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.

Differential Impact of COVID-19 on research

Summary: The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been differential, affecting some colleagues more than others, and affecting colleagues in differing ways. Mitigation of these effects therefore has taken the form of multiple schemes and options to support a range of individuals. This included: (1) Learning and Teaching Resource to Support Research, (2) COVID-19 Researcher Support Scheme, (3) Supporting the Furlough Scheme, and (4) Academic Leave. 

Outcome: ~£700k of funding was awarded under schemes (1) and (2) in support of more than 160 individuals for teaching support, research support, childcare, resources, and other costs. Furthermore, some requests made in applications, such as for maintenance costs of research facilities, were able to be covered under other interventions undertaken by UofG. 

Next Steps: The Senior Management Group (SMG) have agreed to review the need for additional intervention later in 2021. In particular, most research staff have not been able to take advantage of academic leave (also called research leave or study leave) during this time, and an intervention will be reviewed, with further communications to come. 

More information: Mitigating the Differential Impact of COVID-19 on Research: Report on Outcomes 

Evidencing support for careers

Summary: This is a joint project with INORMS, the International Network of Research Management Societies, that makes use of their SCOPE methodology. SCOPE stands for:  

  • START with what you value 
  • CONTEXT considerations 
  • OPTIONS for measuring 
  • PROBE deeply 
  • EVALUATE your evaluation 

Outcome: We held workshops in early 2021 to discuss how to evaluate support for the careers of other researchers in a responsible manner: what is valued about supporting the careers of others, and the options for responsible evaluation. The process of running the workshops and using the SCOPE tool is now available as a case study. We signed up to DORA as a university, and created and shared resources such as conversation starters and advice on talking about research outputs. Work from this project has been built into a resource to support anyone doing academic recruitment (evolving expectations in academic recruitment). 

Designing support for researchers to talk about their outputs 

Summary: We are designing support for researchers to talk about their outputs, research track record, and research plans using a blend of qualitative and quantitative indicators. This is designed to highlight all aspects of a researcher’s career and abilities, including collaborative and creative work. 

Current Stage: A group of early-career researchers is using a narrative CV format for the first time and providing feedback on the experience. A mock panel has reviewed the CVs and also provided feedback on the process. Their experiences will inform guidance for researchers on best practices for writing this type of CV and overcoming its challenges. 

Next Steps: We will develop a report summarising findings and recommendations, and advice will be produced for researchers already using the format. The project outputs will be available open access for adoption and sharing beyond the University of Glasgow.

Event: Join us for the event 'Narrative CV: what have we learnt so far?' on 10 August 2021 from 11:00am-12:00pm. We will share our findings and outputs so far from this project, including reflections for panel members on fair assessment of narrative CV formats. Register here.

This project is being conducted in collaboration with the UK Reproducibility Network. 

More information: UKRN - An Enhanced Narrative CV Template 

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 responsible 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?

Project updates: 

  • Differential impact of COVID-19 on research. For updates, please see Mitigation of COVID-19 differential impacts (Feb 2021). You will find links to interventions put in place and a report detailing outcomes of the interventions. 
  • Evidencing support for careers: Joint project with INORMS making use of their SCOPE methodology. Workshops were held in early 2021, and the process of running the workshops and using the SCOPE tool is available as a case study. We have also signed onto DORA as a university, and created and shared resources such as conversation starters and advice on talking about research outputs. We have embedded much of the thinking from this project in a practical guide to evolving expectations in academic recruitment.  
  • Narrative CV formats: several funders are piloting narrative approaches to CVs.  In this project, we supported 8 ECRs to write a narrative CV, which was then reviewed by a mock panel. Outputs include: a report on our findings, resources for anyone writing a CV and a sector wide event (10 August 2021). 
  • Recognition of diverse contributions to research supervision. Working with UKCGE, we successfully piloted a new "Recognised Associate Supervisor" descriptor, as a route to recognition for those with informal supervisory roles and those early in their supervisory careers. The pilot ran during summer of 2021, with four successful research staff / technician participants from UofG and is now being rolled out more widely. More information is available here.

Ongoing projects: 

  • 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.  

Who is involved?

The Lab for Academic Culture is led by

 Portrait of a man with short brown hair in a suit jacket laughing during a presentation or conference.

Miles Padgett

Miles is a Royal Society Research Professor in Optical Physics at the University of Glasgow. During his five years as Vice-Principal for Research in 2014–2019 he championed how the support of early-stage careers combined with academic creativity could drive the research excellence agenda. Miles is the institutional co-lead for research culture and co-lead of the Lab for Academic Culture. It is the university’s belief that a better culture is not an alternative to excellence but is what will allow more of us to excel., @milespadgettORCID 


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)).  

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 Miles Padgett or Elizabeth Adams

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