Posts in BRC Category

Impact at the Festival of Research

Salford is holding its inaugural Festival of Research this year between 25th June and 20th July 2018 across the campus.

The aim of the Festival is to showcase and celebrate Salford’s diverse research and its impact to a wider audience and will encourage both researchers and the general public to become involved.

In the week of 2nd-6th July there will be a concentration of physical events and conferences taking place, including the Salford Postgraduate Annual Researcher Conference (SPARC), which is a two-day PGR-focused showcase event.

Running alongside the Festival will be ‘Storytelling at Salford’: this is a larger project which forms part of the research training strategy and which is also linked to the University’s new research strategy. It involves the Salford Research community (PGRs, Academics and Leaders) recording short videos about what they do at Salford. The first 20 videos will be showcased as part of the festival and during the festival we will encourage more to participate and create videos themselves.

 

 

Targeted Impact Events

As part of the Festival we will be running a number of specifically impact-related events to help inspire our researchers to think more closely about the impact of their research and how they can best improve its significance and reach in the future.

 

Highlights include:

Wednesday, 27 June 2018: Fast Track Impact case study writing workshop with Prof Mark Reed

Mark will focus specifically on the REF and what makes a good impact case study, how to improve your writing around impact, as well as evidence collection tips. This workshop will also include detailed external peer review of 4 draft impact case studies, with recommendations of how these can be enhanced and improved.

To book: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/597642/staff-development-fast-track-t

 

Thursday, 28 June 2018: Developing Your Narrative Sessions with Chris Simms, Royal Literary Fund

Chris is holding individual 40-minute mentoring sessions for researchers looking to develop their narrative and storywriting skills, whether it be for the purpose of formulating impact case studies, writing funding bids, making applications for research festivals or similar.

All enquiries: research-impact@salford.ac.uk

 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018: Impact Case Study Writing Retreat (MCUK)

Space will be made available to each School to spend dedicated time working on existing or potential impact case study drafts. Impact Coordinators will be on hand to provide advice and guidance and researchers will be able to access resources from the REF intranet site and use the Figshare data repository to gather impact evidence.

To book:

AM: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/604998/festival-of-research-impact-ca

PM: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/605001/festival-of-research-impact-ca

 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018: Developing Your Narrative Sessions with Chris Simms, Royal Literary Fund

Chris is holding individual 40-minute mentoring sessions for researchers looking to develop their narrative and storywriting skills, whether it be for the purpose of formulating impact case studies, writing funding bids, making applications for research festivals or similar.

All enquiries: research-impact@salford.ac.uk

 

Why not take this opportunity to check out the Festival of Research website to find events of interest to you: https://www.salford.ac.uk/researchfest

Join the conversation:

#salfordresearchfest         @Festivalofrese1

 


Peer Review of Impact Case Studies

According to Fast Track Impact’s calculations (see: http://www.fasttrackimpact.com/single-post/2017/02/01/How-much-was-an-impact-case-study-worth-in-the-UK-Research-Excellence-Framework for further details), the best impact submissions to REF2014, i.e. those achieving a 4* star narrative case study, had a currency exchange of some £324,000 (£46,300 per year between 2015/16-2021/22). By contrast, a 4* research output was typically valued at between £5,000-£25,000. Generally speaking, impact case studies are thought to be worth around 5 times more than outputs at higher full-time equivalents (FTEs).

As such, the huge potential value this may bring to institutions cannot be underestimated, particularly given the increased weighting of impact from 20% to 25% for the next REF exercise in 2021. Consequently, institutions employ a number of strategies and resources to ensure the best possible outcomes of their REF impact submissions. For example, there are reports of significant sums being spent by some universities in the REF2014 exercise on copy editors or science writers in order to create compelling narratives that would stand up to the scrutiny of the REF panel members.

A robust internal and external peer review process is one means of tracking progress over time in order to enhance and improve narratives and impact evidence ahead of the final REF submission in 2020.

 

Upcoming peer review events

The University of Salford is undertaking its first external peer review of draft impact case studies this Summer as part of its REF Readiness exercise. This will give the University a snapshot of where things stand and where improvements still need to made in the 2 years leading up to the REF submission. The feedback from the external peer review will inform the planned internal peer review due to take place in early 2019.

