Enhancing Research Culture: 2022-23 projects

This year we funded a broad range of exciting projects to support a more open, inclusive and supportive research culture.


About the research culture funding

In 2022-23 we received £850,000 from Research England's Enhancing Research Culture funding to invest in developing our research culture.

We are delighted to fund 14 projects from across all five faculties, professional services and cross-faculty teams.

Below you can find an overview of all projects.

Across all faculties

PGR Culture enhancement project

Faculty/service: PGR Graduate School

Lead applicant: Dr Stefanie Pukallus (Institute for Global Sustainable Development) and Prof. Alison Gartland (School of Medicine and Population Health)

Co-applicants: Prof. Andy Furley (School of Biosciences), Dr Monica Latham (Engineering Graduate School), Prof. Jonathan Rayner (School of English)

Summary: We organised a poster competition in the Octagon for June 2023. All PGR students across the University were invited to develop a poster to present their research in a non-jargon way to the University. 90 students signed up and attended a workshop on how to design a poster followed by a drop in session a week later. This was done by an external company called Research Retold and the feedback had been positive throughout. All posters were exhibited in the Octagon – lunch was provided for PGR students. At peak points we had about 300 attendees from across the University. The competition also provided the opportunity for PGRS to network and included skills training, also done by Research Retold, on how to communicate one’s research to non-academic audiences. 

Attendees voted and the winners will be awarded Amazon vouchers at the Student Union Poster exhibition launch in Oct 2023. At this exhibition where the student union will for the first time ever exhibit the work of doctoral students, we will show all posters again for a period of two weeks. There will be a launch event with a wine reception to which all PGR students and staff will be invited. 

These events already have and will continue to stimulate research culture across the University amongst PGR students, by bringing them in touch with each other and providing an opportunity for them to learn what other PGRs are doing and to network with them. We have just obtained further funding for the same type of poster event next year – that round will be led by Arts and Humanities but all Faculties will be involved again.

Embedding cultural intelligence in institutional leadership to improve inclusion

Faculty/service: Health, Social Sciences, Engineering

Lead applicant: Dr Munitta Muthana (School of Medicine and Population Health)

Co-applicants: Prof. Amaka Offiah (School of Medicine and Population Health), Dr Meesha Warmington (School of Education), Dr Jagroop Pandhal (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering), Prof. Ilaria Bellantuono (School of Medicine and Population Health), Prof. Alan Walker (Department of Sociological Studies)

Summary: This project aimed to determine the level of cultural intelligence across the different groups in the University and co-produce key recommendations for increasing inclusivity. We conducted a systematic review of current policies and practices at Sheffield and other universities, as well as a total of 14 interviews and six focus groups with minoritised doctoral students and staff at the University of Sheffield across different roles and faculties.

We found that there are instances of micro-aggressions and experiences of “covert” forms of racial violence/racism, which resulted in the accumulation of harms and exclusion for these students and staff. There are reported difficulties in challenging oppressive or discriminatory behaviours, which indicate that the current ‘Report and Support’ system may need further adjustment and greater transparency. At the same time, some reported that there is a lack of support, or in some cases, restrictions when it came to promotion and recruitment; although some have had positive experiences with their line managers in this process, line managers need more training in terms of providing support for minoritised students and staff members.

We conclude that a cultural shift, led from the top, is needed to provide an inclusive environment for all.

Achieving Equitable Experiences for International PGRs of Colour via Knowledge Exchange

Faculty/service: Science, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Lead applicant: Dr Nicola Hemmings (School of Biosciences)

Co-applicants: Dr Alex Mason (Centre for Equity and Inclusion), Dr Seth Mehl (Digital Humanities Institute), Dr Bobby Nisha (Department of Urban Studies & Planning), Dr Antony Williams (School of Education)

Summary: The Centre for Equity & Inclusion used Research Culture funding to develop and implement short-term knowledge exchange (KE) projects focused on the experiences of international postgraduate researchers (PGRs) at TUoS.

