The 2017 edition of the Annual Research Conference, Designing Our Research Future, took place on Friday 20 January.
A full report will be produced to expand on what we learned about our research community, which will be seen by all attendees, and the senior management of the University.
The day started with a welcome from the Director of RIDO, Michael Millan. Michael set the tone for an informative day, highlighting the quality of the speakers, and the varied break-out sessions. Michael introduced the audience to our first guest speaker, Phil Baty from Times Higher Education. It was intriguing to learn from Phil how the THE ranking system works, and why Anglia Ruskin University has performed exceedingly well lately. It was clear from Phil's talk that our research is a major driver of our high ranking, and this in turn is driven by exceptional collaborations with peers from around the world. We left this talk with a sense that our research community should seek exciting collaborations and engage with, or lead, groundbreaking research projects. Roderick Watkins wrapped up the session by drawing our attention to the ongoing consultation on the consultation for the Green Paper - the document that will lay out the future direction of the University. It's important that our researchers have their say on these strategic decisions.
Breakout session 1
The conference broke for a group discussion session. Participants grouped around tables of up to ten researchers, and together suggested answers to the questions:
- How do we incentivise and encourage research and build a stronger research culture?
- What support do I need to enable me to do research?
- How do I find partners and collaborators for my research – (industrial, commercial, academic, local government, charity etc)?
Lively discussions took place in each breakout room. Opinions were gathered from researchers at all career stages, and the process was observed with interest by Michael and Roderick. The answers given here will be shared in the Conference Report, and I know we'll all look forward to seeing them.
Vivienne Stern of Universities UK International gave a fascinating perspective on the global and collaborative nature of research, and how the UK generally, and ARU specifically, fit into this world. Vivienne talked about the need to enhance international collaborations, echoing much of what was said by Phil earlier. Public investment in research and innovation is key to success, as is encouraging international students and researchers to study or work in the UK. Schemes such as the Newton Fund were highlighted as a way to bring in research funding post-Brexit. Our Vice Chancellor, Iain Martin, spoke in this session. He talked about his aspirations for research at ARU, boosting publications and the citations of those papers. He also talked about the need to boost the impact of ARU research.
Breakout session 2
For our second breakout session, we created an Ideas Fair. Six different activities gathered information on different aspects of research at ARU, and engaged the community in a host of ways. The questions tackled, and the approach taken, were:
- How should we determine the focus for our research themes and areas? Coin-drop activity, voting between different ways of focusing themes
- How do we best build on the broader educational strengths of ARU in building our research? Flash survey, directly gathering answers to questions on this topic
- How do we best benefit from the research institute model? Flash survey, directly gathering answers to questions on this topic
- What additional steps should we take to promote and support staff research activity? A Moscow Prioritisation task, where thoughts were gathered rapidly in the following categories: ‘Must have’ ‘Should have’ ‘Would be nice to have’ ‘Don’t do this’
- What new research initiatives or infrastructure should we prioritise for investment? Open suggestion wall
- How do we best support and encourage industry facing contract research and innovation activities? Several pre-determined options for encouraging this activity, academics asked to vote for one or more options they thought would make a positive difference
We also invited anonymous suggestions and fears from the researchers present. Again, all the information gathered will be presented in the report.
A panel session wrapped-up the day, with Iain, Roderick and Michael all taking part, directly answering questions from the community.
The RIDO team were very grateful to all the delegates for their time and enthusiasm during the day. Your input will be presented to senior management and we hope will inform strategic decisions. We also thank the representatives of the ARU Research Institutes, who presented their work during the day. Our guest speakers gave us much to think about, as did the Keynote speakers, and the attendance of Research Professional was much appreciated. Researchers really benefit from using their system, and we hope that meeting their team will help them to do so.