 

Dates for the diary include:

Monday, 18 June 2018 – Friday, 29 June 2018: External peer review of 10 x impact case studies across UoAs      This will include review and annotation of draft case studies, an overview report, notes on potential grades and advice on how to enhance impact.

Monday, 25 June 2018 – Friday, 20 July 2018: University of Salford Festival of Research       A month-long programme of events celebrating and promoting the University’s valuable research. This will include a REF-focused impact case study writing workshop, an impact ‘writing retreat’ and one-to-one mentoring on impact narratives.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018: Fast Track Impact case study writing workshop with Prof Mark Reed           Mark will focus specifically on the REF and what makes a good impact case study, how to improve your writing around impact, as well as evidence collection tips. This workshop will also include detailed external peer review of 4 draft impact case studies, with recommendations of how these can be enhanced and improved.

 

To book: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/597642/staff-development-fast-track-t

 

Why not take this opportunity to look at the upcoming peer review meetings and events information on our REF Intranet site at: https://teamsite.salford.ac.uk/sites/sc02/REF2021/SitePages/Training.aspx


Impact Training and Events

As the REF draws ever closer, thoughts are now turning to impact and how to ensure that the University’s research is demonstrating impact beyond academia and making a real difference in the wider world. This raises a number of questions about what constitutes impact and impact evidence, where this should be stored, when it should be collected and how it can be enhanced.

In order to help researchers to gain a better understanding of research impact and what it means to them, a training programme designed specifically around impact is being rolled out across the University in the coming months.

 

Upcoming internal training and events

Future training will be tailored to meet individual needs in terms of impact. For example, you might be looking for a taster session to learn what research impact is all about, or maybe you are an early career researcher bidding for funding for the first time. Perhaps you are a mid-career or senior researcher who needs some advice on collection of impact evidence. Whatever your requirements, there is something to suit every level and discipline.

 

Events of note include:

 

Monday, 16 April 2018: Impact writing workshop with Chris Simms

Chris from the Royal Literary Fund will be visiting the University again to hold a sessions around writing for impact, creating a narrative and telling a story.

To book: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/597635/staff-development-new-to-impac

 

Thursday, 3 May 2018: Fast Track Impact workshop with Prof Mark Reed

Mark returns for the first of two workshops, this one focusing on generating and evaluating impact, as well as how to maximise your social media presence for enhanced impact.

To book: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/597641/staff-development-fast-track-t

 

Monday, 25 June 2018 – Friday, 20 July 2018: University of Salford Festival of Research

A month-long programme of events celebrating and promoting the University’s valuable research. This will include the popular PGR event ‘SPARC’ (Salford Postgraduate Annual Research Conference) on 4 + 5 July 2018, as well as an impact ‘writing retreat’ on 3 July 2018 for budding impact case study writers

 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018: Fast Track Impact case study writing workshop with Prof Mark Reed

Mark will focus specifically on the REF and what makes a good impact case study, how to improve your writing around impact, as well as evidence collection tips.

To book: https://myadvantage.salford.ac.uk/students/events/Detail/597642/staff-development-fast-track-t

 

From September 2018 a suite of workshops specifically around impact will be embedded into the staff development programme (SECRET) – further information will be available shortly.

Why not take this opportunity to look at the upcoming training, meetings and events information on our REF Intranet site at: https://teamsite.salford.ac.uk/sites/sc02/REF2021/SitePages/Training.aspx

 

External training

Alternatively, why not sign up for the free 5-week impact online training course run by Fast Track Impact?

Each session comprises 6-minute video and a short reading. After each session, you will be given tasks to complete within your own research before the next session:

  • Introduction: Five ways to fast track your impact
  • Week 1: Envision your impact
  • Week 2: Plan for impact
  • Week 3: Cut back anything hindering or distracting you from your impact 
  • Week 4: Get specific about the impacts you will seek and the people who can help you achieve impact this month
  • Week 5: Achieve your first step towards impact and monitor your success

 

Further details can be found here: http://www.fasttrackimpact.com/for-researchers


Collecting Testimonial Evidence of Impact

One way of effectively demonstrating the impact that your research has had on your stakeholders is to collect testimonial evidence. This generally takes the form of a letter from a collaborator on headed paper, although e-mails are also acceptable.

