Research Cultures Working Group – call for members

Our Concordat Action Plan sets out our commitments to improve the career management, employment and opportunities for research staff in the next few years. It’s one of a number of other plans – our Technician Commitment, various Athena SWAN action plans and our Integrity Concordat reporting. Many more Edinburgh colleagues are working hard to improve the research culture and environment – our varied networks representing groups of staff and students with protected characteristics; our research staff societies and individuals who have found a range of ways of improving culture locally.

Although there is a huge amount of activity, in a complex organisation like Edinburgh too much of this work is done in silos. By working together we can bring about change more effectively and efficiently. By building a stronger community of people who support positive research cultures, we will find it easier to tackle problematic behaviours and practices, celebrate collegiality, amplify good practices and embed them more widely.

It’s therefore really exciting to announce that the University’s Research Strategy Group (formerly known as the Research Policy Group) has established a new Research Cultures Working Group and we’re now looking for people from across the University to apply to join. The key aim of the new group will be to work on behalf of the Research Strategy Group to establish policies and mechanisms to promote a positive research culture at the University of Edinburgh across all career stages.

We use the phrase Research Cultures (plural) in recognition of the diversity of our research community which includes research students, fixed-term staff, research leaders, technicians, professional services and support services working in a wide range of disciplines, environments and engaging with very different funders, partners, users and publics. This means we’re looking for people from all these communities to be part of the group.

So, what are we looking for?

As mentioned above, membership will be drawn from all key internal stakeholders. University Working Groups do not have dedicated funding, so we’ll need to draw ‘resource’ from its membership. This is not to say that individuals will be responsible for delivering on plans and initiatives, rather that they will be a strong position to direct existing resources towards the working group’s activity (i.e. being able to provide training, agreeing to line up priorities from other networks or plans, provide access to groups for consultations or agree to implement good practice). The Working Group’s aim will be to identify actionable demands against the issues it engages with and to report to Research Strategy Group. We will also report on more complex issues that we haven’t been able to develop recommendations against to ensure senior leadership are aware of wider concerns.

When applying to join the Working group (through this simple online form), please give an overview of

  • How you will disseminate the work of the committee across the University
  • How you will embed recommendations from the Working Group in your community, service, school, committee or network
  • How you will bring the concerns and experiences of key communities to the Working Group from your community, service, school, committee or network
  • Local influence you will have over resources or time (i.e. being able to align other groups’ priorities, to change policy, to deliver training or actions)
  • How you will bring good practice to the Working Group so it can disseminated and embedded more widely
  • Evidence of the actions you’ve taken to improve research culture at Edinburgh
  • Any issues you would like the Working Group to address

Our expectation is that many members of the Group will have more than one “identity” perhaps representing a career stage, College and committee or community. In recognition of the complexity of the institution we will also make direct approaches to those we know involved in research culture related activity and ask all those reading this blog to do the same.

Applications are open until midday on 9th June – the form is simple and shouldn’t take long to complete. If you have any questions, email Sara Shinton in IAD.

We will convene for the first time on June 30th, 2-4pm. Subsequent meetings are proposed for early September, November, January and March with dates to be agreed at the June meeting. Each meeting will feature an expert speaker who will present on a relevant issue. The June speaker will be Professor Malcolm Macleod, Academic Lead for Research Improvement and Research Integrity presenting the results of our first Research Culture Survey. Future topics will be agreed by the Working Group but may include Bullying and Harassment, Race Equality and Disability.


We’re determined that this group drives real visible change, so we’ll be transparent and honest about our activities and progress.  The Working Group will be interlinked through its membership with other committees and groups (such as Concordat Implementation Group, Technician Steering Group, EDIC and its subcommittees; Edinburgh Race Equality Network, Staff Pride Network, Staff Disability Network, GenderEd, RaceEd). We will produce an annual Research Cultures Impact Report which will be published openly and will celebrate our successes. As our ethos will be to be honest about the barriers to creating a more positive research cultures, we will also report on challenges so these can be openly discussed and acted on.

Sara Shinton,  Head of Researcher Development and Jane Hillston, Deputy Vice-Principal Research

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