Find out the most important research questions facing government departments

Government Office for Science priority research areas published 

The Government Office for Science has launched a series of summaries about their priority research areas.  The Areas of Research Interest (ARI) documents detail the most important research questions facing government departments:

Eleven ARIs have been published so far and there are more in the pipeline. They are intended as a means to engage academia in dialogue around the research questions, in order for policy development and decision making to be informed by the best available scientific evidence, research and expertise. The ARIs each include contact details, for academics and researchers who wish to communicate with the originating departments about their contents.

ARI aim to improve how government departments:

  • align scientific and research evidence from academia with policy development and decision-making
  • engage with researchers
  • access stronger policy evidence bases at better value for money
  • share research commissions

Westminster and the Houses of Parliament

Don’t miss out! How to create and deliver impact-led research initiatives with Professor Alister Scott – 13th February 2018

Join Professor Scott for a briefing session followed by questions and answers where he will explore how to create and deliver impact-led research initiatives in innovative ways.

Alister works at disciplinary and professional boundaries in dealing with interdisciplinary problems in his field of Geography. Bringing expertise from both policy and academic positions, his research model involves co-developing research projects with policy and practice communities who then become embedded as members of research teams to maximise impact and social learning.

Alister’s research addresses “messy” problems in policy and decision making across both built and natural environments. He has published over 45 peer reviewed papers and secured grants in excess of £2 million. He has also produced over 100 popular articles, policy brief videos, web portals, plays and even game boards and has written regularly for national and regional newspapers as part of his knowledge exchange work.

At Northumbria, he provides leadership to the Bioeconomy multidisciplinary research theme with particular interest in realising the value(s) of nature and has just started a NERC knowledge exchange fellow post on mainstreaming green infrastructure.

Other current projects include:

  • testing and assessing a natural capital planning tool in different planning contexts (NERC);
  • developing citizen- led innovation as part of the Birmingham Urban Living pilot project (RCUK and Innovate UK);
  • using game-based formats to help improve participatory processes and outcomes (ESRC);
  • working with several planning authorities to help mainstream the ecosystem approach in local plans (Northumbria)

Book your place here.


Impact Evaluation Coordinator, Northumbria University, closing date 28 January

Impact Evaluation Coordinator, Northumbria University

Salary: £27,498 – £33,420

Can you provide expertise in evaluation techniques as a method of gathering evidence for impact case studies for external research assessment? Northumbria University is recruiting and Impact Evaluation Coordinator to support the Research and Innovation Services Research Impact Team in its provision of a proactive, customer-focussed, professional support service.

Working closely with the Impact Managers, you will support researchers to develop or enhance their current and future evidence of impact. Specifically you will provide advice, guidance and training on planning, designing and implementing evaluation activities, which will lead to evidence of impact for REF case studies. This will include guidance on the most appropriate design of longitudinal studies, questionnaires, focus groups and semi-structured interviews as methods for achieving impact evidence.

The successful candidate will ideally have a postgraduate qualification in a social science discipline and / or relevant professional experience of designing and delivering evaluations of research, initiatives or projects.

You must have excellent knowledge of research administration in HE, a positive, inclusive and collegiate style and the ability to inspire and motivate others to achieve results. You must have the ability to develop and maintain good working relationships internally and externally and excellent written and verbal communication skills.

For a full job description and further details please click here

Closing date 28 January 2018

For an informal discussion about the post please contact Lucy Jowett via email at


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!

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

Follow UK Parliament on Twitter:




3 Minute Thesis Competition – Friday 19th May 2017

On Friday 19th May 2017 Northumbria are holding a 3 Minute Thesis competition.

3 Minute Thesis challenges doctoral candidates to present a compelling spoken presentation on their research topic and its significance to non-academics in just three minutes.

The winner of this round will go on to a regional competition at the University of Sunderland on 6th June.

Time: 9:30am – 12:00pm

Location: Ellison A009, City Campus

All are welcome and refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Book a place here.


What do you think about evidence-based policy making?

We have received the following request from the Universities Programme Manager at the Houses of Parliament for views from researchers on evidence-based policy making. It focusses on an idea called the Evidence Information Service, aimed at rapidly connecting politicians with academics through parliamentary systems. If you are interested in finding out more about this initiative or contributing your views to it please read on:

Evidence Information Service

‘We are a group of academics from the Cardiff University, University of Exeter, University College London, University of Bath and the University of Bristol working with the House of Commons Library and the National Assembly for Wales Research Service to develop a UK Evidence Information Service (EIS).

