world class research and education

Last Thursday morning I attended the first ‘Research & Innovation forum’, which was led by Professor Dave Petley, Vice President for Research & Innovation.

I think it is worth writing about for a few reasons.

  • It is an example of me engaging in continuing professional development. Many times, myself and colleagues make the point that development is everywhere. It is to be found in much more fluid experiences than a whole day ‘training’ event or qualification.  We develop through engagement in everyday activities where we expand our knowledge base and reflect on the way we work.
  • In working in a team whose mission is to provide, “a framework for the continuous professional development of researchers at the University of Sheffield, supporting individual career ambitions in and beyond academia”, I ought to have an understanding of the current research landscape both in and beyond the university and be prepared to share that understanding with others.
  • To encourage other people to attend future forums.

The R&I forum format was based on the established model of the Vice President for Education, Wyn Morgan’s forums – Dave addressed questions that had been submitted in advance and then there was open discussion between anyone present who wanted to contribute.

My lasting impressions
Sheffield is doing some amazing research and has a good reputation but the feeling is that we could collectively be a more self-confident, bold and assertive in the telling about what goes on here.  We could all do something to help with this.

Change is afoot.  The University must consider itself in much more ‘business-related’ terms (like it or not) in these very changing times regarding finances.

“Collaboration is the name of the game.” There was a resounding ‘yes’ in relation to enquiry about joint research projects with other partners.  Driving collaboration with high quality partners is essential and a feature of many of the new grant schemes such as GCRF and the brand new ISCF.

Whilst there is no easy solution to the national challenge of short-term funded projects and therefore fixed-term contracts, there is total commitment to ensuring ongoing opportunities for the career development of researchers, underpinned by comprehensive and consistent appraisal and the presence of mentoring.

It’s time to get strategic about the institution’s research themes, to “leverage maximum advantage from those areas where we excel.”

There is still absolute commitment to delivering world class research and education in Sheffield and to be known as a place where the environment for research is flexible, proactive and high quality.

I am one of the most questioning and sometimes cynical people I know, but I really did come away from the forum feeling optimistic about our collective ability to make the best of these changing times.

What next
Having been to both forums recently, there seems to be a real desire to strengthen the relationship between research and teaching and there was suggestion made that a future forum with Wyn & Dave doing a double act is in the pipeline.

I knew quite a lot of people in attendance and was surprised not to see more people from the academic community.  I really advocate engagement with these forums, they bring staff together on key strategic issues and you get a real flavour of the current climate we are all operating in.


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