Working with the NHS?? Come along to an IRAS Clinic.

Are you planning to work with patients in the NHS, offenders or social care organisations?? Then you will need to submit your project ethics and governance to the Integrated Research Application System.

Come along to an IRAS Clinic to discuss your proposal and the information that you will need to gather for your IRAS submission:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016 10.00-12.00 – Coach Lane Campus Room A102

There is no need to make an appointment, you can just drop at any time during the session.

The Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) is an online (web-based) system for preparing regulatory and governance applications for health and social care research. It is a UK-wide system, which is provided by the HRA on behalf of the IRAS partners, who include:

  • UK Health Departments
  • Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee (ARSAC)
  • Health Research Authority
  • Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA)
  • Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
  • National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN), England
  • National Research Ethics Service, including the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC)
  • ‘National Information Governance Board (NIGB)’ – since April 2013, the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG), part of the HRA
  • National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
  • National Social Care Research Ethics Committee

IRAS captures the information needed for the relevant approvals from the following bodies:

  • Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee (ARSAC)
  • Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG)
  • Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC)
  • Health Research Authority (HRA) for projects seeking HRA Approval
  • Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
  • NHS / HSC R&D offices
  • NHS / HSC Research Ethics Committees
  • National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
  • Social Care Research Ethics Committee

Website address:


Ethics Training for Staff and Postgraduate Students

A reminder of future dates for Faculty Ethics Training this semester:

Monday 17 October 2016, 14.00 – 16.00, LIP231,  City Campus – Arts Design and Social Sciences
Tuesday 18 October 2016, 14.00 – 16.00, CLCA002 (TLT), Coach Lane Campus – Health and Life Sciences        
Wednesday 19 October 2016, 14.00 – 16.00, CCE1-003 (TLT), City Campus – Business and Law
Wednesday 26 October 2016, 14.00 – 16.00, EBA003A/B (TLT), City Campus – Engineering and Environment
Tuesday 1 November 2016, 14.00 – 16.00, LIP230, City Campus – Arts Design and Social Sciences

Staff and PGR students are welcome to attend cross-faculty sessions.

PGR students enrol here

Staff enrol here

Any queries, please contact





Open Access Week: A Fistful of Webinars

Open Access storefront by Gideon Burton CC BY-SA
Open Access storefront by Gideon Burton CC BY-SA

Did you know that Open Access Week is fast approaching? Dr. Tony Ross-Hellauer, Scientific Manager of the EU-funded OpenAIRE project, writes about some of the events taking place online to celebrate and support researchers and administrators:

“For this year’s 9th International Open Access Week, OpenAIRE has scheduled a full week of webinars on various exciting Open Science topics. During the week of October 24-30, join us at lunchtime (12.00 CEST) each day for key insights into the ethics and implementation of Open Science, especially as they relate to the EC’s Horizon2020 programme and OpenAIRE’s mission to foster the social and technical links that enable Open Science in Europe and beyond.

  • MONDAY: “The fundamentals of Open Science”, October 24, 2016 at 12.00 CEST, on key introductory themes in Open Science, with Tony Ross-Hellauer (OpenAIRE, University of Goettingen), Paola Masuzzo (Ghent University) and Chris Hartgerink (Tilburg University).
  • TUESDAY: “H2020 Open Access mandate for project coordinators and researchers”, October 25, 2016 at 12.00 CEST, on Open Access to publications in Horizon 2020, with Eloy Rodrigues and Pedro Principe (University of Minho).
  • WEDNESDAY: “Open Research Data in H2020 and Zenodo repository”, October 26, 2016 at 12.00 CEST, on Research Data Management in Horizon 2020 and the Zenodo repository functionalities, with Marjan Grootveld (DANS) and Krzysztof Nowak (CERN).
  • THURSDAY: “Policies for Open Science: webinar for research managers and policy makers”, October 27, 2016 at 12.00 CEST, on OpenAIRE’s policy activities building on the PASTEUR4OA project, and how to create/implement policies for open science at a local and national level, with Marina Angelaki and Alma Swan (PASTEUR4OA) and Tony Ross-Hellauer (OpenAIRE).
  • FRIDAY: “OpenAIRE guidelines and broker service for repository managers”, October 28, 2016 at 12.00 CEST, on Openaire compatibility guidelines and the dashboard for Repository Managers, with Pedro Principe (University of Minho) and Paolo Manghi (CNR/ISTI).

