EU Funding for UK Higher Education Sector

Written by Daniela Amadio & Sian Warr, EU Research Funding Office

“When we – the UK- consider our leading worldwide position in terms of research and innovation, we need to partly thank our access to European Union funding …” says the Head of the EU Research Funding Office, Mr. Daniel Walker.

Involvement in EU research schemes and projects can be extremely beneficial to a researcher’s professional development as EU Funding schemes are prestigious, internationally recognised, aid career progression and a project management learning experience.

There are a diverse range of EU Funding Schemes open to researchers at all career stages and across a broad spectrum of disciplines.  The Horizon2020 schemes focus on research & innovation with an emphasis on the impact in academia and the wider European society; Erasmus+ enables student and staff mobility; whilst the COST scheme allows researchers to build European networks and share knowledge.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever and one of the largest worldwide. As of 30 September 2016, the UK was the top country in terms of numbers of participations in Horizon 2020 projects (around 13.3% of the total participations) and second in terms of funding received from Horizon 2020 (around15.3% of total funding awarded)[1].

Currently the UK is still an EU Member State and will remain so during the whole negotiation period, after invoking Article 50. This has been confirmed by several sources in the European Commission[2] and by a recent statement from the government[3]: the statement provides assurance to UK organisations and it reiterates that British universities should continue to apply for EU funding. Now it is therefore the time to engage in EU funding as long as we can, and the EU Research Funding Office can help you out with that.

We represent the first port of call for any enquiries about EU funding. Our mission is to advise potential applicants, assist in non-technical aspects of the application, offer training and tailored support throughout the whole cycle of your application and even beyond during the lifetime of your awarded project. You can find our contact details here and we look forward to hearing from you and assisting you to win your first EU funded project!

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uks-participation-in-horizon-2020-september-2016

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/news/outcome-referendum-united-kingdom

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-philip-hammond-guarantees-eu-funding-beyond-date-uk-leaves-the-eu

The Teaching Excellence Framework

Written by Kelly Coate & Rebecca Browett, King’s Learning Institute 

This year, King’s entered the Teaching Excellence Framework, which is a government initiative designed to recognise, reward and improve teaching in higher education. The TEF has generated much controversy across the sector, partly because it is linked to an increase in tuition fees, and as such it was the subject of discussion at a Governing Council meeting earlier this year. The decision taken by Council was for King’s to participate in TEF in order to help shape its future development, which we are in the process of doing.

The TEF focuses on three areas of our education provision: teaching quality; the learning environment; and student outcomes. The core metrics are based on NSS scores, non-continuation rates, and the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey data. In addition we produced a 15 page ‘Provider Submission’ (which can be read here: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/learningteaching/kli/Teaching-Excellence-Framework/KCL-TEF2-Provider-Submission.pdf) to be assessed alongside the metrics. In May we will find out whether the panel of assessors have awarded King’s a bronze, silver or gold ranking.

Key issues for King’s were that London Russell Group institutions tend not to do well on the NSS in general, so although we were in good company in terms of where we came out in the metrics, we did have to consider whether it was worth engaging in a process in which we lacked some confidence. The other key issue was the decision of the Students’ Union to disengage with the process, which we understood and respected. You can read the joint university and KCLSU statement about TEF here: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2017/01-January/Joint-university-and-KCLSU-statement-on-TEF.aspx

While we await the panels’ assessment of the King’s submission, we have time to consider what the likely impact might be on the sector, the institution and individual staff. For researchers, the TEF might seem to be irrelevant. Yet for an institution such as King’s that promotes the synergies between research and teaching, there are many reasons why we would want to ensure that TEF and REF are not two completely separate entities. Certainly TEF has the potential, when they get the metrics right, to focus our attention and energy on improving the education experience for students, articulating better what is distinctive and valuable about education at King’s (including how research enhances teaching and vice versa), and recognising and disseminating excellence where it exists.