The project aims were to (1) increase access to development opportunities for international PGRs, which we know are limited compared to domestic PGRs, and (2) improve our understanding of the international PGR student experience and how to enhance it. 

We supported and funded three six-month KE projects, co-developed by international PGRs of colour and external experts in racial justice. The first was a project explicitly focused on understanding the international PGR experience via focus group-based research across all university faculties, the results of which were presented at an anti-racism conference in Sheffield in July 2023, and will be available as a report in September 2023.

The other two projects both had a climate justice focus: One was an impact assessment of new community-driven solar powered irrigation systems in India, which have been implemented to empower local people to grow their own food, and the other was a participatory media production project focused on water systems maintenance by communities in Nairobi.

 Assessing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion as principles of ethical research

Faculty/service: Health, Social Sciences, Engineering, Arts and Humanities, Professional Services

Lead applicant: Dr Jennifer Burr (School of Medicine and Population Health)

Co-applicants: Jessica Breese (iHuman), Tom Pickard (Computer Science), Prof. Sara Fovargue (School of Law), Prof. Jonathan Rayner (School of English), Lindsay Unwin (Research, Partnerships and Innovation), Dr Edward Hall (Department of Politics and International Relations), Dr Anju Devianee Keetharuth (School of Medicine and Population Health), Dr Jennifer Kettle (School of Clinical Dentistry), Sarab El-Yousfi (School of Clinical Dentistry)

Summary: Through interviews with members of research funding bodies and academics across TUoS and elsewhere, this project investigated the challenges in incorporating ED&I into the research ethics process. 

The findings suggest two areas to address with regard to ED&I in research ethics: 1) the importance of ED&I in ethical thinking in research, which acknowledges relationships of power both in the way that research is conducted and how the findings are portrayed and 2) The need for a clear and defendable rationale for the inclusion of ED&I so that researchers do not feel ‘over-policed by ethics committees’. One area seen as important was the use of language where researchers are apprehensive about getting language wrong and are fearful of upsetting some groups of the population. 

Undertaking this project has raised awareness of some of the excellent work being done in the University and the need to bring together existing networks to ensure our research ethics policy showcases and is underpinned by the excellent work already done across the University under the One University Pillar.


Report - Research ethics and ED&I

SCHARR Communicable Research podcast: Dr Jennifer Burr discuss the topic of research ethics and in particular how current research aligns with equality, diversity and inclusion practices.

Many of the other projects also span multiple departments and purposes and include activities that cross faculties and services.

Professional Services

Bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct policy and process development

Faculty/service: Human Resources

Lead applicant: Rob Gower (Human Resources)

Summary: The project focuses on developing our response to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct (staff to staff and staff to student misconduct) which are significant areas of focus for the sector in improving research culture. Whilst issues of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct can occur in any sector, the unique way in which research teams are formed and funded can create significant power imbalances which can exacerbate issues and lead to reluctance to report issues, or for reported issues to be investigated.

The OfS’ Statement of Expectations, UUK guidance, statements from research councils and funding bodies are directing universities to improve their focus on these areas in order to reduce the prevalence of negative behaviours and enhance research culture.

The project links to recent work on a new staff Code of Conduct which clearly articulated expected behavioural standards and linked to our core values. A continuing programme of work is underway to review and then embed related policies, improve the processes which apply when a concern is raised about a member of staff’s conduct (including by a student) and run campaigns to increase awareness and encourage greater levels of reporting in order that we can address issues of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.  


Web content: Introduction to Report and Support was developed as part of the project work (Staff/PGR login required).

Accessible Working: Research and Technical Staff Living With Disability and Chronic Illness

Lead applicant: Jared Carnie (National Technician Development Centre, Vice Chancellor’s Office)

Summary: This project was funded to help to design and create a survey to capture the experiences of staff living with disability and chronic illness at the University of Sheffield.