To participate in any (or all) of these webinars, please register here:

Northumbria University staff and PGRs should also note that Ellen Cole and I are jumping the gun a little bit on OA week this year and holding our own Understanding Open Access session on 19th October, 12-1pm at City Campus. You can find out more and book here.


HEFCE Case Study on Interdisciplinary Research at Northumbria and the Institute of the Humanities

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:,110229,en.html


Find out more about Participatory Action Research with training days in 2017

collaboration-1106196_960_720Three workshops are being offered by the Participatory Research Hub for those interested in finding out more about this way of researching in collaboration. The workshops are open to those new to and established as researchers in universities, the voluntary and public sectors, communities and activists. Participatory research is an excellent route to research impact and one of the courses focusses on ways to involve policy-makers and practitioners in research that helps to develop policy and practice.

The three courses, all to be held at the Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham University are:

  • Participatory Action Research 1: Introduction to PAR, 3rd February 2017
  • Participatory Action Research 2: Embedding participation in research practice, 3 March 2017
  • Developing Policy and Practice through Participatory Research, 15 May 2017

To find out more about the workshops and to book your place visit:

For further advice, information and toolkits about participatory research visit:  


UK Government guarantees continuation of funding for EU funded projects post-Brexit

modern-artworkThe Treasury has released a statement guaranteeing the continuation of funding for currently running EU funded projects until their completion, post Brexit. This statement covers Horizon 2020, the European Structural and Investment Funds, and a number of other schemes.

The statement says “in the short term, I can confirm that the Treasury will give an assurance that all multi-year projects administered by government with signed contracts or funding agreements in place, and projects to be signed in the ordinary course of business before the Autumn Statement, will be fully funded, even when these projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU”.

For competitive EC funding such as Horizon 2020, it states that “the Treasury will underwrite the payment of such awards, even when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU. The UK will continue to be a world leader in international research and innovation collaboration, and we expect to ensure that close collaboration between the UK and the EU in science continues”.

It also states that leaving the EU means the UK government will want to take its own decisions about how to deliver the policy objectives previously targeted by EU funding. In addition, there will be a consultation with stakeholders over the coming months to review all EU funding schemes to ensure that any ongoing funding commitments best serve the UK’s national interest.

In the weeks after the Brexit referendum, the European Commission also reiterated that the referendum result did not change the UK’s eligibility for EU funding and that UK universities and businesses should continue to bid for such funding.



ESRC outline additional support for early career researchers

esrc_logoFollowing 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:

  • Doctoral 
  • Immediately Postdoctorate 
  • 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.



Stern Review of REF Published: Some Initial Thoughts

Measuring Tape by Evan Amos - Public Domain
Measuring Tape by Evan Amos – Public Domain

The Stern Review of the Research Excellence Framework has been published today.

Broadly speaking the review recommends keeping the REF more or less the same as before – i.e. still a periodic exercise based predominantly on peer review, rather than metrics, and with recommendations for weightings of outputs, environment and impact more or less the same. This is not a proposal to radically overhaul the system.

However, the review does contain some fairly significant tweaks which will have implications for both academics and research managers, if they are adopted. The review makes the following recommendations (in bold below – followed by my own comment and reflections):

