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Research Culture News

Queen's launches the new Research Culture Action Plan

Professor Emma Flynn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Enterprise, reflects on the launch of the Research Culture Action Plan.

I am delighted to introduce Queen’s University’s new Research Culture Action Plan.

Research is about creating new knowledge, which can be used to solve problems, whether disciplinary, social, environmental or economic. The problems that the world faces are diverse and complex, which is why we need diverse minds to focus on the research that underpins these solutions. Within a university setting it is critical that we provide an ecosystem, through infrastructure, policies and processes, which allows diverse minds to flourish in their research endeavours. An important part of this ecosystem is our culture, our ways of behaving and being. Our culture is set by the norms of behaviour that we see others perform; a kind word, a recognition of effort or success; a sharing of resources.

In recent years we have heard from colleagues across the sector about concerns they have with the environment in which research currently takes place. The issues raised affect all career stages and job types, touching upon matters such as career pathways and job security; workload management and personal wellbeing; equality, diversity and inclusion; professional standards and integrity in research; and, research assessment and funding models.

Overcoming these challenges within our broader ‘research culture’ will not be easy; but, doing so is crucial to ensuring the future success and sustainability of research and innovation in the UK. Without ensuring individual wellbeing, how can we attract and retain the best talent? Without delivering research conducted with the highest levels of integrity, how can we ensure public confidence in what we do?

Queen’s is not immune from these problems; but, we can help lead the way in developing solutions. In recent years we have demonstrated this through our response to successive institutional staff surveys, including an entirely new system of ‘Academic Progression’ which takes a more holistic view of individual contributions to the wider environment.

The document presented here is another step forward, with a particular focus on the discrete challenges faced by those within the wider ‘research community’. Our first institutional Research Culture Action Plan is the product of extensive consultation with academics, postdoctoral researchers and research fellows, professional support staff, technicians, research students and more. It is a statement of intent which aims to put Queen’s at the forefront of a sector wide effort to change long-standing norms and practices.

We are realistic about the challenge ahead – these are complex problems that cannot be addressed overnight or solely by our community; however, I am confident that the actions and commitments set out in this document are the first stage in a journey that will deliver a more inclusive, supportive, collaborative, and – ultimately – successful research culture.