It can sometimes feel awkward to ask collaborators to write corroborating statements of this kind and this is why researchers often leave it to the last minute to request this information. Don’t make this mistake: if you leave it too late you may find that the main contact for your research has left the institution, may have retired or even passed away. You should therefore capture all evidence from your stakeholders as soon as you can.

Most importantly, don’t forget to look into whether or not you need informed consent and ethical approval before obtaining any testimonials.

 

 

Requesting letters of support

When it comes to requesting supporting letters, the level of detail is in part dictated by what the organisation is willing to provide. However, the following suggestions may help you in deciding what would make a strong testimonial in support of your research impact:

  1. Clearly outline who the letter is from, their role in the organisation and connection to the project in question
  2. State the researcher(s) and University(ies) involved and why they were chosen to be part of the project (e.g. research profile/quality; previous collaborations; expertise in the field etc.)
  3. Describe the project/activities undertaken and importance of the research to the stakeholder organisation (how it has enhanced their business/portfolio)
  4. Describe the benefits to the organisation and/or members, through qualitative and/or quantitative means          (NB: for impact evidence some form of quantitative data will help make a stronger case if available, e.g. audience reach etc.)
  5. Indicate if the organisation is proposing any ongoing partnerships/future collaborations

 

Other guidance

External organisations, such as Fast Track Impact (in the UK) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, provide useful information on how to collect testimonials and what could be included.

Why not check out the following:

Fast Track Impact:

http://www.fasttrackimpact.com/single-post/2018/02/23/Getting-testimonials-to-corroborate-the-impact-of-your-research

Canadian Institutes of Health Research:

http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/45246.html

 

 

Remember: start collecting your impact testimonials as your research develops and don’t forget to store them in our Figshare data repository at  https://salford.figshare.com/

 

 


Guide to Research Impact Evidence Collection

There is a growing body of opinion that holds that researchers have a responsibility to articulate the impact of their research to non-academic audiences. Indeed, the way in which research funding is allocated now increasingly reflects researchers’ ability to generate, demonstrate and evidence their impact.

A renewed emphasis on the importance of both planning and evidencing research impact requires researchers to develop ever-more robust and integrated ‘pathways to impact’ (as illustrated by Research Councils UK) within research funding bids in order to identify and reward the contribution that high-quality research will make to the economy or to society. 

Although there are as yet no specific guidelines on what constitutes impact evidence in terms of the next REF2021 exercise, the following pointers provide an indication of what researchers should be thinking about as they start to collect and collate evidence to support their impact.

 

General advice on collecting impact evidence

  • If you are looking to generate impact from your research, ensure that you engage from the start with the University Impact, Engagement and Environment Coordinator (Emma Sutton) and your School Impact Coordinator
  • Consider what indicators of impact are going to be used at the onset of the project – how will success be measured throughout and what will need to be captured?
  • Complete a stakeholder analysis for your potential impact
  • Be able to clearly demonstrate the pathway to impact: what were the steps taken, what is the embedded research etc.
  • Be able to articulate the significance of the potential impact (reach, audience, policy change, technology development) – the “Why should we care?” question
  • Use existing and well-understood baselines and gold standards to measure impact
  • Remember to store all impact evidence on an ongoing basis in the Figshare repository (see below for further details)

 

Here are examples of what evidence could look like:

    • Quotations from high profile figures
    • Testimonials, interviews (always including who, when, where and job title and with consent to reproduce)
    • Specific examples e.g. increased value of a company or number of lives saved by a new technology
    • Published reports as a result of research conducted (especially reports commissioned by independent bodies or those external to the immediate project)
    • Delegate lists to key meetings/conferences/exhibitions/events
    • Letters of support from external bodies

**Look to use both qualitative and quantitative data where possible!**

 

Points to remember:

    • Make sure that the evidence will be available in time to meet REF2021 deadlines
    • Ensure that information is robust and credible
    • Ensure that information is independently verifiable
    • Link evidence to clear targets and indicate whether these were met or exceeded
    • Provide evidence of research being widely disseminated, e.g. through tweets, blogs, access to websites, press coverage, broadcastings, downloads, sales
    • Find ways of communicating the research as it progresses to develop wider impact along the way (not just at the end)
    • Conduct exit interviews with the business if ending relationship/researcher if leaving institution – evidence of impact must be captured before departure
    • Be able to demonstrate that without the research, the impact would not have occurred: how has the research made the difference?

