Lab for academic culture

We established the Lab for Academic Culture in 2020, with the aim to enhance academic research and teaching culture both by implementing local initiatives and shaping sector policies.

The Lab for Academic Culture focuses on three core activities:

  • Contributing to the sector: The Lab will facilitate discussion with key parties, including research organisations, funders, professional bodies, learned societies, and representatives from academia, to debate the important issues and identify policies and actions that can move the sector forward.
  • Project testbed: We have a track record of devising and implementing projects to further research and teaching culture which we continue to deliver, share them with the sector, and expand them to support academic culture more broadly.
  • Monitoring and evaluating progress: A key part of implementing change is to assess how we are doing. See our five year action plan for how we will do this.

Time for change

We have known for a while that academic culture needs to change and COVID-19 has thrown that into sharp relief.  We have already taken some steps at UofG (e.g. introducing specialist career tracks, embedding of responsbile metrics into performance assessments and requiring evidence of collegiality in promotions applications). However, to really make progress, Funders, Publishers, Institutions and Researchers will need to work together. We want the Lab to be at the forefront of driving this change. 

In our initiatives we champion a culture of open collaboration with the sector: all our materials and projects are freely available to view, review and reuse. 

The importance of research culture runs through our newly published 2020–2025 strategy for research, which prioritises careers, collaboration and creativity. A good culture isn't an alternative to excellence. Rather, it is what will allow more of us to excel.

Mitigation of COVID-19 differential impacts (Feb 2021)

The Lab for academic culture undertook a project in the latter half of 2020 to consider steps the University might take to mitigate the differential impacts of the pandemic on research and researchers.

View more detail on the interventions we are putting in place.

The following report - Mitigating the Differential Impact of COVID-19 on Research: Report on Outcomes - describes the purpose of the interventions, their design, and the outcome of the applications. We also reflect on the process itself, for the benefit of anyone wishing to introduce similar interventions.

What are we working on right now?

Current projects include:

  • Differential impact of COVID-19 on research 
  • New approaches to evaluating research activity
  • Planning a series of externally facing discussions around our working culture
  • Actions relating to implementation of the Concordat for the Career Development of Researchers 
  • Evidencing support for careers: joint project with INORMS making use of their SCOPE methodology
  • Designing support for researchers to prepare narrative CVs and to talk about their research track record and research plans using a blend of qualitative and quantitative indicators 
  • Recognition of diverse contributions to research supervision

How can I get involved?

We welcome input from all communities and staff groups at the University and externally. Changing culture has to be a joint, and inclusive, effort and we want the activities of the Lab to be as open and transparent as possible, to allow for input.

Wherever possible, we are making use of existing data. This includes sector initiatives (e.g. the Wellcome survey (2019) and their ideas bank) as well as UofG staff surveys and work being undertaken via the Technician commitment, People 1st, Athena Swan or other Equalities Charters. So the easiest way for you to contribute is by inputting to these, or to local discussions on research culture. Or you can take part in our Research Culture Survey (due to run next in summer 2021). Or email us directly with your ideas or talk to your College contacts on the Research Culture and Careers Group.

The activities of the Lab are delivered by offering secondment opportunities to staff from within Colleges and different job families.  

Externally, we are keen to share ideas and work jointly with colleagues in HEIs or other parts of the sector. Please contact us (Tanita Casci, Miles Padgett, Elizabeth Adams). 

Who is involved?

The Lab for Academic Culture is led by

The Management Board comprises

Within the wider sector, our work connects with a range of groups to drive forward culture change, including the UK Reproducibility Network, the Universities Scotland Researcher Development and Training Committee and Russell Group interest groups (e.g. on research integrity or postdoctoral researcher development (R14)).