  1. All research active staff should be returned in the REF: This was a contentious issue going by the responses to the consultation on the REF, with some concerned that it could lead to a greater distinction between staff on teaching only contracts and those whose contracts include research responsibilities. On the positive side, it should lead to less burdensome selection processes for HEIs and reduce the negative stigma of not being “REF-able”.
  2. Outputs should be submitted at Unit of Assessment level with a set average number per FTE but with flexibility for some faculty members to submit more and others less than the average: The suggestion in the review is that the minimum should be 0 and the maximum 6 per FTE submitted, but further work will be required to model this so that it doesn’t lead to a large increase in work for panels.
  3. Outputs should not be portable: This has caused the largest outcry on Twitter following the publication of the review, particularly among early career researchers, many of whom argue that it will make it much more difficult to get new jobs as their previous publications will not count towards the next REF. On the other hand, the review makes the case that this will discourage the so-called “transfer market” of REF staff before the deadline.
  4. Panels should continue to assess on the basis of peer review. However, metrics should be provided to support panel members in their assessment, and panels should be transparent about their use: The report recognises that bibliometric data is not appropriate for use in all units of assessment (following the Metric Tide review), but that it can be used “judiciously” to help panels in their peer review assessment.
  5. Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies, part of a new institutional level assessment: This is a genuinely new part of the assessment and perhaps reflects the slightly amorphous nature of research impact assessment, which in many cases is difficult to tie down to a particular body of work which fits neatly within the boundaries of a single UoA.
  6. Impact should be based on research of demonstrable quality. However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs: Again this appears to be about increasing the flexibility of what counts as impact and reducing the instrumental approach of linking research outputs directly to impacts. How this will play out in reality will, I imagine, depend heavily on precisely how this is interpreted in the guidance, assuming the recommendation is adopted.
  7. Guidance on the REF should make it clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socioeconomic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, on public engagement and understanding, on cultural life, on academic impacts outside the field, and impacts on teaching: The fact that the review contains three recommendations wholly focusing on impact shows that this element of the assessment is still critical. Several people have pointed out on ARMA mailing lists that the guidance for REF2014 anyway allowed these kinds of impacts (except perhaps for academic impacts), so this might partly be about emphasising to institutions and panels that these are eligible impacts and should be taken seriously.
  8. A new, institutional level Environment assessment should include an account of the institution’s future research environment strategy, a statement of how it supports high quality research and research-related activities, including its support for interdisciplinary and cross-institutional initiatives and impact. It should form part of the institutional assessment and should be assessed by a specialist, cross-disciplinary panel: As widely predicted, the REF3a “impact statement” is part of a wider statement about research environment, though at the institutional level rather than the UoA level.
  9. That individual Unit of Assessment environment statements are condensed, made complementary to the institutional level environment statement and include those key metrics on research intensity specific to the Unit of Assessment: Recommendations 8 and 9 are listed together in the review and they do appear to complement each other. The focus at UoA-level (9) appears to be on shorter, punchier metrics-based evidence, while at institutional level (8) it is on more narrative-based plans and strategies.
  10. Where possible, REF data and metrics should be open, standardised and combinable with other research funders’ data collection processes in order to streamline data collection requirements and reduce the cost of compiling and submitting information: The focus here is on reducing the burden of the REF, and the review here acknowledges current events in the form of the TEF and the uncertainty about the future relationship between the UK and the EU. With the emphasis on standardisation and streamlined data collection, there is surely a role here for organisations like Jisc and CASRAI.
  11. That Government, and UKRI, could make more strategic and imaginative use of REF, to better understand the health of the UK research base, our research resources and areas of high potential for future development, and to build the case for strong investment in research in the UK: Ant Bagshaw suggests in his WonkHE post that this appears to be a “bit of a cheeky request” for cash.
  12. Government should ensure that there is no increased administrative burden to Higher Education Institutions from interactions between the TEF and REF, and that they together strengthen the vital relationship between teaching and research in HEIs: This again returns to the theme of the review which is to reshape the REF to reduce the burden on HEIs.

The timetable suggested by the review on p32 is also instructive and suggests a lot of work lies in store for the Government and Funding Councils: a consultation on concrete proposals for the next REF by the end of 2016, with decisions made in the summer of 2017. This will also need to be “checked for consistency” with the TEF, as the two exercises will evolve in parallel. The review suggests that this timetable could see a deadline for submissions by the end of 2020, with the assessment itself taking place in 2021.