The THE Awards are a bit like the Oscars of the higher education sector. Each year there are hundreds of entries that showcase the talent, dedication and innovation of teams and individuals across all aspects of university life. The judging panel selects the shortlisted candidates and the winners in each of the categories. This year, there were 19 categories, many of which were sponsored by different agencies. We were one of the six institutions shortlisted for the award of ‘Excellence and Innovation in the Arts’. Our nomination was based on the pioneering MA in Inclusive Arts Practice, which was founded by Dr Alice Fox. The MA is based on a radical form of collaboration between students and often excluded community groups from around the world. Past students have worked with a range of individuals and participant groups, including people with learning disabilities, children, young people, the elderly, those experiencing homelessness, asylum seekers and youth offending teams.

In 2016, Alice authored a ‘critical manifesto’ – Inclusive Arts and Research and Practice  – that was launched at the Tate Modern in London. Alice has a long-established collaboration with the learning-disabled Rocket Artist group to challenge prejudice and make the case for diversity through symposia, performance and exhibitions. She has worked with many international partners (including Cambodia, Nepal and Ukraine) and brings this international experience to her work at Brighton. Apart from the unusual content, the course breaks new ground in pedagogy, as artists with learning disabilities teach alongside academics as a way of expanding the boundaries of inclusion and challenging conventional notions of who holds knowledge.

On Thursday night, it was an honour for me to be one of Alice’s guests and attend the awards ceremony. Just before the announcement of the winners began, Debra told the table how wonderful it was to be there and to have been shortlisted, thanked Alice and her colleagues for their work and she said, regardless of who wins the category, she was our winner. I could not agree more.

So, when the winner for the category was announced and University of Brighton was named as the winner we were over the moon!

This is what they had to say:

‘The University of Brighton’s Alice Fox has worked collaboratively with non-governmental organisations and museums and galleries, such as Tate Modern and the National Gallery, to develop an inclusive and innovative approach to arts practice. Her work has supported marginalised and under-represented communities to engage with the arts in a variety of creative ways’.

Naturally, we had a wonderful journey back to Brighton, primarily because of her win, but the odd drop of high-quality whisky supplied by Dr Bullen helped as well!

Inaugural Lecture


Inaugural lecture

Last week, I delivered my inaugural lecture here at Brighton. It was a decade ago when I first delivered it, soon after being promoted to Professoriate. So, when I accepted the invitation at Brighton, I thought I could just update my slides from the first inaugural – easy!  But, when I sat down to look through them, I realised that so much has happened that I needed to tell my story differently.  And, yes, in my view, inaugural lectures are a story – a story about you, your journey, your achievements, your area of research and all the ups and downs along the way.  I feel very strongly that these lectures must give a flavour of your intellectual activity and research, but that’s only one element.

To start with, you need to make sure the talk is accessible to all, and I mean all. In this respect, these lectures are unique: on which other occasion would anyone be delivering a lecture where the audience includes family, friends, your wider university community, your past and present students, your research collaborators, school children and general public?

In many ways, I am lucky as my research area of ‘Allergies’ is something that almost everyone has heard of. When I sat down to tell the story of my research career and my journey, my first compilation of slides numbered 246!!!  After some severe weeding, I managed to get this down to 92 slides to deliver in 50 minutes …… and I managed it in 55.

I was extremely pleased to see colleagues from every school at the University and my UEB colleagues in the audience, together with colleagues from the University of Sussex, local college students and members of the general public who wanted to know more about allergies.

What I had not realised, and certainly not appreciated, was that colleagues across the University did not know about my research career. I was promoted to the Professoriate at an institution that I had worked at for number of years so, when I delivered my first inaugural lecture, the campus community knew of my work.  This was not the case here, so the reactions of colleagues from Brighton was very different and I was touched by colleagues from the School of Art, who were there in really good numbers, who all said how much they enjoyed it.  An established Professor from the Business School, who I have become quite fond of as an intellectual powerhouse, put an interesting question to me after the lecture.  He asked why, with my research career to date, did I decide to become a PVC?  An interesting question, but, so far, I have not really thought these are competing agendas.  Through a fantastic team of students and collaborators, I can carry on my research and, through my role as a PVC Research and Enterprise, I want to make a difference to researchers across the University across all disciplines or areas.  These are part of the same agenda.  I must admit though, I am very choosy about which research projects I take on these days.

