Eastern Arc represents the collective regional research aspirations of the universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent. As such, it lobbies on behalf of the three universities and other stakeholders in the East and Southeast of England, and champions the interests of all within our region.
As part of this, we engage with policymakers, politicians and others as they develop strategies and policies that affect our region. This includes responding to consultations and setting out our position on current key issues.
One such is the government’s proposed R&D Roadmap. The consultation on this included a number of issues, such as maximising research and innovation and developing research talent. Many of the position papers below are in response to this. The full response can be viewed here.
These position papers complement our overarching strategy for the next five years. This can be viewed here.
We will continue to monitor the external research and innovation landscape, and will set out our position on significant issues as they arise.
Photo by marianne bos on Unsplash
On 20 July, the UK Government published its Horizon Europe contingency plans “Supporting UK R&D and collaborative research beyond European programmes”.
In response to a survey from UUKi, Eastern Arc made clear it’s position on Horizon Europe, reiterating its view that assocation is the preferable way forward for the UK research base. Whilst welcoming the Government’s contingency planning, EARC had significant concerns about some of the proposals.
Further detail on each of the areas that UUKi raised is given here.
The government’s R&D Roadmap highlighted the need to ‘level up’ its investment across the regions of the UK. It stated:
We have already committed to developing a comprehensive and ambitious UK R&D Place Strategy together with the devolved administrations over the coming months. Our goal in developing the Place Strategy will be to drive place-based outcomes from our R&D system – accelerating our economic recovery, levelling up across the UK.
As a regional research consortium, Eastern Arc has a clear position on this, and how it will affect our region. Our view is outlined here.
Although it may be counter-intuitive, the government should not concentrate its funding on a small number of large projects, but rather fund a wider range of smaller projects, and pay particular attention to the work of mid-career researchers.
Our full position paper on maximising investment in research is available here.
Impact can take many forms, but crucial to them all is a close working relationship between those undertaking the research and those who will benefit from it. The government should concentrate on the exchange of tacit knowledge through launching and expanding a portfolio of schemes (such as exchanges and mentoring) and designing infrastructure (such as shared facilities) that would enable this to happen.
Our full position paper on maximising the impact of research is available here.
Research-based innovation is an important facet of impact and a crucial avenue to the realisation of ‘change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life’. As such the government should undertake a review of the existing culture around the way grants are assessed and structured, and ensure that regional bodies are empowered to oversee the appropriate development of industry within their areas.
Our full position paper on encouraging and supporting innovation is available here.
In order to attract, retain and develop talented and diverse people, the current ‘toxic’ environment needs to be overhauled. As the Wellcome Trust puts it, we need to ‘reimagine’ research. The government should consider formal training for managers, a clear roadmap for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, and awarding funding to groups rather than individuals.
Our full position paper on supporting and developing research careers is available here.
Eastern Arc is supportive of the work currently being undertaken to support the development and funding of infrastructure, but would encourage the government to consider smaller, more agile funding for regional consortia to open up access to their existing equipment and resources. It should also support the crucial national infrastructure around ‘open science’.
Our full position paper on strengthening research infrastructures is available here.
EARC is supportive of the substantive findings of the Smith-Reid review, and would encourage the government to develop ‘an immediate programme to protect and stabilise capabilities’ following Brexit.
Our full position paper on international research engagement is available here.
Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) funding has allowed our research to have an impact beyond academia, and beyond the UK. It has enabled us to think globally, and to work for the benefit of the global community, particularly in overcoming deep-seated socio-economic problems and developmental challenges.
However, we are concerned that a shift in government policy may lead to these achievements being undermined or reversed. There is a very real danger that the UK’s research leadership in the world will be lost, as will the opportunity for our research to have a significant impact on the life chances of those in the global south.
Find out more about our position and our concerns here.
The Covid pandemic has impacted every part of our lives. We have had to adjust the way we live, the way we work, and the way we relax. Our expectations and understanding of society, security, health and humanity have all changed.
For many of those undertaking research across Eastern Arc, the pandemic has meant that their work has had to be altered, adapted, curtailed or postponed.
All three of the EARC universities – East Anglia (UEA), Essex and Kent – surveyed their staff at different points during the past year. We summarise the collective findings from these surveys, and identify the three primary reasons why the work of academics and researchers has been affected, recognising and appreciating both their efforts and the flexibility of external funders and stakeholders in mitigating the severity of the impact on their work.
To read our summary, click here.
In 2016 a Nature survey found that 70% of respondents had ‘tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments,’ although ‘73% said that they think that at least half of the papers in their field can be trusted’.
There is a clear crisis in reproducibility, but how deep it is is open to debate. In this paper, based on our response to the Science and Technology Committee’s call for evidence, we explore the issues underlying the reproducibility crisis, and suggest a number of actions that will help to address it.
To read our paper click here.
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash