UKRI and the R&D People and Culture Strategy: one year on

A diverse team happy in conversation. They are sitting and standing around with laptops in front of them.

UKRI looks back at some of the activities it has carried out to deliver the R&D People and Culture Strategy in the year since it was launched.

It has been over a year since the government launched its Research and Development (R&D) People and Culture Strategy. This set out ambitions to create a more inclusive, dynamic, productive and sustainable research and development sector in the UK, in which a diversity of people and ideas thrive.

An opportunity and responsibility

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) unique reach across the research and innovation system gives us both an opportunity and a responsibility to convene, catalyse, incentivise and invest to deliver the strategy’s ambitions.

This is a broad area of work, encompassing peer review systems, consideration of the Research Excellence Framework and public engagement, through to tackling challenges around bullying and harassment, career path diversity and research integrity.

UKRI has bought together all of our people, culture and talent, reflecting the importance of taking a holistic approach when seeking to support system-level change.

Culture change

Delivering the outcomes intended from this portfolio depends on profound culture change, which takes time and requires concerted collaborative action. There is deep frustration across the community about the rate of progress, and many are working hard to drive change.

This creates its own challenge of ensuring visibility and connectivity across such a wide range of actions, undertaken by so many people. UKRI certainly needs to communicate clearly and more frequently about our activities in this area.

The actions in the R&D People and Culture Strategy are one set of activities that we have been working on in this holistic manner. To give a flavour of the breadth and depth of this work, recent UKRI-led activities include:

  • our consultation on the new deal for postgraduate researcher (PGR) students
  • a new open access policy for UKRI-funded publications
  • the ongoing work towards adoption of narrative-style CVs for people working in research and innovation
  • the launch of an online service (GREAT Talent campaign) to attract highly skilled, international talent.

Challenges faced by PGR students

The particular challenges faced by PGR students during the pandemic has further highlighted the need to improve the experience and quality of postgraduate research training in the UK.

The consultation on the new deal for postgraduate research, which closed in May 2022, will help UKRI understand what actions could be taken to provide better support and development of PGR students, and to enable a more diverse range of people to access careers across the full research and innovation sector.

This is a long-term project and a significant opportunity for us all to build a consensus on the positive and practical steps we can take forward collectively. I would like to thank the hundreds of you who submitted comments to the consultation, and we look forward to sharing the outcomes when we have analysed all of the responses.

Open access policy

In August 2021, we published our new open access policy for research articles and monographs, the first part of which was implemented from 1 April this year.

The policy requires all peer-reviewed research articles to be available via open access immediately upon publication, and with full re-use rights. From January 2024, the monographs policy will require open access within one year of publication when it starts.

The policy has been informed by the views of the research and innovation community, through an extensive and ongoing consultation process. It is our priority to talk with researchers, as well as other relevant stakeholders, to help them prepare for implementation and we are refining our engagement and resources to support this.

Open access publications are an important aspect of the wider open research agenda, which needs to run in parallel with increasing recognition and reward of a much wider range of research and innovation outputs.

Valuing diverse outputs

Valuing diverse outputs, and more generally the full range of activities the research and innovation workforce undertake to support a thriving research and innovation endeavour, is another key strand of work in the R&D People and Culture Strategy.

One element of this is to accelerate adoption of ‘Resume for Research and Innovation’-style CVs. These are a narrative-style alternative to the traditional CV, helping applicants evidence the broader range of experiences and accomplishments that are required for excellence in research and innovation.

UKRI is working to support diverse organisations to adopt this approach and assess how it can best be incorporated into everyday practice. We have set up a number of groups to develop common approaches and evaluation – working with funders, universities, professional bodies and international initiatives, such as Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and Science Europe.

As part of this work, we hosted an international workshop in March 2022 to share lessons on the use of narrative-style CVs (watch a recording of the Résumé for Research and Innovation event).

Broadening evidence

Broadening the evidence people can provide to illustrate their contributions to research and innovation is essential to support career diversity, enabling a much wider range of ways to access, move through and across the research and innovation system and its adjacent sectors.

This is a key element in building a more inclusive, diverse and connected system, which is so important for success. I am pleased that we published our draft equality diversity and inclusion strategy in January 2022 and have gathered views through the associated consultation from all those interested in making the research and innovation sector by everyone and for everyone. We will use the feedback to refine our strategy and publish a first edition.

GREAT Talent campaign

UKRI has partnered with the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and other departments to launch an online service (GREAT Talent campaign) to attract highly skilled, international talent, providing key information on the UK offer and making it easier to come to the UK.

We continue to work on evolving eligibility for visa schemes, with two visa routes, the Global Talent visa and a short-term visa scheme, significantly expanding to allow more researchers and technical experts to come to the UK, promoting collaboration across national boundaries.

Delivering over 20 commitments

These examples are just a few of the actions underway, which form part of our work to deliver over 20 commitments within the R&D People and Culture Strategy.

The activities will also contribute to the wide-reaching ambitions of UKRI’s strategy and the 12 commitments in Innovate UK’s plan for action to deliver a truly diverse innovation system. Collectively, we hope this will provide real momentum to tackle some long-standing challenges in the research and innovation system.

Clear framework for partners

The R&D People and Culture Strategy provides a clear framework for partners from across the system to work together and collectively support and effect change.

We’ve appreciated the opportunities to work with key policy organisations and government departments and look forward to continuing to work together as a sector, to do more to understand what works. We should pool our experiences, adopting an experimental approach to generate stronger evidence for the interventions that can drive meaningful, sustainable change.

To convene and catalyse this work, we are hosting a good research resource hub and we will regularly update the sector on the progress we are making across our people, culture and talent portfolio.

We certainly do not have all the answers, but we have a shared vision, momentum, and an opportunity in the R&D People and Culture Strategy to foster a research and innovation system with the culture that enables everyone to contribute and to benefit.

Top image:  Credit: ljubaphoto, E+ via Getty Images

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