I was most touched by Kasia, a Fine Art undergraduate student with multiple food allergies, who came to speak to me afterwards to say that some my work on allergen characterisation and food labelling has directly impacted her life and she wanted to thank me in person. How special is this?  She then asked me if I would sit for her as she would want to do my portrait! To which I said I would be delighted.  I know I will cherish this painting.

As a result of my inaugural and the contact that individuals who attended made afterwards, I have now agreed to do a session at Brighton Café Scientifique and will be visiting Allergy Therapeutics in Worthing to explore potential collaborations.

Above all, as I prepared the lecture and reflected on all the wonderful people I have collaborated with on research over the years, it provided me with an opportunity to publically thank and acknowledge them and to celebrate our shared successes.  I certainly would not have been able to deliver this lecture without their work.

So, despite the initial apprehension about a second inaugural, I am very pleased that I did it.


Public Understanding of Science

The Association for Science Education (ASE) can trace its origins back to 1900.  ASE is the professional body for all those involved in science education and is the largest subject association in the UK.  ASE membership caters for secondary and primary school teachers and technicians. It promotes improvements in science education and education in general, specifically through advice and support for teachers.  The ASE has worked closely with the University throughout its history.  The current President of the ASE is Dannielle George, Professor of Microwave and Communications Systems, University of Manchester, who took the reins from Sir David Bell (VC, University of Reading) in 2016.  The ASE runs an excellent programme of science Continuing Professional Development for teachers and technicians, from TeachMeets (informal events for local teachers to share their innovative teaching ideas) to national conferences.

The ASE journal ‘School Science Review’ (produced three times a year) is circulated to all secondary school science teachers who are members of the ASE (which is pretty much all of them).  It is also sent to university libraries and education centres and is read worldwide.  The September 2017 issue was on the theme of ‘Public Understanding of Science’ which covered subjects such as fake science, popular science and how to teach students complex concepts.  I was extremely pleased to see 8 of the 14 articles in this special issue were by scientists from the University of Brighton and our School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences (PABS) was featured extensively.  There was an excellent article (We are all mutants) by Professor Timson, Head of PABS, which I am sure every A-Level biology teacher covering genetic mutation will find extremely informative and helpful in conveying this complex area.  Professor Sosabowski, Dr Olivier and Seija Maata wrote about natural products and they even outlined 2 experiments that are suitable for A-Level chemistry.  Dr Scutt and Dr Allen had written an article about using simulation to facilitate understanding of medicines.  Dr Patel and Dr Ingram, together with two of our MPharm students (Simon Crane and Alan Mokree) and Marion Curdy, a Learning Technologies Advisor, shared the concept of mini lectures to support and enhance traditional face-face lectures for undergraduate students.

Jorj Kowszn from the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics provided a fascinating article, ‘The Village Election’, which was based on his introductory lecture to a third year undergraduate course on the Mathematics of Social Choice.

My favourite article was one with an extremely catchy title – ‘Scientific U-turns: eight occasions when science changed its mind’ – by Professor Sosabowski and Professor Guard.  It gave some really interesting examples but, having carefully followed the evidence base for some of the examples such as MMR and Autism, a better title could have been: ‘Scientific U-turns: eight occasions when science provided more robust evidence’.  But I admit that’s not that catchy!

Overall, an excellent special issue and one that secondary school science teachers across the country will benefit from.  What a good way to demonstrate the reach of our efforts in the public understanding of science.  Thank you to all those who contributed!

Canadian Research Impact Network

In this blog Professor Dean talks about the university joining the Canadian Research Impact Network.

Last week, I was in Canada with a couple of colleagues visiting a number of universities and attending the annual meeting of the ‘ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) network.  RIR is a pan-Canadian network of universities committed to maximizing the impact of academic research for the social, economic, environmental and health benefits of Canadians.  RIR members achieve this mandate by investing in knowledge mobilisation, supporting collaboration for research and learning and connecting research beyond the bounds of academia.  The network was set up in 2006 and it draws together the unique strength of its 15 members. We are the first institution outside of Canada who has joined this network.  Leadership of the RIR rotates amongst the members and resides with York University till 2020.  The Canadian universities in this network are: University of Montreal, University of Saskatchewan, University of Western Ontario, University of New Brunswick, McMaster University, York University, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, University of Guelph, University of Quebec at Montreal, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Memorial University and Carleton University.

