Blog: Research Culture


July 11th, 2022

Following recent invitations to find out more about our research strategy for 2022-27 and transforming our research culture, project leads Professor Lucy Donaldson and Professor Lynda Pratt discuss what research culture is and how it is defined in their guest blog post.

Our work on our research cultures here at the University of Nottingham has been inspired and shaped by the Royal Society’s view that:

“Research culture encompasses the behaviours, values, expectations, attitudes and norms of our research communities. It influences researchers’ career paths and determines the way that research is conducted and communicated.”

The Royal Society has been a helpful model in another way – action.  It led the advance in building positive research culture and in communicating why it’s so important to understand and maintain a good research culture to support all researchers to achieve their goals. You can watch their great short video here.

Our work on Nottingham’s research culture programme is also informed by awareness that in an organisation as large and complex as ours, we can’t really talk about culture as a single entity. We have myriad different research cultures across the university – many of these might be great, some might be less ideal, and others might need support. Moreover, not everyone experiences the same environment in the same way.

The first step in our work on our research culture has been to understand its complexity and to learn where we are now.  We’ve therefore spent the last 6 months working with an expert consultancy ThenSomeHow, co-designing and running a University of Nottingham research culture survey to see if we can better understand research cultures across the university. In this first step, we asked you to tell us about how it is to work in your local environment. This is designed to give us a baseline for our culture, so that together we can work out how to get to where we want to be, or if we are already there.

We would like to say a very big thank you to everyone who participated in the research culture survey and in the workshops that followed.  These provided invaluable insights into where our research culture is now and suggested themes and areas that might benefit from focussed work in the future.  We discovered that there are some really great places around the university and areas where support is needed to make them even better.

The survey, the workshops, and the discussions at the university’s first ever Research Culture Conference (held on 7 July), demonstrate our collective power.  They show the benefits of working together, learning from each other and sharing ideas and examples of practice as we rebuild our community post-pandemic, in order to make sure that we all have healthy, positive, supportive and enabling working environments.  The next stage in the programme – a series of research culture design clinics running from 11-21 July – will build on this and explore six themes that have emerged from the survey submissions: inclusiveness; agency; collaboration and support; leadership; behaviour; and development. The design clinics are for anyone working on or supporting research activity at any level.  You can find more information about them here.  They offer an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from across the university and to develop a range of practical interventions and improvements that positively influence our working environment. This will lead into our work in the autumn, when we will form working groups to prototype the best ideas.

Thank you for your great contributions so far.  We very much hope you will get involved in the next stage of our work and help to shape a research culture that supports everyone involved in research to achieve their very best and fulfil their highest ambitions.

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One Comment

August 3rd, 2022 at 11:58 am

Tammy Greeno

Staff and researchers can view the recordings and summaries from the first Research Culture Conference, hosted by the Researcher Academy in July.

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