career as an independent academic.
  • There was a summary of success rates for various schemes compared with all proposals submitted to the Energy theme:
    Establish Fellowships 60%
    Early Career Fellowships 22%
    Postdoctoral Fellowships 21%
    Standard Grants 37%
    First Grants 29%
    All Energy Proposals 35%
  • A session dedicated to Fellowships emphasized the focus is on the candidate and their potential for future leadership, and that the Fellowship should enable you to achieve your personal research vision, your “niche”, and that you should have the ambition to build a team around you and also engage with the public/media. There is up to 12 months allowed in a Fellowship for a secondment to another academic institution or industry. EPSRC would like to see more Fellowship applications in the Energy theme.
  • Equality and diversity is a major priority for this theme following the revelation that only 11% of PIs funded through the Energy theme are female. To help achieve this, there will be a “Diversity Challenge Call” of up to £5M for projects which demonstrate a step-change in the community towards E&D. A call for outline proposals will open in July 2017 and EPSRC will be looking for institutional-level bids.
  • The EPSRC’s recently completed Balancing Capability exercise was pitched as a chance to “create space for new activities”. With regards to the “grow, reduce, maintain” labels, participants were encouraged to read the underpinning description which is unique for each of the 111 research areas and reveals the strategy for each area. Of the energy-related areas, it was noted that “Storage” and “Materials for Energy Applications” are both labelled “Grow”, while “Fuel Cells” is “Reduce”.
  • There are likely to be more Energy-related opportunities available through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, for which priority areas are currently being finalised. Three relevant challenge areas are “New energy technologies”, “Integrated and Sustainable Cities” and “Robotics and Artificial Intelligence”, which has a focus on battery research.
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HEFCE’s David Sweeney Blogs: Who Is Research Active?

HEFCE’s Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, and one of the key architects of the next REF, David Sweeney has published an interesting blog about who counts as “research active” ahead of the closure of the REF2021 consultation tomorrow. He suggests there has been a lot of “push back” from the HE sector on the consultation proposal that “research active” should be determined by contractual status, and that there should be another evidence-based and mutually agreed approach. It’s not clear what this would be, but interesting to see that there’s already movement on this even before consultation responses are in.

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EPSRC Reviews Research Areas and Plans 2017/18 Calls

balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0
balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0
balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has today published a review of its “Balancing Capability” strategy.

This follows “extensive engagement” with the research community and forms the basis of its portfolio over the next five years. It includes a review of the 111 individual research areas which span the entire remit of EPSRC funding as well as a useful plan of forthcoming calls in 2017/18.

Nine research areas have been marked as “reduce“, including Chemical structure, Complexity science, Fuel cell technology and Medical imaging. 12 areas have been marked as “grow“, including Biophysics and soft matter physics, Electrical motors and drives, Materials for energy applications, Robotics and Pervasive and ubiquitous computing. The remaining 90 areas are all “maintain“. For more on what the grow-maintain-reduce distinction means in practice, check out this useful blog post from October 2016 by Professor Tom Rodden, Deputy CEO at EPSRC.

The planned 2017/18 calls include several in the area of ICT: Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security 2.0 (planned for Q4 2017/18), Human-like Computing (Q3 2017/18), and Cross-Disciplinary and Co-Creationary ICT-led Research (Q4 2016/17). There are also a number of planned Healthcare Technologies calls and two Global Challenges Research Fund calls planned in Q4 2016/17 and Q1 2017/18, titles of which are yet to be announced.

The high level framework for EPSRC’s approach has already been set out in its Strategic Plan (2015) and, more recently, its Delivery Plan 2016/17 – 2019/20, which sets out four “prosperity outcomes” which will shape its funding decisions: Productive Nation, Healthy Nation, Resilient Nation, and Connected Nation. After his arrival in post in 2014, EPSRC Chief Executive Professor Philip Nelson was keen to prioritise engagement with the research community on shaping future research priorities, especially following criticism that his predecessor, David Delpy. had made decisions on funding strategy without properly consulting researchers.

Whether and to what extent this five-year plan will be strengthened, altered or made redundant once Sir Mark Walport takes the reins at UKRI (expected to be active from April 2018) is an open question. Nevertheless, in the short term at least this review provides a useful focus for universities and academics who are preparing grant applications to EPSRC or delivering EPSRC-funded research.

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DON’T MISS OUT – ECR event on the HEFCE consultation on the next REF, Tues 14 Feb, 1pm

As many of you may know, the Higher Education Funding Council for England has launched the consultation for the next Research Excellence Framework. This includes proposals intended to streamline the REF process and make it less burdensome for UK universities whilst maintaining and improving incentives for research excellence.  It includes recommendations relating to: the submission of staff and outputs, the approach to the assessment of impact, and the introduction of an institutional level assessment.

Are you keen to find out about the next Research Excellence Framework and what it might mean for you as an ECR? The next REF is going to take place in 2021 and the University, like other HEIs, is currently preparing a response to the national consultation on what the REF should look like. There are some changes we know will take place compared to REF 2014 but other issues are still under consultation. The University is preparing a response and would like to give the ECR community an opportunity to feed into this. We are holding an event on Tuesday 14th February from 1.00-2.30 in room 209, Sutherland Building, City Campus. Feel free to bring your lunch along too.

Sign up here to attend.

Full details of the consultation can be found on the HEFCE website here.

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