Prior to the annual meeting, we were invited to visit the York University at Toronto to discuss potential research collaborations. We have three academic staff with connections there already: Prof. Marco Morengo was, in fact, at York just before our visit on a 2 month sabbatical; Dr Helen Kennedy has been collaborating with one of their researchers for some time; and Dr Wrighton has spent time working at York University in the past.

York University ( is a large university, with around 50,000 students and 2,300 academic staff.  It is home to Canada’s largest liberal arts programme, the only Space Engineering programme in the country, a new Global Health programme and a unique cross-discipline Digital Media programme.  They have 26 Research Centres, 34 Canada Research Chairs and 24 distinguished research Professors and are leading on frontier knowledge and innovation across a multitude of fields.  They were ranked by the THE as one of the top 100 universities in the world for arts, humanities and social sciences.   We (Sue Baxter and I) were hosted by Dr Phipps, who is the Executive Director for Research and Innovation Services.   It was excellent to see how they organise their support services, their criteria for Research Centres, their Research Centres Charter and how they evaluate their Centres.  We also had a very fruitful meeting with Professor Hatche, the Vice President Research, where we discussed the consultation on their new Strategic Plan for research and his thoughts on their priorities.  We agreed that we will map our COREs against their Research Centres to identify areas of synergy and complementarity exists and then connect our researchers together. We are currently doing this and, looking at their list of Centres, (, I can immediately spot potential collaborations with their Centre for Feminist Research, Centre for Automotive Research, Centre for Refugee Studies, Centre for Research on Biomolecular Interactions, Centre for Digital Arts and Technology and Centre for Ageing Research and Education.  In fact, whilst we were there, we also met Professor Pat Armstrong who is one of their distinguished Research Professor in Sociology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Focusing on the fields of social policy, of women, work and the health and social services, she has published widely and has been author, co-author, or editor of over 25 books.  Her 2013 book, Troubling Care: Critical Perspectives on Research and Practices, has been highly influential in shaping care policies.  She spoke of her current project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, which includes a team of international collaborators, including academics from the University of Bristol.  I spoke about some of the work in her area that our researchers are involved in.  She was very happy to collaborate and I have already put one of our researchers in touch with her.

The second half of the visit involved attending the annual meeting of the RIR in Montreal. Canada is a vast country and travelling between provinces usually involves a plane but, for me, there is nothing quite like a train journey!  So, the 6 hour journey from Toronto to Montreal was a real highlight, passing some beautiful lakes with a fantastic wifi connection and very comfortable seats, all for a mere £50!!

The first part of the meeting was a closed session of the RIR Governance Committee, which highlighted the scope of the work behind the network, the working groups, reporting structure and the priorities for the coming year. RIR have been working on an Impact Toolkit which is due to be launched in 2018.  It will be really good for us as we gear up our preparations towards REF2021.  I must admit I did not expect to meet a Mancunian at the meeting!!  It was really good to meet Prof. Helen Burt, originally from Manchester, who is the Ass. Vice President for Research and Innovation  at UBC. Prof. Burt trained as a pharmacist at the University of Bath, before joining UBC  to do her PhD and has been there ever since.  She is an expert in the development of polymer-based drug delivery systems for controlled and localised drug delivery and a fairly frequent visitor to UK.  I am hoping that she will be able to visit us in 2018 and meet some of the researchers at PABS.

The annual meeting kicked off on 20th September and David Wolff, Director of CUPP, joined me for the meeting.  The presentations at the meeting were varied and interesting and we presented the University, its ambitions and achievements and, most importantly, what we expect to get out of the network and what we can contribute.  As it is with all meetings of this nature, an important aspect is meeting other people in the same position as yourself but working in different university settings, looking around different universities and making connections.

Having lived on an Isle of Wight, I was particularly interested to find out about the Memorial University of Newfoundland. I enjoyed the discussion I had with Jen Adams, the University’s lead for strategic development and hearing about the advantages and challenges of a University on an Island and how they engage with their community on the Island.  They are well known and quite exemplary when it comes to public engagement ( I learned a lot in a very short space of time.  Jen also introduced me to Clamato juice (a drink which needs to be avoided by all those allergic to shellfish!).

This was my first trip to Canada. Our VC had told me that Canada is a nation that really values education and research.  Having spent just a few days, there I could not agree more!


