Inside Track | Celebrating our research culture, community and impact

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Nick Plant, opens the call for two exciting new award schemes and shares progress on research culture and impact, as part of our strategy.

Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation.

At the heart of the University’s 10-year strategy is the commitment to recognise the value of everyone involved in delivering research, focusing not only on individual academic achievement but also on teamwork. All members of our research community have a role to play in developing and promoting a positive and inclusive research culture, as well as contributing to the impact our research makes locally, nationally and internationally. Participants; our collaborators and partners; academic, research and technical staff; colleagues in professional services; students and those in many other diverse roles within the University all make essential contributions. Together, we arrange, enable, conduct and participate in vitally important research. 
In recognition of this, we’re launching two exciting new awards schemes, celebrating the values at the heart of our strategy’s three key themes – culture, community and impact. The Research Culture Awards and the Engaged for Impact Awards are a fantastic way to recognise and celebrate all that our colleagues have achieved and the efforts to make Leeds an inclusive, collaborative and supportive community. 

Sharing the same ethos of collaboration over competition, both awards will be instrumental in recognising the collegiate work underway in our community, while complementing and broadening traditional markers of success, such as grant income and output citations.

Inspiring innovation

The Research Culture Awards recognise that improving our research culture is a complex, challenging process, built on collaboration and experimentation.  
Engagement with research culture activities can take many forms and involve many different stakeholders. We want to celebrate all those involved in contributing to research success, on any size or scale. By focussing on the shared challenges, solutions and innovative approaches, we aim to inspire sustained commitments to achieving genuine, lasting organisational change.

The Engaged for Impact Awards recognise the road to research impact is often a long one, with many engagement steps along the way that are worthy of celebration. We want to officially recognise that rocky road – not the achieved impact, as nobody needs another mini Research Excellence Framework (REF)! We value research impact in all its forms, whether introducing new ideas, changing how we do things or building people’s capacity to engage and benefit from our research. 

How to get involved

Applications for both awards are open to staff and postgraduate researchers from all disciplines and across professional services. You can nominate yourself or your peers, with entries judged by an external interdisciplinary panel. We especially encourage applications involving collaborations between researchers and support staff. 

The awards will empower prizewinning teams and the wider community at Leeds to scale up their research culture and impact activities, while also helping drive sector-wide change. Winners and runners-up will receive a personal prize, together with funding for further activity in research culture and impact. They will also be celebrated during a special campus reception, hosted by the University’s Chancellor, Professor Dame Jane Francis, on Tuesday 19 July.

See the awards webpage for further information. Closing date for applications is Wednesday 1 June.

Important milestone

The awards are an important milestone in our work to further develop both research culture and impact at Leeds. Our work in the former centres around our Research Culture Statement. This is our commitment to achieving positive change, setting out a series of actions to promote a more supportive, inclusive and collaborative research culture.  

Autumn 2021 saw the appointment of our Dean for Research Culture, Professor Cat Davies, together with the convening of our Research Culture Steering Group and a set of governance teams, such as the Open Research Group. We’ve spent the past year consulting with individuals and groups across the University, spanning academic and professional services. We’re now refining our Research Culture Strategy and implementation plan, ahead of a scheduled launch this autumn.

As part of our Engaged for Impact Strategy, which is designed to create coherent support to foster a healthy impact culture at Leeds, new guidance has been produced for how schools can manage their impact portfolios. This recognises all engagement that creates impact across a school, irrespective of whether it has the potential to become a REF case study. This will value conceptual impacts that change narratives around a topic (e.g. immigration), in the same way as instrumental impacts that have more straightforward causal links to our research. 

This school-level work goes hand in hand with efforts to fully understand the extent, focus and capabilities of our support for impact across the University. This will surface gaps – as well as strengths – in our current support mechanisms, so we can share that expertise. On completion of this analysis, we will develop an action plan to create a coherent and easily accessible support system for all researchers, no matter what type of impact they hope to achieve.  

Campus showcase

After two years of digital Be Curious programming, it’s great to be returning to campus on Saturday 7 May, welcoming staff, family, friends and the local community to participate in the annual open event showcasing the University’s world-changing research to the wider public. 

Creative colleagues have translated their research into more than 35 interactive stalls and activities, including a hands-on tinker space, maker kits, a book about material sciences (That’s Amazing, Mum!), performances, workshops, tours and more. Be Curious is a very enjoyable part of the year for many of our academics and researchers, and I’m grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved in sharing that spirit with our local community. View the full Be Curious 2022 programme for further information. 

Making a real difference

As with Be Curious, our new awards are yet another way to celebrate the amazing success stories of our research community. 

Now is your chance to shine the spotlight on those who collaboratively support and enhance our research impact and culture. I’m excited to see what submissions are made, so we can continue to celebrate the ways in which our community is making a real difference to society. 

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