 

The University now uses the Figshare data repository alongside USIR in order for researchers to store evidence relating to their research.

It is therefore good practice for all researchers to begin storing all their impact evidence in Figshare from now onwards so that an institutional repository of impact case study evidence can be built upon.

Currently, Figshare accounts have been created for all those researchers within each School who have been identified as potentials for submitting an impact case study to REF2021 and beyond.

Figshare can be accessed at the following link: https://salford.figshare.com/

Figshare also run monthly webinars to help researchers understand the basics of the system and it is highly recommended that you register for one of these at the following address:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5kx95ST4RC-XKMYlguumgw

 

 

Remember: the earlier you begin collecting and collating your impact evidence, the easier it will make the final impact case study submission!

 

 


Reader promotions 2017

Dr Robert Jehle (School of Environment & Life Sciences)

Robert JehleRobert has worked at the University since 2008, when he was appointed as a Lecturer in Wildlife before being promoted to a Senior Lecturer in 2012. From 2011-2015 he was a Programme Leader of two linked BSc programmes in Wildlife Conservation, which together represent one of the largest areas of undergraduate teaching within the School of Environment and Life Sciences (ELS). Robert’s research revolves around population biological studies on mostly (but not only) amphibians, amongst others resulting in 60 indexed journal articles to date. Since joining ELS, Robert has been awarded external research income for more than ten projects, funded by organisations spanning from national grant agencies and governmental bodies, to the commercial sector.

From 2009-2015 he was the Chief Editor of the Herpetological Journal, which under his editorship reached the highest ISI impact factor of all global scientific journals devoted to amphibians and reptiles, and has been Associate Editor of the Wiley-Blackwell journal Animal Conservation since 2009. Representing the University on external bodies, Robert is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Herpetology, and a member of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group. He is also a Trustee of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, which with about 30 staff members is the largest UK-based charity devoted to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles, as well as a Council Member of the Tropical Biology Association, a capacity-building NGO and a founding member of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Dr David Pye (School of Environment & Life Sciences)

David PyeDavid joined the University almost a decade ago, as a Lecturer in the School of Environment and Life Sciences; he currently teaches at all levels across a variety of degree programmes. He has been an active researcher in cancer treatment and the field of glycobiology for more than 25 years and has an extensive list of research publications. David is currently the Scientific Director of Kidscan, which operates out of the University and supports research into children’s cancer at Salford and at other national centres of excellence. In his role at Kidscan, David has encouraged members of university staff to apply for a growing portfolio of research support grants. This has seen the total funding awarded from Kidscan to the University, increase to a level in excess of £1 million since the charity was founded. He has also instigated a Kidscan funded grant scheme that allows university undergraduates to undertake a placement year in a children’s cancer research laboratory. This year has seen a record number of nine Kidscan grants awarded to support Salford students in their placement year.

David also has a keen interest in science policy and has worked in this area, with the learned societies, for many years. He is currently Honorary Policy Officer, Chair of the Policy Advisory Panel and Trustee of the Biochemical Society, which is the largest discipline-based learned society in the biosciences. This role allows him to ensure that issues faced at Salford make their way into government consultations on policy in HE and research.


Professorial promotions 2017

Niroshini NirmalanDr Niroshini Nirmalan (School of Environment & Life Sciences)

Following her postdoctoral training at UMIST, MIB (University of Manchester) and CRUK (University of Leeds), Niroshini joined Salford as a Senior Lecturer in April 2010. Her landmark publications include the first annotated 2D proteomic maps for the malarial parasite P. falciparum, and the development of novel quantitative proteomic methodologies to investigate the malarial proteome and formalin-fixed tissue archives. Since joining us, she has developed two strong internationally recognised research themes, firstly in malaria drug discovery and secondly in research into biomarkers in major trauma. She has established a Class 3 pathogen facility at the University, to enable continuous malaria cultures. Her research group works on various aspects of drug discovery including repositioning, natural product leads, nano-drug delivery systems, etc.