Graduation Magic

Towards the end of an undergraduate degree things start to fall in place: they did for me anyway. I learned how to study and how to learn, and I even dedicated a reasonable chunk of time to my studies, and loved it so much that I decided to continue my studies and registered for a PhD. My undergraduate graduation was in July 1985. I was an international student from a war torn country and so there was absolutely no way any family member could travel the thousands of miles to attend my graduation. They were too busy avoiding air raids and had become war refugees in their own country. And, if I am honest, I only attended it because my parents were keen for me to do so.

Once I joined academia, I witnessed many graduation ceremonies and have always been curious about local practices at different universities. Earlier last week, I had a meal with a friend from another institution and we were comparing notes on our universities graduation traditions. She told me that their VC’s speech lasts for one hour – can you imagine!! I thought Debra’s speech was one of the best VC speeches I have heard and it was just shy of 10 minutes, which was ideal.

Reflecting on all the graduations I have attended, it was not until my PhD students started to graduate that I realised the significance of this occasion and, by the time my son graduated in 2015, I was a fully-fledged graduation fan.

As you know, last week was our university’s graduation and my first graduation attendance here. I attended all but two of the ceremonies and I felt very proud about how we do our graduations. There is always a good atmosphere at graduations but I felt we had the perfect balance between creating a good celebratory atmosphere and not forgetting that we were there to celebrate the academic achievements of our graduates. A personal favourite of Maya Angelou quotes is: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”, and, last week, our university made all our graduates feel good about themselves, their experience with us and their achievements.

Brighton Centre was an excellent venue and the team worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all go smoothly. Over 3500 graduates, ranging in age between 19 and 79 and from 90 countries, became alumni of the University of Brighton. I had the privilege of doing an oration for one of our honorary graduates, Miranda Brawn, and meeting her was a real highlight for me.

My favourite part of the celebrations was meeting the students and their families afterwards. I tried to share some of these moments with others through Twitter and there were times when I felt that perhaps I could have had a career in marketing after all!!

On Friday evening I was tired but joyous. Of course, I will share a few suggestions on how we can improve the ceremonies further but they were all very special.

It was an excellent week and I wish the very best for the Class of 2017. I would like to leave them with this lovely phrase:

“Behind you, all your memories. Before you, all your dreams. Around you, all those who love you. Within you, all you need”.

Guest blog from Research Fellow Dr Mary Gearey


It gives me a great pleasure to bring you this guest blog from Dr Gearey who shares with us her experience of returning to STEMM research and her contribution to the International Women in Engineering Day. 

Tara Dean, Pro Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise

‘I can think of no better way to have celebrated ‘International Women in Engineering day’ on June 23rd than in the company of some of the UK’s most prestigMary Gearey at the eventious female scientists, researchers and practitioners, who are the leading lights of their discipline. Coming together to discuss career development within Engineering, and throughout the Sciences, from post-degree to senior management, I was an invited speaker at this one-day seminar held at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining’s (IOM3) head office in London. As a Research Fellow within the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology, I shared my experiences of returning to STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) research in 2015 following a career break of several years. The all-women panel lead a series of discussions around how best to support gender equality within the workplace, particularly for those trying to balance working life and parenting commitments, and how to progress to a senior level in your chosen field.

My return to academia was enabled through the support of SET colleagues Professor Neil Ravenscroft and Dr Paul Gilchrist and initially championed by Dr Kemi Adeyeye, who heads the Water Efficiency Network (, who mentored me and was the person who encouraged me to apply for a Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship. The Daphne Jackson Trust provides STEMM scientists and researchers with career retraining Fellowships after a break of 2 years or more taken for family, health or caring reasons. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Fellowship in January 2015 to undertake a two year, part-time research project exploring community resilience to changing water environments along the River Adur in West Sussex, and I’m now working on the NERC funded WetlandLIFE project.

My talk outlined the process of successfully securing a Daphne JaPresenation at the International women in engineering dayckson Fellowship, to encourage those wishing to return to STEMM research, or practitioners wanting to return to academia from industry, to apply. I outlined the benefits of the Fellowship’s personalised retraining package both to the Fellow and their home institution, and highlighted the ways in which organisations looking to welcome experienced STEMM researchers, particularly female returners, and those thinking about developing their own research hubs, would benefit from sponsoring a Research Fellow.

Experienced researchers taking a career break find it almost impossible to return to academia after two or more years away. For those of us involved in STEMM research, developments in technology and best practice change so rapidly that many are concerned that if they decide to raise a family, or to take a career break for other reasons, they will never recover professionally. Through the support of my colleagues in SET and the University of Brighton, together with the Daphne Jackson Trust, I’ve shown it is possible to develop a work-life balance and restart a STEMM career.