The two stage project involved first the development and formulation of an appropriate survey, using input from those with lived experience of disability and chronic illness. The second stage was then the launch of the survey itself to the relevant groups within the University.

The survey captured information related to:

  • Adjustments made to the workplace and potential adjustments that could be made
  • Channels for voicing workplace adjustments
  • Suitability of physical working environments
  • Impact of working hours and patterns
  • How the impact of disability and chronic illness outside work impacts work
  • Accessibility of the hiring and application processes
  • Hurdles, barriers and discrimination within the University


Arts and Humanities 

Refresh & Renew: Redefining research cultures in the Arts and Humanities 

Department: Cross-departmental

Lead applicant: Prof. Emma Moore (School of English)

Co-applicants: Prof. Jane Hodson (School of English), T. Ryan Byerly (Department of Philosophy), Prof. Jennifer Coates (School of East Asian Studies), Dr Lizzy Craig-Atkins (Department of Archaeology), Prof. Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (Department of History), Prof. Simon Keefe (Department of Music), Prof. Lauren Rea (School of Languages and Cultures)

Summary: Following a successful initiative in 2021-22 in the School of English to increase research productivity and well-being, this project widened the scope of activities across the entire Faculty of Arts & Humanities (FCA) in 2022-2023. 

The project provided each department in the FCA with support to initiate its own bottom-up identification of research culture priorities; offered coaching opportunities to help empower colleagues at all levels of seniority to co-produce a renewed research environment; built individual and institutional resilience around research by establishing a culture of peer-led coaching; and identified where activities or discussion related to research culture could be shared.

These included support at the early stages of applying for research/ formulating an idea; grant writing support; feedback on work in progress; maximising the benefits of working flexibly and initiating a culture shift to focus on longer-term, better-quality, but potentially less frequent research outputs.

Supporting Research Cultures in Archaeology

Department: Archaeology

Lead applicant: Dr Elizabeth Craig Atkins (Department of Archaeology)

Co-applicants: Prof. Bob Johnston (Department of Archaeology)

Summary: The Department of Archaeology is currently delivering a strategic plan to prepare for our structural reconfiguration across Biosciences and History in September 2024. To progress this work we drew on the collective input of current staff in Archaeology, History, Biosciences and the wider university as well as a broad range of external advisors to ensure the feasibility of our plans and maximise the ambition of our vision. 

We received funding from the Research Cultures call to deliver collaborative workshops that ran between Jan-March 2023. The first set of events facilitated broad staff participation in the development of specific proposals for our three research priorities: Bioarchaeology, Material Histories and Cultural Heritage. The final workshop progressed the management plan for our collections and facilities.

To maximise the outcomes of these workshops we hired facilitators and paid external experts to ensure strategic discussion delivered directly actionable outcomes and developed a suitably ambitious, internationally-framed vision.


Improving research culture, impact and entrepreneurship in the postgraduate research community 

Department: Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Lead applicant: Dr Rola Saad (Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering)

Co-applicants: Prof. Mark Hopkinson and Prof. Jo Shien Ng (Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering)

Summary: This project aimed to strengthen research culture among the EEE PGR community and create networking opportunities for researchers across multidisciplinary engineering. Bringing internal and external expertise and coaches, a series of structured training, seminars and workshops were delivered to increase awareness on research impact, excellence, leadership, entrepreneurship, commercialisation, effective communication skills and building a community among researchers. 

The project created a positive environment for researchers, fostered a positive research culture, and increased awareness of the importance of skills development to research impact and excellence.