Get your Voice Heard on the REF 2021

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui 

The implementation of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014 is thought to have strengthened best practice in the way research is assessed. One probably unintended consequence was that it resulted in unease for many members of research staff trying to break into the Academy. The REF has seen universities placing expectations on research staff in their recruitment practices similar to those associated with senior academics, such as requiring hopeful job candidates to have already whipped up a certain number of REF ready outputs, or be working tirelessly towards delivering them by the end of their probationary period if offered a post. These might seem to be practically Herculean feats as the volatile nature of research staff contracts often entails constantly scouring for new jobs, as well as teaching and short-term research project commitments, leaving limited time to engage in the independent research called upon for the REF.

The REF isn’t all doom and despair though. It has also brought about positive change, with many research staff reporting that it has encouraged them to start factoring public engagement and impact initiatives into their careers early on. This is also aligned to several guiding principles of King’s Strategic Vision 2029.

In the run up to the second REF in 2021, the President of the British Academy, Lord Stern, conducted a review of the REF and made a recommendation to block the portability of research outputs – A recommendation which if approved would mean that research outputs would not be transferable to other institutions. This has added to existing anxiety, with publications often viewed as the golden ticket to move to different institutions as contracts end, and to ultimately secure a permanent academic position. If the recommendation proceeds, it has been suggested that research staff should be exempted from it.

King’s is currently participating in the university-wide consultation for REF 2021 and invites your views, particularly on three main areas:

  • The Stern non-portability recommendation;
  • The approach to research impact;
  • Which members of research staff should be included in the REF.

Members of the Research Staff Representative Committee, comprised of faculty representatives from across the university, will be feeding into the consultation through King’s. Have you got something to say about the areas of consultation? Contact your faculty representative to get your views across before the deadline of February 28th 2017. Though the final specifications for the REF 2021 will not be shaped by King’s alone, your voice as King’s research staff community is paramount to both the university’s consultation, as well as the wider national position on it.

Assessing the Changing Research and Innovation Landscape

Written by Daniel Cremin, Head of External Affairs & Government Relations, King’s College London

Game-changing developments from Whitehall can be like buses – you can often wait for years, and then 3 or 4 tend to turn up in very close proximity.

Recent months have heralded significant developments with long-term implications for King’s and the wider UK science and research landscape.

After several months, in the immediate post-Brexit period, of making positive but non-committal noises about the importance of science and innovation, Theresa May’s reformulated Government opted to decisively put its money where its mouth is at the Autumn Statement in December 2016.

To the surprise of many in the research world, who had expected a more modest increase in investment, the Government revealed that science and research would be a cornerstone feature of its revitalised industrial strategy. This made it one of the biggest winners from its decision to step back from the strictures of austerity and borrow more to drive economic development more widely across the UK.

The additional funding, awarded as part of a broader National Productivity Fund that will also support additional investment in infrastructure projects and skills development, will deliver an extra £4.7 Billion for research across the period of 2016-17 to 2020-21. The specific funding calls have not been announced but it is expected that they will cover research in all disciplines.

An increase in this level hasn’t been seen in the UK since the 1980s and is truly exciting as it brings with it enormous potential to enrich the research endeavour through the delivery of new technologies and laboratories, as well as supporting initiatives to bolster the impact and global connectivity of the research community.

The details of how the additional funding will be allocated won’t emerge until after the Budget in March, but present intelligence indicates that a significant amount of the funding will be directed through the tradition dual funding streams of the Research Councils and the REF-linked QR block grant institutional allocations. Place is likely to feature more acutely in the decision-making process in future.

As part of the Autumn Statement the Government indicated that some of the additional funding would be specifically targeted at helping to catalyse university-industry collaboration to advance the UK’s strengths in relation to both existing and nascent technologies which offer high-growth potential.

The Government has swiftly followed up with the publication of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper in mid-January, and an accompanying consultation exercise on a proposed Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to be managed by UK Research and Innovation.