Joining me as fellow presenters were Professor Serena Best from the University of Cambridge and Dr Artemis Stamboulis from the University of Birmingham, who shared their experiences of navigating STEMM academic careers with parenting. Professor Best highlighted the importance of working within academic institutions which recognize and support the need for flexible working in order to retain highly skilled and committed staff, whilst Dr Stamboulis outlined the benefits of international collaboration in helping organisations benchmark approaches which support equality in the workplace.  It was a great honour to be part of this prestigious panel and a welcome opportunity to celebrate the great work of both the Daphne Jackson Trust and the University of Brighton in championing returning STEMM researchers.’

Dr Mary Gearey








Research and Enterprise Conference – 2017

On Monday 5th of June, we held the University’s inaugural Research and Enterprise Conference.  The purpose of the event was to inform colleagues of the national landscape and the opportunities and challenges for research and enterprise. Both our external speakers, Professor Sweeney and Dr Faye Taylor, did an excellent job in achieving this. I was also keen to share my journey as a relative newcomer to Brighton, to highlight our priorities for 2017/18 and to give colleagues an opportunity to ask questions. When I was working on my presentation, I realised that we have made phenomenal progress in the past nine months and we should all be proud of what we have achieved and excited about the journey ahead. The conference also served as a good platform to inform colleagues of external funding schemes that we need to explore further and Ingrid Pugh and Shona Campbell did an excellent double act in telling us about the opportunities that the GCRF and the Industrial Strategy offer. Professor Ravenscroft had literally stepped off a plane from China and I hope you agree that the plans for the Doctoral College that he described will make life so much easier for our PGRs and supervisors.

Everyone had been eagerly waiting for the presentations from the Brighton Futures academic leads. The conference was their first opportunity to share their thinking for each of the Futures. They do not officially start in their roles until August but they are already thinking about the road map for their area and how the Futures interconnect. The Brighton Futures are an exciting opportunity for us to build inter-disciplinarity and to showcase our research and enterprise activities.

The Research and Enterprise Excellence Awards were a perfect end to the conference and allowed us to recognise the achievements of many colleagues.

Above all, the conference was an excellent opportunity for our community to come together. When I welcomed everyone in the morning, it was so pleasing to look at the packed Huxley lecture theatre and see staff with different roles and responsibilities from across the University. My mentor once told me that people who want to make things better, rally around leaders who talk about making things better. I reflected after the conference on how excellent the attendance was and what a positive buzz surrounded the whole day and, without wishing to be big-headed, the truth of this statement came back to me. I want to make our research and enterprise better, I have a passion for excellence and I hope I have demonstrated that I confront what isn’t working with optimism!

Many of you sent me lovely emails after the conference saying how much you enjoyed the day and found it helpful and informative. One of the best comments was from a colleague who has been with us for just a few years who said: “For the first time in a couple of years now, I felt part of a community that had a mission and purpose.”

Of course, while our week started with an event that provided a positive and upbeat message on the future potential for research and enterprise at Brighton, the week ended very differently for the nation. The turnout was much higher than in previous elections but I wonder what the outcome would have been if all eligible people had voted. As Plato said: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”.  I have made this country my home but I genuinely never thought we would find ourselves in the position we are in now……

But, coming back to the Research and Enterprise Conference, I will end this blog by thanking you all for supporting it and contributing to its success.  Visit our Research and Enterprise Conference webpage to find out more about the programme, presenters and awards.

Brighton Futures

In September, with support from my team, I started a series of School meetings and met hundreds of staff for the very first time.  I wanted to share my approach to developing the strategic plan for R&E, to obtain a better insight into those areas where we have real strengths and to hear from staff about those areas they felt would present particular challenges to progressing research and enterprise and, of course, to start the dialogue on what we mean by enterprise!!!  Nine months on, we have progressed in leaps and bounds!  We now have an ambitious strategic plan for R&E with a detailed implementation plan and we have reviewed our core structures for supporting R&E, both in terms of the leadership and systems we need to reach our ambitions.  Many of us from across the university (library, RESP, DRDs, IS, Finance) have been involved in reviewing tenders for a new Research Information Management System (RIMS) and a small team are visiting other institutions to see our shortlisted options in action.  By the time you read this, a few colleagues will be on their way to the University of Bangor!  Having a fit for purpose RMIS will be a real step forward and will make life so much easier for all of us.