Niroshini has also established a collaborative network between the University, NHS (Manchester Royal Infirmary and Salford Royal) and Waters Corporation to initiate a 200-patient study to define biomarkers of poor clinical outcome in major trauma. The study was awarded NIHR Portfolio status for four years (2015-2019), enabling ring-fenced NIHR funding to employ dedicated research nurse teams. The ongoing study has recruited nearly 100 patients so far, and has established a high fidelity human serum biobank for trauma patient samples here at Salford. Niroshini has concurrently led the School’s flagship Biomedical Science Programme (2011-2015), overseeing the implementation of changes that achieved upper quartile ratings in all key NSS parameters, including an overall student satisfaction score of 100%. She is currently the curriculum lead for the University’s pioneering joint venture with MMU to establish a new medical school in Greater Manchester (GMMedS).

Dr Federica Sotgia (School of Environment & Life Sciences)

Federica SotgiaFederica has an outstanding track record of sustained academic excellence at the national and international level. As a young researcher, she was the first to discover a new form of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD-1C) due to mutations in the human Caveolin-3 gene. These findings were published in Nature Genetics. Later on, she shifted her research interest from muscular disorders to cancer, but always maintained her keen focus on mitochondria and cell metabolism, throughout her career.

Her most recent discoveries in the tumor microenvironment and cancer stem cells, have led to the development of a new metabolic model for cancer (termed “metabolic-symbiosis”), as well as a class of novel therapeutics (the “mitoriboscins”) and a Phase II clinical trial for re-purposing doxycycline as an anti-cancer agent in early breast cancer patients. Her most recent work is summarised in a series of high-impact articles published in Nature Reviews Cancer (2015) and Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology (2017). To date, she has published over 180 research articles, garnering more than 16,500 citations with 13,000 occurring since 2012. She has received significant research funding from numerous sources, including the American Cancer Society (ACS Research Scholar Award, USA) and the Healthy Life Foundation (UK), as well as the Foxpoint Foundation (Canada) and other private donors. Over the next five years, she plans to expand significantly her research programme, focusing on new drug discovery, for the development of anti-cancer and anti-ageing agents.

Dr Mike Wood (School of Environment & Life Sciences)

Mike WoodAn international leader in environmental radiation protection, Mike studies the behaviour, fate and impacts of radioactivity and other pollutants.  Author of over 180 publications, his high-impact research has led to significant national and international policy developments.  Recognising the quality and international significance of his research, he was awarded the Society for Radiological Protection (SRP) Jack Martin Prize (2013) for “outstanding academic excellence” and the highly prestigious Times Higher Education Research Project of the Year (2016) for his ground-breaking research. Since 2011, Mike has secured six RCUK grants, including a five-year NERC grant to support his Chernobyl wildlife research. He leads an interdisciplinary network of researchers from across the University and has positioned Salford as a key radioecological research institution internationally.

Mike plays central roles in various international expert groups, including for the EC and IAEA. He is an elected Member of Senate for the University, as well as a member of Council and trustee of the SRP and editorial board member for a leading radiation protection journal. In 2016, Mike was selected to chair the UK government consultation on new radiation protection legislation. He is a regular keynote speaker and delivered the University’s 50th Anniversary Alumni Lecture at the Royal Institution in London. His research attracts extensive media coverage, including Channel 4 news, a BBC4 documentary, ABC Australia, TIME, New Scientist, LA Times and IFL Science.  He delivers national and international capacity building activities, including for the EC and the Japanese Government. He has also led on initiatives, such as research mentoring, to enhance the research community at Salford.

 


High profile visit to the School of Environment and Life Sciences

David SweeneyDavid Sweeney, Executive Chair Designate for Research England, visited the newly refurbished Translational Medicine laboratories in the Cockcroft Building earlier this month, and met with researchers and postgraduate students from the School of Environment and Life Sciences (ELS). David, who first joined HEFCE in 2008 as Director, Research, Innovation and Skills, will become the first Executive Chair of Research England upon the formal creation of UKRI (Council of UK Research and Innovation) in April 2018.

