The Russell Group has today released Realising Our Potential, an in-depth report that examines the current UK academic research culture and environment, including the system drivers and incentives which can create challenges and unintended consequences for researchers.
The report is based on conversations and interviews with almost 100 representatives from universities (including researchers at all career stages), funders and publishers.
Although the UK’s academic research culture is a source of great pride, the report also highlights that postgraduate researchers (PGRs) report significantly higher levels of anxiety than the general population and concerns have been raised by researchers at all levels about job security, incidents of bullying and harassment and mental health issues, amongst others.
The report argues that ensuring a healthy research culture and environment is crucial to attracting and retaining staff, ensuring a research-led recovery and building the UK’s reputation as a global leader in research.
Commenting on the report, Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “Realising Our Potential forensically addresses many of the cultural problems that are currently hindering the UK’s research community in unlocking the full extent of its vast capabilities and it is extremely encouraging to see the Russell Group universities take a lead in this vital area.
“The findings of this report touch upon themes that I am passionate about regarding how stress and anxiety can harm the ability of both individuals and institutions to innovate and undertake genuinely impactful research.
“Given the uncertainties that many researchers face it’s not surprising that creativity and imagination can often take a back seat to fretting about stability and career prospects. That stress can often translate into people being reluctant to stretch their imagination for fear that any proposals or ideas too outside the box could be dismissed or even ridiculed, and potentially impact their often precarious employment position.
“Yet it is exactly this sort of creative thinking that can lead to the pioneering research that makes our universities such a bastion for excellence and will play a crucial role as the country emerges from the pandemic. I therefore encourage my colleagues across academia – from early stage researchers to senior managers – to review and reflect on this report as well as the accompanying Research Culture and Environment Toolkit.
“It’s crucial that as a community we consider what can be done both through our own actions and those of our institutions to help adjust values and behaviour in order to create a healthy and nurturing environment for all. By building a system that enables more researchers to develop rewarding, purposeful and stable careers we will not just be supporting the future of our world-leading universities, but making sure UK academia is better placed to address the urgent scientific, social and economic problems the world currently faces.”
To read the full report and access the toolkit, please visit: https://russellgroup.ac.uk/policy/publications/realising-our-potential-backing-talent-and-strengthening-uk-research-culture-and-environment/