As usual I digressed. I wanted to talk about how, during the School meetings, there was a reassuring consistency in the areas where we all felt we have strength in terms of area of enquiry, critical mass and profile, as well as reputation. Universities usually showcase these area under ‘themes’.  It is, in my view, important that these themes reflect interdisciplinary working and strengths.  Many institutions just badge these under broad challenges, such as integrated health, sustainability, cancer, risk and security, etc., but these do not, generally, reflect the essence of the institution.  So, we got to the last School meeting at the School of Health Science, Eastbourne.  It was a hot afternoon and it is fair to say we were quite tired by then.  After the meeting, we started to debate how we could use terms which would be novel, forward looking and reflect areas of existing strength.  Eventually, the term ‘Brighton Futures’ was coined!  Wind the clock forwards few months and we have been interviewing for academic leads for each of our five Brighton Futures.  When the call for expressions of interest went out, a colleague asked me: ‘do you really think individuals will come forward?”. I must admit that took me back a bit.  I had not for a second contemplated the possibility of staff not volunteering to do this.  The question unsettled me but then the expressions of interest started to arrive and I relaxed a bit and, by the deadline, I was delighted that 16 people volunteered.  We interviewed everyone. Through this process, I got to know a couple of colleagues that I had not previously had the opportunity to meet and what a pleasure it was to see their enthusiasm and dedication.  We have some excellent colleagues here at Brighton!

I am pleased to share with you that we have now appointed academic leads for all the Brighton Futures: Prof. Kath Browne (Responsible Futures), Prof. Matteo Santin (Healthy Futures), Dr Mark Devenney (Radical Futures), Prof. David Cotterrell (Creative Futures) and Prof. Karen Cham (Connected Futures).  I am really looking forward to working with them.  There will be a slot at the Research and Enterprise Conference (5th of June) where you will be able to hear from them.  There will be plenty of opportunities for you participate in the Brighton Futures activities once their plans are firmed up.

Exciting times ahead….

Assessing Research

Our University’s REF steering group last met two weeks ago and Professor Andrew Church mentioned that a number of HEIs are adopting specific initiatives to assess research.  We will consider these initiatives more closely over the coming months but I would like to share these with you now.

Firstly, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (usually referred to as San Francisco DORA) is one that has been referred to fairly frequently.  I first heard of DORA in 2015 when I read ‘The Metric Tide’, the report of the independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment and management. This report recommended that institutions sign up to DORA and, since then, the uptake among UK institutions has been growing: DORA now has over 12,000 signatories worldwide of which 10 or so are from the UK and include Sussex, Manchester, Imperial, Brunel, Edinburgh and UCL.

DORA was initiated by the American Society of Cell Biology and a group of publishers and journal editors back in 2012 in order to “improve the ways in which the outputs of scientific research are evaluated”.  It centres on the belief that there is an over-reliance on bibliometrics, such as the Journal Impact Factor, which is seen by many as flawed.  Other key themes are that research needs to be evaluated on its own merit (not on which journal it’s published in) and that we need to make the best of the flexibility afforded by online publishing.

DORA makes a general recommendation that bibliometrics should not be used as a “surrogate measure” for the quality of research and then makes a number of specific recommendations for publishers, academic institutions, research funders, organisations that supply metrics and individual researchers.  All the aforementioned are invited to sign DORA.

For a university, signing DORA would mean it is obliged to:

  • Be explicit about the criteria it uses for the assessment of research and researchers
  • Reinforce that the content of research is what is important (rather than what metric scores it has or what journal it is published in)
  • Consider the value and impact of all research outputs
  • Consider using a variety of measures to assess research and researchers

So, why have only a handful of UK universities signed it?  Some would say DORA feels rather negative in tone and I have even heard some referring to it as an ‘anti-journal metric triade’.

Subsequent to the publication of DORA, the bibliometric experts at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies in Leiden, in collaboration with Professor Diana Hicks (Georgia Tech), published the Leiden Manifesto in April 2015.  This, too, is set against the “Impact Factor obsession” and offers “best practice in metrics-based research assessment so that researchers can hold evaluators to account, and evaluators can hold their indicators to account”.  The manifesto recommends 10 principles that are derived from the best practices of (quantitative) bibliometric exercises.