Dean of School, Professor Sheila Pankhurst, said, “We were delighted when David accepted our invitation to come and see our new Translational Medicine labs, to find out more about the research work being done in ELS in areas such as cancer biology, drug development, biomarkers in trauma patients, ageing and metabolomics.

‘David spent a couple of hours with us, and met with a number of colleagues in our Biomedicine Research Group to talk about their research. He spoke at some length with Professors Michael Lisanti and Federica Sotgia, about their work in cancer biology and ageing. David also met with research funding leads from other areas in ELS, including Dr Priya Mondal (see photograph below), who is the Salford lead for a consortium recently awarded a major NERC grant for work on water quality in India, and Dr Erinma Ochu,  who has been appointed interim chair of the BBSRC Bioscience in Society Strategy panel.’

Professor Lisanti added: “It was good to have the opportunity to speak to David about our work in cancer biology and ageing. Professor Federica Sotgia and I are currently exploring the role of cancer stem cells in particular in our research and we were able to show David some of the new discoveries that we have made and describe our key successes.

He was particularly interested in our ideas focusing on the re-purposing of FDA-approved antibiotics as new anti-cancer agents to target cancer stem cells. This approach will dramatically accelerate clinical trials, while possibly saving billions of pounds.  Thus, I believe that our work aligns with the crucial priorities of Research England.”

Pictured below, from left to right, are Professor Niroshini Nirmalan, Chair in Biomedicine; Jackie Njoroge, Director of Strategy; Professor Sheila Pankhurst, Dean of ELS; David Sweeney, HEFCE; Dr Enrinma Ochu, Lecturer in Science Communication and Future Media; Professor Karl Dayson, Dean of Research, and Professor Michael Lisanti, Chair in Translational Medicine.

Group picture

Main article image from left to right: David Sweeney, HEFCE; Dr Gianpiero Di Leva; Dr Arijit Mukhopadhyay; Dr Priya Mondal, Dr Dave Greensmith, and Professor Michael Lisanti


Research Impact and Funding

There is a growing body of opinion that holds that researchers have a responsibility to articulate the impact of their research to non-academic audiences. Indeed, the way in which research funding is allocated now increasingly reflects researchers’ ability to generate and demonstrate impact.

A renewed emphasis on the importance of both planning and evidencing research impact requires researchers to develop increasingly robust and integrated ‘pathways to impact’ (as illustrated by Research Councils UK) within research funding bids in order to identify and reward the contribution that high-quality research will make to the economy or to society.

 

Newton's cradle impact imageIn the current research funding climate there is also an urgent need for HEIs to generate income streams from sources other than the Higher Education Funding Councils. Now more than ever HEIs are seeking to raise their profiles and develop relationships with industry, policymakers and other stakeholders in a bid to identify new sources of revenue and facilitate knowledge exchange.

Generating impact, and consequently ensuring that a full range of stakeholders will benefit from the research, is therefore integral to Salford’s research strategy and feeds into its single strategic priority around the Industry Collaboration Zones (ICZs).

The recent announcement by HEFCE that Impact will have a 25% weighting in the forthcoming REF2021 exercise (compared with its 20% weighting in REF2014) serves to further reinforce the importance and relevance of the research impact agenda to HEIs today and in the future.

 

Research Impact Fund

To support researchers at Salford in becoming more ‘impactful’, the University operates an internal Research Impact Fund.

This offers small grants of up to £1000 (match-funded by School/Research Centre) to individuals and groups in support of activities that:

  • reflect the University’s desire to increase the impact and reach of its research
  • highlight strategic engagement that builds upon the University’s vision to pioneer ‘exceptional industry partnerships’

The Fund is currently open for new applications, with a deadline of Friday, 19th January 2018 for the latest round. Further details and the application form can be found here:  https://teamsite.salford.ac.uk/sites/sc02/REF2021/SitePages/Impact%20Funding.aspx

 

If you would like to find out more about the Research Impact Fund, or impact in general, please contact Emma Sutton, Interim Impact, Engagement and Environment Coordinator on research-impact@salford.ac.uk

Alternatively, please visit the Impact pages on our REF intranet site for further details on impact resources, funding opportunities and upcoming training events: https://teamsite.salford.ac.uk/sites/sc02/REF2021/SitePages/Impact.aspx

 


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.