The N8 Board met in October, following a meeting of the N8’s Strategic Executive Group (SEG) to discuss a long-list of proposed thematic areas within which future N8 programmes could be defined.
The list had been generated through the recent open survey, the N8 Advocates workshop earlier in the year and discussion with academic and non-academic stakeholders.
The aim has been to capture initial feedback and ideas for strengthening the proposals (what proposals), to discuss assessment criteria by which these could be prioritised and to look at contextual information and data to support decision making. Following the meetings, the N8 Directorate will refine the long list and work with the partner universities to define and research further the suggested themes. Decisions on these will be taken at the joint SEG/Board meeting in February 2019.
Steven Hill, Director of Research, Research England, joined the SEG meeting in September to discuss Research England’s role, upcoming issues in Higher Education and the opportunities for N8 universities. David Roberts, UKRI, Balanced Funding Workstream, also attended to discuss the Balanced Funding programme.
SEG also discussed N8 High Performance Computing, which is now being renamed and refocused around a community of practice in Computationally Intensive Research -N8CIR with Matt Probert of the University of York becoming its director.
The N8 Directorate presented draft objectives for the 2018-19 academic year which were supported with some minor amendments. The N8 Board meeting also had a number of external attendees:
- Sarah Main, Campaign for Science and Engineering discussed the Board’s perspective on the research and innovation ecosystem relating to the “N8 region” and how might they want to see the R&I ecosystem strengthened or changed.
- Adam Crawford, director of the N8 Policing Research Programme, joined the meeting to present an update on progress. N8PRP is working with all 11 constabularies in the North of England and the relationships that have been built have been core to the impact of the project, both in terms of research and operational impacts. There have been significant success in areas such as data management and analysis, where police are data-rich but analysis-poor, in evolving areas of criminality. For example, the policing of cryptocurrency-related offences, and in coercive control, where Charlotte Barlow, an early-career researcher, has used the network to identify collaborators in Liverpool City Region to work on the development of an app which has been rolled out by Merseyside Police. The Board was impressed by the scale and range of the activity undertaken by the N8PRP and felt that it was a great example of what the N8 Research Partnership was intended to deliver.
- Anne-Marie Coriat, Head of UK & Europe Research Landscape, Wellcome Trust and Professor Ron Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University joined the meeting for a discussion of the challenges faced in the UK and US in supporting early-career researchers, and in particular the work of the Coalition for Next Generation Life Sciences. This group of US universities aims to increase transparency surrounding career pathways by publishing data and information to support individual decision-making. The Board was very supportive of this approach, which will be looked at in more detail by the N8 working group on PDRA careers.
The board meeting was the last with Professor Koen Lamberts as Chair. The Board voted to elect Professor Mark E. Smith, Lancaster University, as his successor. The Board also agreed that Professor Steve Decent should remain as Chair of the Strategic Executive Group.