Posts tagged: research

How to Write a 4* Journal Article

Professor Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University

In December, Prof Mark Reed, Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University and the man behind Fast Track Impact, tweeted some thoughts on how to write a 4* paper for the REF and wrote a blog about it. This post is published here with the author’s permission.

How do you write a 4* paper for the Research Excellence Framework (REF)? It is a question I’ve asked myself with some urgency since the Stern Review shredded my REF submission by not allowing me to bring my papers with me this year to my new position at Newcastle University.

Obviously the answer is going to differ depending on your discipline, but I think there are a few simple things that everyone can do to maximize their chances of getting a top graded research output.

I’m going to start with the assumption that you’ve actually done original, significant and rigorous work – if you haven’t then there is no point in reading any further. However, as I am increasingly asked to pre-review papers for colleagues across a range of disciplines, I am seeing examples of people who write up work as a 2* or 3* paper that has the potential to get a better score. I should point out that I believe that there is an important role for 1* and 2* papers, and that I regularly write these on purpose to address a problem of national significance and frame it for the specific, narrow audience that is likely to be able to benefit most from my work. However, whether I like it or not, as a Professor in a research-intensive University, there is an expectation that I will be submitted as a 4* researcher, which means I need a few 4* papers as well.

You can see some more detailed thoughts on what I think makes 4* for different types of paper in this Tweet:

https://twitter.com/profmarkreed/status/801348612345253888/photo/1

As you’ll see from the discussion under that tweet though, my more detailed thoughts probably only apply to Units of Assessment across panels A-C, and probably isn’t relevant to the arts and humanities.

Having said this, I think there are a number of things we can all do to maximize the chances of our work being viewed favourably by REF panelists.

  1. Write to the criteria:when I was learning to drive, my instructor told me that in the test I should make sure I moved my head when I was looking in the rear view mirror, to make sure the examiner noticed I was using my mirrors. We’re all used to writing to the criteria of funding calls, and in fact we are all perfectly used to writing papers to the criteria of our target journals. In the last REF, research outputs were judged against three criteria: originality, significance and rigour. Whatever the interpretation of these criteria in your discipline, have you made it explicit to REF panelists reading your work exactly what is original, and why it is so original? Have you explained and effectively justified the significance of your work? And have you included evidence that your methods, analysis and interpretation is rigorous, even if you have to use supplementary material to include extra detail about your methods and data to get around journal word limits?
  2. Get REF feedback before you submit your work for publication:find out who is going to be reviewing research outputs for REF internally within your Unit of Assessment at your institution and ask them to review your work before you submit it. They may be able to make recommendations about how you might improve the paper in light of the REF criteria. Sometimes a little bit of extra work on the framing of your research in relation to wider contexts and issues can help articulate the significance of your work, and with additional reading and thinking, you may be able to position your work more effectively in relation to previous work to demonstrate its originality more clearly. Adding a few extra details to your methods and results may re-assure readers and reviewers that your approach is indeed rigorous. This is not just about doing world-leading research; it is about demonstrating to the world that your work is indeed world-leading. For me, these criteria are nothing new and are worth paying attention to, whether or not we are interested in REF. Meeting these three criteria will increase the chances that you get through peer-review and will increase the likelihood that your work gets cited.
  3. Analyse and discuss good practice in your own area: the only way to really “get your eye in” for REF is to actually look at examples of good and poor practice in your own area. Below, I’ve described how you can design an exercise to do this with your colleagues. You can do it yourself and learn a lot, but from my own experience, you learn a lot more by doing this as a discussion exercise with colleagues who work in your area. If you can, take notes from your discussion and try and distill some of the key lessons, so you can learn collectively as a group and more effectively review and support each other’s work.

