Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy (2015/16 - 2020/21)

  • The Faculty’s Research and Knowledge Exchange strategy should be read in conjunction with that of the University. It specifically addresses the particular contexts, opportunities and priorities that pertain within the disciplines and looks firmly toward continued growth of the research base. It is aimed at optimising research quality both generally and in terms likely to enhance future REFs building on the good levels of success achieved in REF 2014.

    The strategy is supported by vision statements for each of the disciplines. These set out aspirations for the research landscape, and the environment that the implementation and operation of the strategy will create.

    The methods and metrics around these strategic ambitions will be subject to annual review within the operating planning cycle in order that resources can be targeted most effectively, and that the Faculty can respond to opportunities and changing frameworks. A key feature of research strategy will remain the effective translation of research objectives into Faculty Operational Plans, School and Departmental Research Strategies, Personal Research Plans and the management of finance and resources, such that all management and planning activities are properly and productively aligned.

    Overarching strategic objectives from the University Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategy, adopted by the Faculty are to:

    1. Pursue and support research of the highest quality that is, or has potential to become, recognised as internationally excellent or world leading.
    2. Promote and support collaborations and partnerships across the institution and with external partners locally, nationally and globally to enhance research excellence and facilitate knowledge exchange.
    3. Enhance the impact of research in its broadest terms, and widen dissemination of the benefit of local, regional and global communities, including staff and students.

    The Faculty views ‘research’ and ‘knowledge exchange’ as being closely related and therefore all references to research apply equally to both impact generating activities.

    Strategic Objective 1: Pursue and support research of the highest quality that is, or has potential to become, recognised as internationally excellent or world leading.

    The Faculty will support research and the development of research strength both at the level of individual researchers and larger research groupings. It recognises that different forms of engagement are appropriate in the context of its wide ranging disciplines, the funding that is available to these disciplines, and the level of development of research within specific areas. Throughout all of the research portfolios, emphasis will remain on the continual enhancement of quality.

    The research landscape will comprise research at three levels:

    1. Solid established areas of high quality activity that have track records of success and/or external income generation, where there is national and international leadership.
    2. Areas of strategic significance which have demonstrable promise but which are earlier in a managed development cycle.
    3. Novel and innovative areas which have future development potential but which are exploratory in context, the anticipation being that these areas will develop within a reasonable period to justify sustained support.

    The Faculty will not support research that, after a reasonable period, has not delivered acceptable benefit or quality, and will apply testing measures and expectations of quality.

    Whilst using QR effectively and seeking to optimise future QR, the Faculty will minimise its reliance on this form of funding and seek to increase external income.

    The Faculty will support the development of research and potentially research active staff by adopting and embedding appropriate procedures concerning workload planning, ‘First Three Years’ and progression on Readership and Professorial pathways. It will support the proposed ‘Researcher Development Framework’ to benefit staff at all points in their career pathways , including at mid-career.

    A ‘Personal Research Planning’ (PRP) process, linked to PDRs and to the allocation of Research Workload Planning Tariffs will be undertaken on an annual basis for all research active staff.

    Research students will be given increased status in research planning and will continue to become increasingly core to the overall research base. The Faculty will seek to recruit research students in areas pertinent to its strategic research development and encourage high levels of collaboration between staff and students in generating quality outputs such that students and staff mutually benefit.

    The Faculty will facilitate the highest possible standards of research student experience. It will instigate a Doctoral Programme to facilitate improved research methods training, improved cohort interactions and greater collateral benefits to students.

    Strategic Objective 2: Promote and support collaborations and partnerships across the institution and with external partners locally, nationally and globally to enhance research excellence and facilitate knowledge exchange.

    It is important that the Faculty continues to support the development of coherent research themes involving cohorts of research staff. Internal collaboration is therefore essential whilst external collaboration provides capacity, invigorates the research environment, increases exposure and helps to maintain currency benefitting both the Faculty and its research partners. Improved externally acknowledged research quality is already facilitating more productive partnerships and the Faculty is increasingly a global ‘partner of choice’.

    The Faculty will seek to develop internal and external modes of collaboration that will improve its capacity to engage successfully in research and to generate positive impact. It will encourage a wide range of internal collaborations between disciplines where positive synergies exist (but not where they do not), external collaborations with other UK and international universities (including within the specific context of EU funded research), with commercial research institutions, cultural and charitable bodies, and with industry and government.

    The Faculty will encourage internationalisation of research and develop strategies for consolidating productive relationships with a selected number of international partners that involve cohorts of staff and research platforms. It will also continue to support discrete associations at smaller scale where there is proper mutual benefit. The Faculty will support mechanisms for improved collaboration including, where appropriate, devices such as visiting and reciprocal visiting arrangements with UK and in particular with European and international universities.

    Strategic Objective 3: Enhance the impact of research in its broadest terms, and widen dissemination of the benefit of local, regional and global communities, including staff and students.

    Research in the Faculty has outstanding capacity to generate cultural, technical and practice based impact. The Faculty will support and capture impact through a centrally administered coordinated framework and will provide dedicated resources to ensure that research can be positively translated into societal benefits.

    Research shall inform teaching to the greatest possible extent. It will continue to be expected that all research staff are involved beneficially with teaching, and that research strengths shall underpin both undergraduate and Masters level programmes, in addition to research degrees.

    Vision statements

    School of Architecture:

    The School of Architecture is committed to engage in world-leading research that address social, environmental and architectural challenges locally, nationally and internationally.