In addition to 8 core challenge areas which largely map to, but slightly expand thematically on, the Government’s already established 8 Great Technologies framework, Innovate UK and the Research Councils are using the consultation to seek views on two additional potential thematic areas, shown beneath the green line in the diagram below.

The other big development, with potentially long-term implications, was the announcement on 2nd February that the Government’s present Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, will become the first Chief Executive of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI). He will establish the organisation in shadow form across 2017, with the first set of HEFCE and Research Council staff expected to transfer by summer, before UKRI becomes fully operational in April 2018.

This is a significant appointment as Sir Mark, a former Chief Executive of Wellcome Trust, has long advocated that a greater share of the science and research budget should be concentrated on supporting major national and international scientific hubs and infrastructure initiatives.

Although he is an advocate of universities playing a key role in the driving excellence in both pure and applied research, there is the potential that his stewardship of UKRI – which will without doubt be a powerful super-agency – could lead to some notable changes in the way the Research Councils allocate funding for major awards, fellowships and doctoral training in the next few years.

He is also a strong advocate of bolstering investment in smart cities technologies as well as research and development activity in relation to sustainable urbanisation and low carbon energy storage, so these could well be significant beneficiaries over time as a result of his tenure. You may find “Technology and Innovation Futures”, a report issued by the Government Office for Science Sir Mark oversees an interesting read.

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First Six Months in your New Job

Written by Donald Lush 

It’s easy to make mistakes in a new job. These may be minor and result in nothing more than a few jokes, but they can also have a more profound impact on your future.

At an early stage in my career, after some years working for a London Borough, I had the good luck to work for the Lord Chancellor’s Department in the division looking after the affairs of people unable to manage their own finances.

Very early on, I inadvertently punched a hole in an original will. Now, you may not think this matters much but it does. A hole indicates that there might have been another document attached to the will which changed its meaning. The Battersea Dogs Home could have been in line for your aged relative’s money instead of you.

To put matters right I was obliged to make a statement describing my accident and swear an oath in front of the Master of The Court of Protection. To add to my embarrassment, it was Red Nose Day and the Master kindly advised me it might be better to remove my red nose before the proceedings as I would look more dignified and serious without it.

So why does this matter?  Well, I learned that you have to learn how to handle a new job.

First of all, when all the recruitment procedures are complete and you now have the job you’ve dreamed of, your learning doesn’t cease. You now have to learn what your new job is. Ask questions, agree targets, research, read, try things out.

Secondly, you need to get to know your new organisation. Who matters? Who can help you? Who has power? What are the unofficial rules as well as the official ones? Again, ask questions, do your research. Be sure you know who to turn to when you need support.

Thirdly, what are you supposed to be doing? It’s amazing how organisations and managers assume you know. Meet your new boss and agree a plan which is then written down and shared. Identify any help you need to achieve the agreed aims and ask for it (again in writing) and ask more questions.

Looking back, if I had paid serious attention to these lessons I might not have had my hole punch mishap (and not been reminded of it every few weeks by my colleagues and been saved much professional and personal embarrassment).

Finally, the first few weeks of your new job are an ideal time to think about your next job. Why? Because this one is the foundation of the next one. You need to know what you have to learn and contribute to assure you of making your next jump.

Lessons learnt – I haven’t perforated any important legal documents since and I have done a job I love for many years now.

You may not really Leave Research!

Written by Dr Nigel Eady 

If you have a fixed term contract, you’re often thinking about what comes next. Sometimes it’s straightforward. You know exactly where you want to end up, and maybe how to get there. In other situations, it can feel a daunting prospect. Where do I go next? What are my options? Who’s looking for people with my skills? The answer might be right under your nose!

I’d been a postdoc for less than a year when I left academia. Part of me was determined to come back into a university, at some stage, to sort out the problems I felt I’d encountered as a PhD student. But I didn’t really know what that would look like. In the short term I wanted out!

