Fifteen to One | Helping challenge structural barriers to inclusion

“Diversifying and celebrating a wide range of outputs and enablers is vital to creating relevant and impactful research.”

Fifteen to One | Helping challenge structural barriers to inclusion. January 2024

Soo Lincoln, Project Support Officer with the Research Culture Team at Leeds, outlines how as part of her new role she’s helping challenge structural barriers to inclusion and address the under representation of colleagues with protected characteristics at senior research levels.

Discover what inspires Soo, her proudest achievement… and her famous rock star relative!

Can you describe your role in 100 words?

My role was created to support the implementation of the recently launched Research Culture strategy. It’s a very broad remit, involving hands-on project support across all four strands of the strategy, as well as monitoring and reporting responsibilities. In a nutshell, I’m here to help maintain momentum in a positive and collaborative way, keeping the projects’ activity on track and focussed on our objectives. Our team is leading on the ‘Valuing diverse forms of research activity’ project, so I’m particularly involved in that, looking at the full range of activities, people and outputs related to research and research culture. 

This project sounds really interesting. Can you tell us more?

It’s so interesting! This strategic objective reflects and promotes both the diversity of the University’s research contributions and our evolving research culture values. We’re looking at how we communicate research culture and how to expand traditional definitions of success. More specifically, working closely with the Internal Communications and Engagement team, we will increase recognition of the full breadth of staff roles involved in producing research and champion non-traditional research outputs. These are essentially any output other than an article or book, for example artworks, exhibitions, industry toolkits or software. Diversifying and celebrating a wide range of outputs and enablers is vital to creating relevant and impactful research. 

How have your first few months been in post?

Although I’m new to this role, I’ve actually been at the University since 2019, initially working weekends in the Libraires during my MA, and subsequently with the Knowledge Equity Network (KEN) for the Research and Innovation Service. 

My first couple of months with research culture have been fascinating and I love the variety; I can be deep into statistical analysis in the morning and designing pulse survey questions after lunch. The team has been very welcoming, and it’s great that I can bring my own ideas and draw on my experience from other roles and different sectors. It’s exciting to be part of a brand-new venture at the beginning.  

What’s really impressed you about Leeds?

I first came to Leeds in the 80s to do my undergraduate degree, and I’ve been struck by how many more trees and planted areas there are on campus since my first time around – a definite improvement to the environment.

What question have you most frequently been asked in your new role?

People are often curious about why I spell my name with a double ‘oo’. Basically, it’s just a different way of spelling Sue that I adopted at high school since there were five of us with the same first name in my year group! 

What are you most looking forward to working on?

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategic objective within the Research Culture strategy is an exciting one as it presents real opportunities to challenge some structural barriers to inclusion and address the under representation of colleagues with protected characteristics at senior research levels. It’s a long-term endeavour and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve. It’ll also involve some brand-new activities for me, such as involvement in a funding call, so that’s exciting too.

Is there something, or someone, that has inspired you in your career?

I’ve worked with many inspiring people over the years, but I think I’d have to credit my dad as having the most fundamental influence. He worked in the engineering industry his whole life, so our careers have been very different – he didn’t really see the point of sociology! – but he was a great role model in terms of values and general approach to life. His work ethic and social conscience were incredibly strong. He lived with such integrity and encouraged me to always respect others, to choose work that has meaning and value, and to do it to the best of my ability. 

We all have that professional or personal achievement we’re incredibly proud of – can you tell us yours?

I’m proud of having made a major change in my professional direction a few years ago. Having worked in the health and social care third sector for almost all my working life, I decided to fulfil a long-term ambition to do an MA in Gender Studies, supporting myself with the part-time libraries job and setting up a home dog boarding business. I absolutely loved studying again, and despite being somewhat tainted by the pandemic, I gained so much from doing it, including the opportunity to stay in higher education (HE) doing a fascinating job! I’m happy I took that step into the unknown. 

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career that you know now?

That one’s own wellbeing is equally – if not more – important than the job in hand, so pace yourself. Don’t try to do too much and don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t on top of everything – chances are that’s an impossibility anyway! 

If you didn’t work in HE, what would have been your chosen career?

As I’ve said, I’m relatively new to HE. I did some communications for a while and enjoy working with words, so I could imagine following a journalism route in a different life, especially if there was a campaigning angle. I like to advocate for change! 

What are your campus highlights so far?

I had a lovely time drinking mulled wine in the sparkly tent on campus with some old KEN colleagues before Christmas! 

What’s still on your ‘to do’ list to visit?

Going to the Edge had been on my ‘to-do’ list since coming back to the University in 2019, and I finally managed it last month! I now go for a swim and a sauna as often as I can. 

What do you do to relax away from University life?

Nothing much out of the ordinary. I love to cook, read and walk my dog. I also play Mahjong regularly with a group of friends. 

Where’s your favourite travel destination and why?

Nepal is absolutely one of my favourite places on the planet. I travelled in South East Asia in my 20s, and I was really drawn to visit Nepal without even really knowing much about it. I ended up spending several months there and went back for another long spell a few years later. Nowadays, I intend to stick with train travel as much as possible, and so a strong favourite is the Côte d’Azur. It has so much natural beauty and a rich history, too – such a relaxing and restorative place to be.    

What’s your random claim to fame?

I was at my cousin’s wedding in the North East as a teenager and found myself sitting next to a great aunt I didn’t even know existed. We were chatting and my brother told her about his sixth form rock band (called Andromeda, I believe). Anyway, she innocently mentioned that she had another great-nephew in a band and perhaps we’d heard of them… Roxy Music! Turns out Bryan Ferry is a distant cousin. He sent me some signed photos and merch but I never got to meet him.

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