Last week, after months of preparation, our Research Conference was upon us! I must admit that, in the final days running up to it, the RIS office must have found me intolerable – “Have we done this, have we done that, where are we on this?”, etc….. So, this is a public opportunity to thank all staff in RIS who helped with the organisation and, in particular, Amy and Ruth. Their organisational ability was so good that I even left them to it and took myself off to Edinburgh the day before the conference!
This year, we planned the conference differently and gave it a mainly internal focus. A lot has happened on the research front over the last couple of years, and the plan was to celebrate our achievements and showcase the wide range of high quality research being undertaken within the University. Our VC, Professor Graham Galbraith, welcomed everyone by emphasising the importance of research and the expectation that our research activity needs to be enhanced. Professor Paul Hayes gave us an update on the university-wide ‘Shaping our future’ consultation. The level of engagement of staff has been excellent, with contributions from 1,335 staff. The initial phase of the consultation is now complete and further outcomes and recommendations will be disseminated in the summer. We were assured by Paul that the feet posters and floor stickers will be taken up soon, although they have been the subject of much fun discussion with external visitors!
It was excellent to hear from our Research Development Fund (RDF) awardees how the RDF has enabled them to establish new collaborations and pursue funding proposals for future research. Rob Heathman from the Technology Strategy Board gave us a good insight on the remit of the TSB and on opportunities they offer for Universities. Over lunch, there was plenty of time for delegates to look at UoP 2013 CROS and PIRLS posters, or get into grips with our newly acquired research information management system.
After lunch, our university-wide networks on Environment and Ageing (UPEN and UPAN) brought us up to date with how the networks have supported our researchers. Dr David Hutchinson (UPEN facilitator) used the medium of moving images (complete with background music) to showcase the activities of our environment researchers – “so rad” (youth-speak for short for radical), as my children would say!
Two of our early career researchers (Joe Cox and Natalya Vince) described their experiences as ECRs at the University, and I must admit I was filled with pride listening to them. We are blessed with some excellent researchers at UoP and I hope they grow in numbers on a logarithmic scale!
Our final speaker was Professor Ben Martin from the University of Sussex who spoke on ‘Does peer review prevent cheating in science’. Well, it was quite an eye-opening talk, as it transpires that peer review is not 100% fool-proof when it comes to publishing, and there are individuals who plagiarise papers, lie about their employment status and, indeed, about their employers! Journals need more editors like Ben Martin!
Bill Salmond, our Chair of Governors-in-waiting, delivered the concluding comments, and his comments on the stars of the show being our researchers have stayed with me, as indeed this is entirely true.
There are many ways of ending a successful conference like this, usually involving my favourite tipple, G&T, but, on this occasion, we celebrated by hosting the Ig Nobel lecture, which was excellent.
Thank you all for your contributions, your attendance and for help with the organisation.