The reality is there are lots of great jobs within universities, alongside the academic/research roles. It’s true that in most cases you don’t need a research background, but you can certainly make a strong argument that it helps.

Many roles within universities require close working relationships with academics and research staff. As a former researcher, you speak the same language. You understand the pressures. You know the stakeholders, and may have a useful network of contacts. You can think like a researcher, analytically and critically, supported by your well-honed, problem-solving skills.

Some roles are no different to the roles you find in lots of organisations – finance, communications and HR, for example – but there are many more besides.

What sorts of roles exist? Here are a few areas* that are worth exploring:

  • Research policy
  • Grants
  • Personal/professional/career development
  • Impact and public engagement
  • Diversity & inclusion
  • Online or e-learning
  • General administration

In some places, the view still persists that if you leave research, you have somehow failed. It’s just not true. Please don’t let that hold you back! Remaining in research long term is actually the exception. Pursue research, if that’s what you really want to do. If you don’t, there are lots of options. You have much to offer.

So, where to start? Well, have a look around your department or faculty – how many people in Professional Services have a research background or a PhD? Ask to have a coffee with them to find out what they do. Ask them how they got their current job. Ask them what they wish they’d known when they were in your position! You may already be involved in, or may be able to find, projects that give you greater insight into working on the other side of the fence – perhaps you’re helping run a staff network, contributing to an Athena SWAN application or creating an e-learning module on KEATS.

Some people stay in the university sector, when they leave day-to-day research. Others, like me, initially move out, extend their networks yet further, develop new skills and return at a later date.

Who knows? Your next role might be much closer at hand than you think!

*Why not Google search these areas or look on www.jobs.ac.uk?

Changing your Career

Written by Dr Kathy Barrett 

In my previous role as a careers consultant for research staff one of the most common laments I heard was “I would like to leave academia but I don’t know what else is out there”.  If you have spent all your time in your research environment, socialising with other researchers and forming romantic partnerships with researchers whose friends are also researchers then it is hardly surprising that you’re not aware of the alternatives.  Even if you’re serious about a career in academia it is often useful to keep an eye on the alternatives to ensure that you’re following the path that is the most appropriate for you.

Where do you start?  There are lots of ways to discover other professions.  The one you pick will probably depend on how you like to engage with information and people.  The options are wide-ranging, from browsing through job lists for those who prefer step-by-step methodology to engaging in person with as many people as possible.

You are likely to be limited by time so to make your search more efficient you may find it useful to narrow down areas or job sectors that are of interest to you by following the steps in last week’s post.  That way you can save time by focussing initially on one or two job sectors.  One of the things you have in your favour is that you are currently working in a sector that has generated a lot of information for this express purpose.  Although a large proportion of it is aimed at undergraduates much of it is of use also to career changers.

An approach that I found very popular for generating ideas was to start by looking at the top level of job sectors.  There is a comprehensive set of these on the Prospects website.  Each entry on this site contains an overview so you can get an idea of whether or not it interests you.  If it does you can investigate further by perusing the list of the most common roles available in the sector.  There are comprehensive descriptions of each of the roles and usually a convenient link to related roles so that you can broaden your search.

A lot of employment sectors also have professional bodies, learned societies and trade associations attached to them.  These often have useful information on their websites about careers in their sector and in some cases routes in.  Think Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Public Relations Consultants Association and Association for Project Management, to name a few.

You can find these and other resources through CareersTagged, an online careers library (use your King’s username and password to enter).  Alternatively, search using the tag “early career researcher” or “PhD” and you’ll come up with links that are relevant to researchers who have a PhD.  Some of these resources are helpsheets that outline additional approaches you can use to identify what the options are, including Vitae.  The Vitae webpages include case studies and research on careers for research staff.  If you’re still struggling, make an appointment to visit our careers consultants as outlined in last week’s blog.