‘The EIS will act as a rapid matchmaking and advisory service, working with existing UK parliamentary systems to connect politicians with the wider network of academics and professionals in science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine, humanities and the social sciences.

‘More details about the project can be found in our Guardian article and GW4 webpage.

‘We are seeking the confidential views of academics on their attitudes to and experiences of evidence-based policymaking, the usefulness of the EIS and their potential contribution.

 ‘We, therefore, invite all UK researchers in academia and industry to complete a 5-10 minute survey.

‘We would kindly ask that you distribute this email to your department/school.

‘For more information, please contact Lindsay Walker on’

Houses of Parliament (CC by 2.0)



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.


Government response to Dowling Review of business-university collaborations – brief summary

collaboration-1106196_960_720The Government published its response to the Dowling Review on 20th December welcoming and strongly supporting the review which it says is reflected in the £100m over four years it announced in the last budget to support university-business collaboration – ‘The Dowling Review will continue to guide our ongoing work to reform and simplify public support for research and development and maximise the potential benefits of collaboration between business and our academic research base.’

This is a summary of the main points:

  • UK Research and Investment (UKRI) will be the Government’s instrument to connect businesses with research by allocating funding for research and innovation, act as a champion for the UK’s world class system and drive future discovery and growth. It will incorporate the functions of the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK, and HEFCE’s research funding and knowledge exchange responsibilities (assuming it is approved by Parliament).
  • Public support for the innovation system is too complex. Actions taken by the Government include a simplified offer for Innovate UK funding, thinking about how to design a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund delivered by Innovate UK and research councils, and research councils are looking at changing the system of research and innovation funding. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done on this one.
  • People are central to successful collaborations. The emphasis on research impact and the research environment alongside outputs is seen as a way to encourage and reward collaboration with business and commercialisation of research in the public interest. Various existing initiatives are listed that support academics to develop collaborative skills or promote the benefits of collaboration. However it doesn’t say much else about how to meet Dowling’s recommendations on ‘…creating an incentive framework for universities and businesses which promotes the transfer of ideas and people between business and academia, and recommended supporting students to develop business awareness at an early stage of their research careers, continuing to fund schemes which support mobility between academia and business and ensuring that researchers who are successful in collaborations are valued in terms of career progression and assessment of research output – including by increasing the emphasis on collaboration in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).’ It says it’s up to universities how they direct their priorities to suit local strengths and needs.
  • Effective brokerage is crucial, particularly for SMEs, and continued support is needed for activities that help seed collaborations. The Gateway to Research web portal is seen as a step towards meeting the need for digital tools to identify potential research partners and the National Centre for Universities and Business is developing an ‘Intelligent Brokerage Tool’. The government has reaffirmed its long term commitment to knowledge exchange including funding for the Higher Education Innovation Fund, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England to develop detailed proposals for allocating this funding to support universities in England. The Dowling Review highlighted Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs) and recommended their use more widely. This is likely to be welcomed by those universities who currently do not have an IAA.
  • Pump prime funding would stimulate the development of high quality research collaborations with critical mass and sustainability and more should be done to help existing efforts evolve from short-term, project-based collaborations to longer term partnerships focussed on use-inspired research. The document simply lists existing strategies that are aimed at addressing this.
  • Technology transfer offices need to prioritise knowledge exchange over short term income generation, and further work is required to improve approaches to contracts and IP agreements. The government has a clear expectation that exploitation of research means prioritising the long term benefits to the nation. This priority is reflected in the support and incentives provided by public research funding and the REF is the principal tool for incentivising behaviour around university research. It also points to the Lambert toolkit supporting IP processes but acknowledges that there is a need to simplify complex and time-consuming processes to agree collaborations. The McMillan review of technology transfer practice and the development of the knowledge exchange framework are cited as progress in this area.
  • Government strategy on innovation needs to be better coordinated and have greater visibility. They are aiming to achieve this through the Industrial Strategy and establishing UKRI. They also see a role for the Science and Innovation Audits bringing together businesses, universities and local enterprise partnerships. The Accelerated Access Review of the NHS also supports innovations in medicine

You can read the Government’s response to the Dowling Review in full here.