Research Office Update – MHT Research Conference 2011

Last week I presented an update on developments in the research and funding landscape for staff in the faculty of Media, Humanities and Technology. You can find the slides below and I’ve pasted my speaker notes below that:

Slide 3: Most other institutions have the same agenda to increase and diversify external research and consultancy income. We need to think strategically about which funds we target and play to our areas of strength. Also, crucially, we need to work in collaboration with others to maximise our chances of success.

Slide 4: Schemes cut and rationalised (e.g. British Academy Small Grants, ESRC First Grants). Movement towards longer and larger grants by many funders (not just RCs). Concentration of research funding by all RCs. Movement towards funding only the very best excellent researchers by other funders (e.g. Wellcome).

Efficiency measures mean only 50% of equipment (over £10K) will be funded by RCs not guaranteed, business case needed for items above £121K, if accepted then all equipment costs may be paid, but if rejected then research could proceed without equipment funding. RCs have already cut indexation. Indirect costs cut.

Slide 5: e.g. Jane Chapman £500K AHRC bid; Shigang Yue £700K Marie Curie IRSES bid; Mark OThomas £70K EC Culture bid.

Slide 6: We do this with support of faculty research management and administration.

Slide 7: REF coordinator post to be recruited imminently. REF Working Group to be chaired by Paul Stewart and to meet early next month.

Slide 8: The collaborative approach will support areas such as impact, which is increasingly important for all funders, and further income generation from successful grants. Will be an announcement about this soon. Details to be discussed in July.

Slide 9: From Research Council perspective its demand management, but from ours its more about quality control and improvement. That is, making sure we submit the best possible bid.

Slide 10: Times Higher Education reported at the end of last year that EPSRCs approach has led to an increase in success rates, from 26% to 30% within one year. And other funders may well follow suit particularly if it is seen to reduce administrative burdens.

Slide 11: Funding has been ring-fenced in cash terms, but there is a real-terms cut over 4 years of the RC delivery plans. Many responses to ESRC consultation favour individual researcher sanctions as per EPSRC. AHRC dont think that would significantly reduce demand for them because of the pattern of bid submissions, so they favour the institutional sanction route.

Slide 12: Here are some ideas from a recent AHRC workshop on demand management and quality. All of these we do to varying degrees, but will need to get better, tighter and more structured as competition increases and sanctions kick in. The more time we have, the better service we can provide.

Slide 13: On value MHT is above the average success rate of 23% across all research councils. Interestingly this is the reverse of the general success rate picture for the University, which is higher on number than value, indicating that generally we win lower value bids. But still a low number of bids ~10 per year.

Overall success rate for all research bids (with result) from MHT in last year is 17% on number and 8% on value. However, some of the recent successes will bolster this figure. Total number of research bids submitted to all funders by MHT in last year = 56.

Slide 14: RCUK released 4 year delivery plans earlier this year, all of which focused on thematic areas or Grand Challenges which they are leading on. Not just RCs though, Collaborative EC funding in the next Framework Programme will likely be based around Challenges rather than thematic areas. So youll have Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Digital Economy etc. rather than ICT, Environment, Social Sciences and Humanities.

Its worth noting that the EC views humanities, social sciences and the arts as playing a role within the research on these challenge areas. But you will have to frame your research as part of a cohesive whole. Similarly, the RCs are looking to encourage interdisciplinary work as part of their longer and larger grants.

Were well placed to do this sort of work and indeed have already had success in this area, e.g. Shaun Lawsons EPSRC-funded ENACT project which is exploring whether social networks can be used to improve computerised CBT jointly with Prof. Niro Siriwardena in School of Health and Social Care.

What follows is an outline of four of the challenges.

Slide 15: Crime, wars and conflicts, terrorism, environmental stresses, extreme poverty all contribute to global instability. RCs working together to address these.

Case study: The urban environment: mirror and mediator of radicalisation The ultimate objective of this project is to assist policy makers, planners, architects, urban designers and ordinary citizens in the creation of urban environments that are conducive to the friendly encounter of different social groups and thus help to tackle the ground conditions of radicalisation.

Slide 16: There is an unprecedented demographic change underway in the UK with the proportion of young people declining whilst that of older people is increasing. Significant benefits to healthy population for the UK. Again this cuts across all research councils.

Slide 17: How can ICT help to transform business, government and health services? This can lead to economic and social benefits, and this theme seeks to explore these.

Case Study: Inclusion research cluster: This cluster brings together a multi-disciplinary team with track records in developing computer systems for older and disabled people, and other digitally disenfranchised groups, and in developing methods to ensure the accessibility of I.T. systems. We will be conducting pilot research into the development of social networking sites as methods for encouraging older and disabled people to be part of the Digital Economy

Slide 18: Climate change poses enormous ecological, environmental and societal challenges for Western industrialized societies. This scheme seeks to increase resilience to and reduce the economic costs of environmental changes such as extreme weather and reduced biodiversity.

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