How to organize a discussion to work out what makes a 4* paper in your area:

  • Identify top scoring institutions for your Unit of Assessment (UOA): download the REF2014 results, filter for your UOA (columns E or F), then filter so it only shows you the outputs (column J), and then filter for 4* (column L), showing only the institutions from your UOA that had the highest percentage of 4* outputs. Now for those institutions, look across the table (columns L-P) to see which has the highest proportion of outputs at either 3* or 4*. For example, an institution may have 80% of its outputs graded at 4* and 15% graded at 3*, meaning that 95% of its outputs were graded at 3-4*
  • Download a selection of papers from the top scoring institutions: go to your UOA on the REF website, find and click on the institutions you’ve identified in step 1, under “view submission data”, click on “research outputs”, copy and paste output titles into Google Scholar (or your search engine of choice) and download the articles. You may want to select outputs randomly, or you may want to go through more selectively, identifying outputs that are close to the areas your group specialize in
  • Repeat for low scoring institutions so you can compare and contrast high and low scoring outputs
  • Discuss examples: print copies of the high and low scoring outputs, labeled clearly, and in your next UOA meeting, let everyone choose a high and a low-scoring example. Given them 10-15 minutes to quickly read the outputs (focusing on title, abstract, introduction, figures and conclusions so you’re not there all day) and then ask the group (or small groups if there are many of you) to discuss the key factors that they think distinguish between high and low scoring outputs. Get your group(s) to distill the key principles that they think are most useful and disseminate these more widely to the group, so that anyone who wasn’t present can benefit.

It would be great if I could tell you that these are my “three easy ways to get a 4* paper” but doing work that is genuinely original, significant and rigorous is far from easy. If you have done work that is of the highest quality though, I hope that the ideas I’ve suggested here will help you get the credit you deserve for the great research you’ve done.


Engineering industry event – JMEE: Enhancing the Participation of Industry in Research Projects in Telecommunications and Energy Sectors

Attendees at JMEE Engineering EventEarlier in April Professor Haifa Takruri MBE, Director of the JMEE (Joint MsC Electrical Engineering) programme, organised a special industry event which presented the project’s progress to date. The workshop entitled ‘JMEE: Enhancing the Participation of Industry in Research Projects in Telecommunications and Energy Sectors’ covered the processes involved in developing the JMEE programme, as well as knowledge sharing, academia-industry collaboration and EU and Palestine cultural exchange.

A fantastic example of industry collaboration in action, the event was attended by a number of high-profile engineering partners. Mr Nigel Platt, System Engineering Manager at Siemens Energy, presented about AC and HVDC interconnections for offshore wind farms, from the platform installation to the energy transfer to land. Nigel answered audience questions about wind farm designs, voltage transfer and average output yield on the farms.

Professor Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architecture at BT and a visiting Professor in CSE, presented state-of-the-art research and standards development in 5G telecommunications technology, demonstrating how future IMT technology development is shaping the strategies for 2020 and beyond.

Dr Sam Grogan, Pro-Vice Chancellor Students Experience, brought the discussion back to student experience by speaking about the work the University is doing both locally and internationally in developing the entrepreneurial skills of students.

The talks were followed by an intense and technical discussion showing the vast experience and understanding of the sector by the speakers and participants. After lunch the JMEE team visited Siemens Ardwick railway maintenance facilities. Delegates got to see the new electric train and diesel train maintenance methodology. The group gained an understanding into the capacity and operation required to ensure commuter services are sustained in the Manchester region.

Haifa, who recently received an outstanding achievement award for her work in engineering, said: “It was a great pleasure to host the JMEE workshop at our Media City campus. I am grateful to the speakers for sharing their industrial knowledge and experience with the consortium and for EU TEMPUS for funding the JMEE project.”


Publishing in Scholarly Journals

Peer review of scholarly writingAs a researcher, sharing your work is essential to furthering the discussion, development and potentially even funding of your findings. The sheer quantity of guides available on “how to write” and “how to target X journal” perhaps signifying the impact of targeting the right place and the best audience for your research.

