Unlocking U.K. research excellence: Key insights from the Research Professional News Live summit

Discover pivotal insights shaping the landscape of U.K. research shared at the second Research Professional News Live summit. From discussions on REF2029 to the imperatives of fostering diversity, innovation and research integrity, we explored the future of research amidst financial challenges and evolving policies.

On March 14, the Research Professional News Live summit brought together a stellar group of speakers, panelists and delegates including keynotes from Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair, Research England; Andrew Griffith Member of Parliament (MP), Minister of State for Science, Research & Innovation; and Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Innovation (view the full agenda here).

Below we delve into the key insights and discussions from this important event, shedding light on the future direction of university research in the U.K.

U.K. government commitment to research excellence

The summit commenced with an address from Andrew Griffith MP, Minister of State for Science, Research & Innovation. Griffith emphasized the U.K. government’s dedication to fostering a vibrant research ecosystem. He reaffirmed the government’s pledge to bolster research and development spending, even amidst the financial strains caused by unforeseen events like the global pandemic and geopolitical tensions.

Griffith stressed the importance of collaboration between universities and the private sector, signaling a shift towards a more business-oriented approach within the research landscape. He highlighted upcoming leadership transitions within key research bodies, emphasizing the government’s pursuit of diverse expertise drawn from both academia and industry.

Navigating financial challenges

Despite the government’s optimism, concerns were voiced regarding the financial sustainability of universities. Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, cautioned about potential contractions in research funding due to financial pressures exacerbated by declining international student enrolments. However, she also noted the potential for technological advancements such as artificial intelligence to enhance research productivity amidst financial constraints.

Reflections on research assessment

Discussions on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) highlighted the need for timely announcements and recruitment drives to ensure the smooth progression of this critical evaluation process. While assurances were made regarding the continuation of the REF in 2029, apprehensions lingered regarding timelines and escalating costs associated with the assessment.

Towards a more inclusive research community

The summit also addressed the imperative of fostering diversity and inclusivity within the research community. While strides have been made, panelists acknowledged the ongoing challenges and emphasized the need for tangible actions to attract and retain diverse talent.

Combatting threats to research integrity

The day culminated in a sobering discussion on research integrity, where panelists shed light on the escalating threats posed by fraudulent practices and bribery within academic publishing. A panel including Dr. Nandita Quaderi, Editor-in-Chief of the Web of Science™ and Senior Vice President at Clarivate™, highlighted the proliferation of fraudulent activities driven by perverse incentives and advanced technologies, underscoring the need for robust measures to safeguard research integrity.

The Research Professional News Live summit proved to be a pivotal platform for fostering dialogue and collaboration, guiding us through the intricate landscape of research policy. As the research community confronts ever-evolving challenges, the summit’s insights emphasized our shared duty to uphold the integrity and excellence of scholarly pursuits. Together, we can pave the way for a brighter future of research and innovation, advancing a new era in research and learning.

This blog is adapted from the Research Professional News 8am Playbook briefing published on 15 March, with reporting by Harriet Swain. Research Professional News is an editorially independent part of Clarivate.

Find out more about Research Professional News publications including the 8am Playbook here.

Join the conversation on social media at #RPNLive2024.