Once you identify your potential new career there is nothing more useful for finding out the realities of the role and routes in than talking to someone who is already engaged in that profession.  In our blog series last month we talked about networking.  Find a networking technique that works for you (you don’t have to be a social butterfly!) to track down someone in your favoured company, profession or role and get in touch.  People generally like to talk about themselves, especially to an appreciative audience, so this approach can often yield great results.  Don’t be afraid to use the King’s connection if there is one!

There are a lot of events around King’s that are designed specifically to provide you with opportunities to meet these people.  You may also find it useful to attend one of our careers workshops.  At these you can find out more about planning your next steps and also meet like-minded people with whom you can collaborate on your search for meaningful employment and from whom you can gain mutual support.  See last week’s blog post for information about our courses and events.  Consider the possibility also that your ideal job might be something that is not research but is still within the university, in which case someone doing that job is probably right on your doorstep.

Finally, we would love to hear your thoughts and experiences through our King’s CRSD LinkedIn Group.

What can I do Next?

Written by Donald Lush 

A few years ago I was listening to a radio interview with a fire fighter. He gave one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard:

“Never go into a burning building without knowing how you’re going to get out”

This is great advice for life in general but it has particular value in a careers context, where I think it means:

“Always plan at least two career moves ahead.”

The more you have a clear vision and strategy for your career, the more likely you are to achieve your objectives.

Of course, this is easy to say and hard to do. What if you don’t know the first move? Begin by forgiving yourself for not knowing. Everyone feels they should know what their own personal career plan is and it can be a great source of self-inflicted stress if you’re at a loss.  Don’t let the stress take over and stop you thinking clearly.

Here are some career questions you can ask yourself to dispel the clouds and get the ideas flowing:

  • What’s important to you?
  • What do you love?
  • What do you want?
  • What do you need?

You may find some of the answers by thinking about the following issues:

  • Salary
  • Location
  • Responsibility/Management/Leadership
  • Opportunities for promotion
  • Flexibility
  • Who you want to serve and why
  • What type of organisation you work in (what it does, how big, small and so on)

There will be many more issues personally relevant to you. Try to imagine a typical work day, five years ahead. See yourself walking through the doors first thing in the morning. How does your imagined day live up to your wish list?  What will you be doing that day (and with whom) that ensures you satisfy those wishes?

To go a bit deeper, it might also help to learn a bit about your skills in relation to your needs. Here are some more questions to ask yourself:

  • What can I do?
  • What can’t I do?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What do I not want to do?

You will spend many years at work and you’ll enjoy it much more if you are doing something you love and are good at (these are often the same thing).

Finally, as a researcher, don’t feel you are stuck in a narrow niche. You have skills that all employers value. You can solve problems, communicate, organise, analyse and research your way in a huge variety of situations. Your curiosity and creativity will keep you moving and your hard won resilience will ensure you reach your goals.

For a one to one careers discussion with one of our consultants please click here.

To keep up with our programme of careers events click here.

To check out our extensive range of careers training courses click here.

We have a suite of self-study online career courses here.

An Introvert’s Guide to Networking

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui

So you’re an introvert working in academia. Striking up a conversation with people you don’t know well isn’t your forte. But networking is that niggling activity you know you should be engaging in to progress professionally. Not all is lost. You can grow and sustain a network of contacts without being the most outspoken person in the room.

For many of us, the term ‘networking’ invokes an image of a large auditorium brimming with strangers. While opportunities to network often do present themselves in the form of busy events, there is scope to develop your network in smaller, less intimidating settings.

Who do you already know? And who do they know?