    It provides a vibrant, dynamic and inspirational research environment that facilitates a diverse, inclusive and critical research culture that comprises the work of all staff and students. Focusing on the practice, theory and history of architecture, our research encourages critical and new ways of designing, making and thinking, as well as of predicting design performance and evaluating the consequences of design decisions. Multi-disciplinary and international in scope, developed in partnership with industry and communities, and supported by state of the art resources, the school fosters cultural, creative, intellectual and technological innovation that results in practice-relevant and policy-driven outputs.

    The School of Architecture enjoys an excellent reputation for the quality of its research and is internationally recognised for work across a wide range of fields, including low carbon building, architectural engineering, development and emergency practice, vernacular architecture and the architectural humanities. The School promotes design as a research-led activity and consciously harnesses the areas of research excellence, including practice-led research, to inform student learning.

    School of Arts:

    Research practices in the School of Arts are rich and diverse ranging from archival research into aspects of historical musicology, book history, popular music and film theory to practice-based research investigating the phenomenology of sound, the creation of artefacts, the curation of events and a variety of creative practices and methodologies. At REF2014 the SoA returned research outputs to UoA34 (Arts & Design), UoA 35 (Music and Perfoming Arts) and UoA 36 (Communication, Cultural and Media Studies &c.). This diversity is a strength and one that the SoA will seek to build on as we plan for REF2021. Significantly 26% the return for UoA 35 was graded as 4*. Our vision is to builds on areas of strength; build critical mass across each area; seek strategies to build on current successes in external research funding; and support each of the researchers in the SoA through QR, wlp and the further development of our research groups.

    The key strategy for achieving these aims is the further development of the research groups that have grown up around areas of excellence in the SoA. Theses include FSRU (Film Studies), OBERTO (Opera Studies), PCRG (Print Culture), PMRU (Popular Music), SARU (Sound Art) and SSRU (Social Sculpture). In addition to these established groups a new group has been formed this year to support researchers in digital media. The activities of these groups are support through mentoring from the SoA Research Lead and funds from QR.

    At the heart of the SoA vision for research is the goal to increase the percentage of staff returning to future research assessments. This figure was already over 80% at REF2014 but through careful mentoring and targeted wlp and QR support this figure could increase. The key to our research strategy is to value each of our researchers and through the research planning cycle ensure that they have the opportunity to reach their potential and engage fully with the SoA research culture.

    School of the Built Environment:

    The School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University is renowned as a centre of excellence for research that can change the world we live in for the better. Our work has real life significance to communities, industry and governments at all scales; from local neighbourhoods to global cities and transnational regions. It is highlighted by a strong multidisciplinary ethos and the conviction that through partnership with other stakeholders we can co-create knowledge to advance our understanding of societal, environmental and professional challenges in the Built Environment and provide solutions.

    The breadth of our work from planning and urban design to construction and real estate provides the capacity for a critical evaluation of the full cycle of urban growth and development. We aim to contribute to understanding of the drivers of urban change and societal shifts, policy design and implementation, and theoretical and methodological knowledge of the complex interrelated connections that shape our cities and the way we interact with them.

    Supporting research talent across the range of our activities we aim to develop new horizons particularly focusing on cross cutting themes. These are focused on:

    1. Designing and planning for resilience and climate change
    2. People, energy and buildings
    3. Property markets and sustainable development
    4. Smart and sustainable construction
    5. Spatial planning and mobility, and
    6. Governance, inclusive communities and livelihoods

    Department of Computing and Communication Technologies:

    Our vision is to be a centre of world-leading research with global impact that is recognised internationally.

    We plan to achieve this by significantly strengthening the quality of our well-established research centres: the Intelligent Systems Engineering Research Centre (ISERC) and the Dependable Systems Engineering Research Centre (DSERC). We will build their critical mass by encouraging all academic staff to participate in their activities and thereby pursue successful research careers. Quality will be maintained by concentrating research effort on areas in which we are already internationally renowned such as: computer vision, robotics, computer design, AI, formal methods, e-learning and internet of things.

    The research of the department is traditionally very pragmatic and practical, focusing on near-to-market innovation. We plan to build on our excellent reputation as a successful collaborator with local companies, often formalised through KTP projects. This synergy between the University and industry will be strengthened by seeking other external funding to work on ideas in-house for a number of years before commercialisation. All staff are therefore encouraged to apply for funding for collaborative interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary projects both within and beyond the University. Staff who are new to grant applications are supported through through weekly sessions that include advice and feedback from more experienced staff.

    Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences:

    At Oxford Brookes in MEMS, we are committed to developing a broad range of engineering and mathematical competences to produce world class research that is focussed on solving a broad range of global challenges. Alongside other avenues, we have focussed on areas such as:

    • sustainable transport and sustainable engineering;
    • Electronic Instrumentation and Control for Biomedical and Automotive Applications;
    • Generic principles for reducing technical risk;
    • reducing emissions and soot from conventional and hybrid powertrains;
    • light-weighting in transport applications;
    • use of novel materials, assembly and disassembly techniques for structures;
    • whole life energy and emissions analyses;
    • improving energy efficiency.

    Our vision is to produce research that will:

    • Contribute to transforming lives by tackling global challenges;
    • Seek to maximise the impact and reach of our findings, through external collaboration and promotion;
    • Develop and support our research community
    • Continue to inform our curriculum and underpin an outstanding student experience.

    The objectives to achieve this are to:

    1. increase and diversify the funding portfolio;
    2. increase knowledge transfer and public engagement activities;
    3. attract more postgraduate research students and provide high-quality training;
    4. enhance the quality of the research environment;
    5. enhance research profile and reputation;
    6. increase the number of external collaborations and the benefits from these.