Before reaching the stage of submitting in the hope of publication, many publishers expect researchers to have already made some key considerations:

  1. Is your research original, engaging, innovative?
  2. Who do you expect to be the audience for your research?
  3. Which journal(s) do you think might be interested in accepting your article for publication and does your article fit with their aims, scope and style?
  4. What are your open access needs?
  5. Is your manuscript suitably and well written (free from grammatical error, solid narrative, clear abstract and conclusions) in accordance with the journal’s style guide?

Your researching peers and foremost, your supervisor, are the best place to start for advice on where to publish and whether your manuscript is ready. Then, once you think you have found the right journal for your article, you should read their Author’s Guide and make sure you can freely submit to them as some journals are invitation-only.

Read more…..


UPRISE, ELS and SHUSU Exploring Local & Regional Approaches to Ecology & Flooding

Irwell Flooding

Photo of a flooded Irwell by Dr Luke Blazejewski

Researchers from UPRISE are collaborating with colleagues from the School of Environment and Life Sciences, Research and Innovation and SHUSU (Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit) on a HEIF-funded project to explore local and regional approaches to ecology and flooding.  This project will involve engaging with organisations, agencies and communities in the Salford and wider Manchester region to understand how ecological principles can be applied to the issues surrounding floods, and the wider functioning of a city.  This diverse partnership draws from a pool of expertise, and demonstrates precisely the interdisciplinary approach required to look at 21st century urban issues – keeping in spirit with the ICZ strategy of the University of Salford.

Led by the Dean of School, Prof. Hisham Elkadi, the project will run until the end of July.  By strengthening partnerships with UPRISE across the university and beyond, this important area of study will provide a basis for a larger and longer term body of work which will evolve our thinking on cities and how they function, Dean of School, Prof. Hisham Elkadi says “Climate change results in more severe and more frequent adversial weather conditions.  Flood-control infrastructures in our contemporary cities are not reliable mitigation defenses in the face of climate change uncertainties. The aim of the project is to build-in ecological resilience measures to mitigate against flooding”

A series of workshops and interviews are being organised by UPRISE as part of the project.  UPRISE Research Fellow, Dr. Nick Davies, described the co-creation approach of the project: ‘The workshops will provide a platform for organisations involved in various sectors concerned with flood resilience to interact, and be involved in designing and sharpening the key research focus of this project.’


New easy-to-use Ethics website launches

Ethics website front pageThe Research Centres Support Team in the Research & Enterprise Division are pleased to announced the launch of the new University Ethics Website.

Over the last few months, the team have been working to develop a new, centralised website and to update all the application forms, so that the whole process of getting ethics approval is much more user-friendly.

Designed with feedback from Ethics Panel members and Professional Services and Academic colleagues across the University, the new University Ethics website provides an easy-to-use single source for all Ethics-related forms, processes and procedures.

On the new site you will be able to find:

  • Application Forms for Staff, Postgraduate Research and Taught Students
  • Guidance on applying for ethics approval
  • Codes of Ethics for all research disciplines
  • FAQs
  • Contact details for the Ethics Research Centres staff and Panel Chairs

Links from all the Research Centre websites have been updated to redirect to the new website, making the transition a seamless process.

To share your thoughts and let us have any suggestions to make the site even better, contact Nathalie Audren Howarth in the Research Centres Support Team on ext. 55278


University launches construction research centre at industry summit

best

Professor Arif taking part in a panel discussion, chaired by Prof McDermot

Research and innovation may play an even greater role in supporting industry post Brexit, a leading professor has told the Construction Summit North.

Launching the Centre for Built Environment, Sustainability and Transformation (BEST) at Emirates Old Trafford, Professor Mohammed Arif told 300 industry delegates that the need for research and information was “potentially more fertile” because of the uncertainty over the EU exit.

And the Centre Director invited delegates from the architecture, housing and construction sectors to engage with researchers who were “experienced and industry focused”.