Consider who you already know – both professionally and personally. Now give some thought to the people they know who you could benefit from meeting. Does one of your colleagues sit on a committee with an expert in your field who if you met could spark off a collaboration?  Is your tennis partner friends with the spouse of someone in a role you’re interested in exploring? The relationships between the people you know and those you want to know might be a bit more long-winded and complex! But once you’ve identified a few people in your contacts’ networks, ask your colleague/friend/family member to introduce you over a coffee or email. Meeting someone new via an introduction or in the company of an existing friend or colleague often eases some of the pressure from that initial conversation. Approach your first coffee or email with points for why it would be valuable for that person to have you on their radar as well.

 Build your Network Informally  

Getting to know others outside the constraints of structured work scenarios, in more informal settings, can feel more intuitive. Take advantage of after-work drinks, office parties, or other social activities in your department/faculty. The potential to network isn’t confined to the workplace – Get involved with volunteering or join a Meetup group that runs activities you’re interested in. People at these events are often there with a similar purpose – to meet others, and are likely to be friendly and approachable. And the diverse range of people you encounter might present a job opportunity or a new perspective on your research.

Surviving the Packed Auditorium Scenario

The nature of working in academia means that sometimes being in packed auditoriums is inevitable. While walking up to someone you’ve never seen before and introducing yourself might feel unnatural in most day-to-day situations, it’s the norm in conferences, lectures, and even workshops. Most people you approach will be receptive and happy to reciprocate by telling you about themselves. If you struggle with introducing yourself, prepare in advance. Jot down the key points you want to share about yourself and practice saying them aloud until you can deliver your introduction fluidly.  The chances are that some of the people you meet might even feel as awkward as you! Get out of your own head and consider what you can do to make your exchange comfortable and worthwhile for both of you.

If there are specific people you’re interested in meeting, consider why you’d like to meet them and prepare questions around those interests that you can ask them. Contacting them in advance and inviting them for coffee at the conference can also make it easier to avoid vying for attention with others equally enthusiastic about meeting your potential new collaborator.

Lastly, Susan Cain, who delivered the TED talk, The Power of Introverts, imparts some valuable advice on networking for introverts, including how to handle busy events, in this video.

Professional Futures 16 November 2016 – How to be a Successful Networker

Written by Donald Lush 

Our speaker:

Dr Triona Bolger, whose PhD was in Craniofacial Developmental Biology, is now a Managing Consultant in the Life Science Practice at Navigant Consulting with a strong interest in EU/Emerging Market commercial strategy for both speciality and big pharma.

Here are Triona’s top thoughts about networking and how to be a successful networker:

  1. Words that come to mind when thinking about networking:
  • Elevator pitch
  • Selling yourself
  • Awkward forced conversation
  • Schmoozing
  • Working a room
  • Speed dating.
  1. All of these things can seem like barriers to a useful conversation.
  2. Networking is nothing more than making connections with people – be interested, be present and be honest. Talk openly about the things that you are passionate about, ask engaging questions and truly listen to the answers. People seek connections and respond well to honest and open conversations.
  3. Networking shouldn’t mean that you are false or behave in a manner that isn’t yourself – this comes across as fake and people will close off .
  4. The purpose of networking varies so try and be open to opportunities – you may be looking for a new flat mate, funding, a job, inspiration, a collaborator and many other things.
  5. You can network anywhere – the residents lounge of your building, at parties, sports, on-line, on a flight.
  6. Generally, I don’t network with purpose, I just try to pay attention to who people are and chat, but this is my approach. Others need to be more studied and others are more gregarious.
  7. Be true to yourself – if you aren’t outgoing and able to introduce yourself, then don’t go to events where you have to put yourself out there. Work out a networking style that works for you.
  8. Identify your ‘party personality’ – are you the centre of the party? Are you holding up the wall, are you chatting in the kitchen in a smaller group, are you making yourself useful clearing up after other? Know yourself and find ways to talk to people that work for you
  9. What do you want to be known for? What do you need / want to know about others? Try to work out your answers to the following:
  • Do you have to be purposeful vs. passive?
  • What is your story?
  • Who is the other person?
  1. Keep in touch with the connections you make through messages, emails or personal contact.