The following is a very brief summary of the principles:

  1. Quantitative evaluation should support qualitative, expert assessment
  2. Measure the performance against the research objectives of the institution, group or researcher
  3. Protect excellence in locally relevant research
  4. Keep data collection and analytical processes open, transparent and simple
  5. Allow those evaluated to verify data and analysis
  6. Account for variation by field in publication and citation practices
  7. Base assessment of individual researchers on a qualitative judgement of their portfolio
  8. Avoid misplaced concreteness and false precision
  9. Recognise the systemic effect of the assessment and indicators
  10. Scrutinise indicators regularly and update them

In an effort to make the manifesto as accessible as possible, there is a really neat video version which is well worth watching: .

I must admit, I feel a lot more comfortable with the Leiden Manifesto, which takes a more positive approach: a balanced call for the sensible, contextualised and transparent use of all publication metrics.  There is no option to sign up to this but, earlier this year, both the University of Bath and Loughborough University announced that they have developed a set of principles to assess their research which draws upon Leiden Manifesto.  At our next REF steering group, we will discuss both these initiatives at length and deciding whether they can inform our approach.

Research and Enterprise update

A lot has happened on the R&E front, both within the university and externally, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to update you all.

The REF2021 consultation is now closed following a couple of months of fairly intense activity, gathering views from colleagues internally via School consultations, meeting and discussing the practicality of what has been proposed and what impact it will have to University Alliance institutions. And, of course, there were the HEFCE town meetings which highlighted many areas of sector consensus, irrespective of the research intensity of institutions. As predicted in my earlier blog, the key issues remain the approach to submission of staff, non-portability of outputs and institutional impact case studies.  HEFCE has received over 370 responses and we look forward to hearing the outcome of the consultation in the autumn.  Read our response (PDF).

Our REF Steering Group met few weeks ago and we will start to assess our REF outputs once we know the outcome of consultation. We already have some insight on the quality of our outputs through the previous ‘Strategic Review Process’ but we will start our REF preparations in a more comprehensive and systematic way later in the year.

The Industrial Strategy is under consultation and Shona Campbell wrote a really informative guest blog which summarises the opportunities that this strategy offers. The deadline for submission of responses is mid-April and we will be sharing our response over the next few weeks.

Our Strategic R&E Plan was approved in January and, earlier this month, the University Management Board approved the associated Implementation Plan (IP).  I wish to express my particular thanks to the Deputy Heads of School for R&E: although a small group of us within the R&E management team worked extremely hard in preparing the first draft of the IP, the input of the Deputy Heads during our first away day was key. The IP will remain a live document and we will need to review it regularly, but I am very proud of it and very pleased that each objective will be delivered via discrete action plans. Deputy Heads will be sharing the IP via their School meetings and you will have an opportunity to see it for yourself.  It will be our road map over the next four years as we start to grapple with all the objectives we have set ourselves. Naturally, as it is with any plan, not every aspect will be dealt with in the first year. Having said this, there are number of immediate actions and high on the priority list are the Brighton Futures and Centres of Excellence in Research and Enterprise (COREs). On Friday, you would have seen a call from me for expressions of interest to lead the Brighton Futures. These are vital, mainly externally facing, roles to build and promote partnerships internally and externally and to horizon-scan opportunities for the Brighton Futures.  If you are keen to find out more, please get in touch with me.  The deadline for EOIs is 13 April.

Also this week, I will be circulating the call for COREs. The call will be cascaded via the Deputy Heads and will also be issued directly to Directors of existing centres. A number of you have already asked for draft criteria and are already working on your applications.  Professor Ashworth led on preparation of the policy and operational document for COREs and I know he scrutinised many models from across the sector so I am confident that the document we now have is sector-leading. The deadline for submission of applications is the end of May and we hope to launch the COREs in the new academic year.

Also high on the priority list for this year is to ensure our Quality Related (QR) income is used to support the research infrastructure and help the delivery of the Strategic R&E plan. The majority of QR is invested via Schools and, for 17/18, we need to make sure that tis investment is aligned to the implementation of the Strategic R&E plan, so Schools are being asked to articulate this as part of the annual planning process.

We are now finalising the programme for our R&E Conference and registration will open this week. At about the same time we will issue our first R&E newsletter. We hope to have three editions annually, and I hope this will be a platform for you to contribute and keep updated.  So, watch out for the first issue!

A great deal happening over the next few months …..

Tara Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research Enterprise