Research Culture – Changing Expectations

(Part 2 of 2)

It’s now been two weeks since I attended the Royal Society’s Research Culture – Changing Expectations meeting and it’s amazing how many topics from the meetings have come up organically in conversations with other academics, particularly early career researchers. I’ve already written about a few of these in my earlier post and in this post I’ll summarise some key topics from the second day.

As mentioned in my last post this and my last post are a brief summary of just some of the ideas and messages that particularly spoke to me. Whilst I have referenced speakers throughout many of these points are my own interpretation and opinion.

UKRI and Research Culture

Tuesday started with a plenary by Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Sir Mark highlighted UKRIs vision of a research culture which was open, respectful, driven by a balance of curiosity and scepticism, supported by rigour and open to constructive and kind challenge – of dogma, of results, of interpretations. I’m sure many science researchers would agree that these tenets are indeed important to a healthy science research culture. However, as Sir Mark said, there is no single magic bullet that will solve any problems we currently have.

Attitudes and Beliefs

Much of Tuesday fits under this title. Problems in attitudes were identified and many changes were proposed. These spanned Professor Tom McLeish‘s suggestion to open all the doors in to and out of the palace of science – not just the main door. This was echoed by Dr Jenny Rohn who challenged the notion that staying in academia was the main route and everything else ‘alternative’.

This is all supported by the ideas of broadening what we see as success, e.g. not just a professorship with lots of grant money, raised by Professor Andrea Brand. Further, Robert-Jan Smits said his indicator of a culture change will be when data scientists and other, similar technical and research support roles are fully represented in paper author lists.

This was again mirrored in the afternoon’s session where David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said that an ideal future would be a research culture where the global academic enterprise was not driven by the top 1%. Those top 1% stand on the shoulders  not just of giants but of the 99%, many of whom do the day-to-day research and community building that drive science forward.

In Conclusion

There’s a great deal more I could write about from these two days. Many fantastic talks, inspiring ideas and important stories. If you want to see for yourself then both days were recorded and the YouTube links are available on the Royal Society’s pages here.

But what will I do. I am hoping to start making small changes in my day-to-day work, including:

  • highlighting when meetings are held at non-family/carer friendly hours
  • making sure researchers in my group take time to get out of the office/lab together
  • make any outputs from my research fellowship 100% open
  • and, in doing so, support and engage with new open science platforms, such as OCTOPUS (see last week’s post).

And, last but not least, take a bit more time to reflect on how my practices and those of academics around me might be contributing to negative aspects of the research culture I am part of.

Research Culture – Changing Expectations

(Part 1 of 2)

Earlier this week (29-30th October 2018) I attended a meeting at the Royal Society (London) with an aim of considering the UK scientific research culture – identifying challenges, highlighting best practice and considering what the future UK research culture can and should be. This meeting is a culmination of a two year programme of events and consultations (see here).

The meeting was full of inspiring speakers and great ideas and this and my next post are a really very brief summary of just some of the ideas and messages that particularly spoke to me. I have referenced speakers throughout but some of these points may be my own interpretation and opinion.

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Standing up for Science

Today I attended the Sense about Science [1] media workshop: Standing up for Science [2]. The day is run as part of their Voice of Young Science network [3] and aims to help early career scientists launch themselves into the rather intimidating field of media engagement.

The workshop itself was a really interesting day so thanks to Chris Peters and Ana Skamarauskas for organising and chairing through the day. It was primarily composed of three very interactive panels: scientists who have communicated with the media, journalists who work in STEM-related media, and the ‘nuts and bolts’ panel.

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Let There be Light… but Not Too Much… Phototoxicity in Microscopy

Light is an Essential Aspect of Microscopy

An essential aspect to microscopy is light. Early microscopes used ambient light or used mirrors to reflect light, either from the sun or a candle, onto the sample of interest. With the inventions [1] of the electric light bulb additional, artificial light sources could be used and the light from lamps could be focussed onto samples with much greater control.

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Technology Touching Life – Multidisciplinary UK Research and Innovation?

This Tuesday (the 20th June 2017) I attended a workshop on the new Technology Touching Life scheme being run by three of the UK’s research councils [1]. The workshops (this was the last of three) were run jointly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Reseasrch Council (EPSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to foster multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary networks and better integrate such research into the often disciplinary nature of the research councils.

Given the current changes in the research council structure, and the regularly recognised important of multidisciplinary research at this interface, can we expect to see a change in how the councils work together for better multidisciplinary research across the UK?

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