Construction Summit North, organised by the Greater Manchester Chambers of Commerce,  is the largest event of its kind outside London and sponsored by the University of Salford, which chaired a series of sessions.

Read more…..


UPRISE Research Fellow discusses urban poverty reduction in Uganda

In the first of a series of blogs about our research on urban poverty in Uganda, Sophie King talks about the project’s inclusive research process and methodology:river

In January 2016,  a group of us came together to begin a process of co-producing knowledge on how governments can better support the improvement of living standards in Uganda’s informal settlements.  Specifically, we are looking at the ways in which national and local government, usually in partnership with transnational actors, have gone about the delivery of water and sanitation projects in two divisions of Kampala and in two secondary towns. In the secondary towns, we are considering the outcomes achieved through the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) programme.

In an attempt to combine expertise in research methodology, urban planning, and social movement practice, our research partnership brings together a Western female academic, a Ugandan male academic, a team of NGO professionals from ACTogether Uganda, and leaders from the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU). Building on existing ESID research in India, our overarching research question has been:‘What shapes state vision, commitment, and capacity to reduce urban poverty in Ugandan towns and cities?’

Through a co-productive process, we hope to produce a richer understanding of ESID’s core research questions than a more extractive research strategy might have generated. In a sometimes
clumsy, necessarily adaptive, and occasionally systematic way, we are trying to move forward in a research team that reflects the composition of our overall partnership. Mistakes … we’ve
made a few. But we’re also excited and energised at the power of research to be transformative when it works this way. It is not easy, and with so many constraints on getting these kinds of projects financed and off the ground, we are lucky to have this opportunity.

Read more…..


Research project looks at green infrastructure and its impact on ageing populations

green

A collaborative research project looks into health benefits of green infrastructure

The University of Salford is partnering with the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University on a £700,000 research project that looks into the benefits and values of green infrastructure for an ageing population.

Green infrastructure (GI), a term used in reference to green and blue spaces (including areas of grass, woodland and parks, and rivers, canals and ponds) has already been shown to have direct and indirect influences on human health and wellbeing. However access to GI and the associated health and wellbeing benefits is not shared equally amongst the population. Additionally, as many people aged 65 and over become susceptible to environmental stressors (such as noise, pollution and extremes of weather), this age group in particular may also be the least likely to benefit from GI.

With that in mind, the ‘Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population’ project, funded under the Valuing Nature Programme, an interdisciplinary research programme run by three research councils (ESRC, AHRC and NERC), will look into the relative benefits and stressors of GI and how GI should be valued in the context of the health and wellbeing of older people. The research will use a broad interpretation of health and wellbeing and will consider issues such as the influence of historical, heritage and wildlife value alongside the monetary value of preventing ill-health. Read more…..


Constructing the Science of Social Interaction using Virtual Reality

From 12th-13th July 2016 the second Virtual Social Interaction workshop will be held at MediaCity, Manchester.  Co-organised by University of Salford, Goldsmiths University of London and University College London, the workshop will showcase new methods and theories in social interaction, with talks from 8 international speakers and c. 20 Posters.

Attracting an audience of international researchers from the fields of Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience Computer Science and Digital Technologies the workshop will highlight work towards a scientific understanding of how people interact.

Early Bird registration ends on 30th May and entry provides access to talks and posters, full catering on both days and an evening wine and poster reception. Register here: http://shop.salford.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&catid=270&prodvarid=245

Read more…..


Local universities join forces to fight dementia

dementia

Photo credit: Chris Foster (University of Manchester)

Manchester, Salford and Manchester Metropolitan Universities are teaming up in a new initiative to combat dementia in the region and beyond.

To mark Dementia Awareness Week (May 15-21), leading researchers from the three institutions met at the Whitworth Gallery to open a series of collaborations around a range of dementia issues – from biology to social care.

Natalie Yates-Bolton, Director of the Dementia Institute at the University of Salford, said she believed that Manchester would be a model for the rest of the UK in dementia care. Read more…..