Identifying research priorities in ethnic minority and socio-economically deprived communities and widening participation in research - developing the community researcher role

Department: School of Medicine and Population Health

Lead applicant: Dr Kate Fryer (School of Medicine and Population Health)
Co-applicants: Dr Caroline Mitchell, Dr Habiba Aminu, Dr Shamanthi Jayasooriya, Dr Qizhi Huang and Dr Josie Reynolds (School of Medicine and Population Health)

Summary: This project aimed to place communities at the centre of two NIHR priority research areas, dementia and respiratory disorders, as a step towards citizen control of the research agenda. Building on pre-existing relationships with local ethnic minority communities, we identified and trained Community Research Link Workers (CRLWs) from the Chinese and Roma communities, to undertake patient and public involvement sessions within their communities.

The CRLWs carried out priority setting exercises over two patient and public involvement meetings, in relation to dementia in the Chinese community and lung health with the Roma community. The first meeting involved a lay introduction to the topic, and a discussion to draw out the concerns of the community members. A rapid literature review was then undertaken by the academic researchers. The main findings were presented in a lay format at a second meeting, with further discussion to establish where the community felt that more research was needed.

Outcomes of this project:

  • Increased understanding between researchers and community members, providing a starting point for further co-designed research.  
  • Increased capacity within communities to engage with and influence research.
  • Further development of the CRLW model, which can be flexibly applied across different communities and research areas.


Google Site: Research Priority Setting with Communities

Social Sciences

Exploring and embedding PGR experiences of participatory research in TUoS research cultures

Department: Cross-departmental

Lead applicant: Dr Kirsty Liddiard (School of Education and iHuman)

Co-applicants: Dr Lauren White (Sheffield Methods Institute), Ankita Mishra (Department of Psychology)

Summary: Our Participatory Research Network (PRN) related project has explored what TUoS PGRs need in relation to engaging in participatory research. Participatory research is an ethical, collaborative and community-engaged form of inquiry that aims to make a difference in people’s lives. However, participatory research is an area that is often incompatible with the postgraduate process, despite its valorisation in the academic world and the explicit desire for projects that use these methodologies (Mason, 2021). As a primarily collaborative inquiry, it also conflicts with postgraduate research as an individual endeavour (Barry and Corcoran 2022). Participatory research rests upon strong, established relationships with external partners (Liddiard et al. 2022), which postgraduate students, due to the time constraints of doctoral research, often don’t have the capacity to build during their studies (Barry and Corcoran 2022). 

Our project explored the available resources, support and knowledge about participatory research at PGR level across TUoS. It sought to explore the challenges and barriers experienced by PGRs employing participatory research and to collaboratively design action plans to address these. Our project resulted in working with PGRs employing participatory research as co-researchers to provide an evidence base of current practice and to design recommendations to create more inclusive research cultures at TUoS.


Promoting Anti-Racist and Anti-Disablist Research Cultures

Department: Cross-departmental

Lead applicant: Dr Antonios Ktenidis (School of Education)

Co-applicants: Dr Alex Mason (Centre for Equity and Inclusion), Dr Antony Williams (School of Education), Dr Ros Williams (Department of Sociological Studies), Prof. Dan Goodley (School of Education and iHuman)

Summary: Our project aimed to co-create an accessibility guide for the organisation of inclusive events and the accessible public dissemination of research, and to host a one-day, face-to-face and live-streamed symposium, focusing on anti-racist and anti-disablist research cultures. 

For the co-creation of the accessibility guide, we drew on both internal and external (Ladders4Action) expertise on race, disability and access, and we held a series of online workshops with disabled colleagues of colour to identify the accessibility key issues to be addressed and practical information to be provided e.g. guidance on BSL interpretation, venue hire, catering options. 

The accessibility guide was then piloted in the organisation and delivery of the symposium. The symposium brought together key scholars and academics to identify the key challenges and changes required to promote inclusive research cultures that are responsive to disability and race. Proposals for institutional policies and practices often do not give space to the intellectual contributions of black and disabled researchers (see for example recent special issue of Nature). Moreover, there is often a disconnect between the innovative work of funders and non-government organisations and the aspirations of universities. Our symposium addressed these intellectual and sectoral gaps. 


Accessibility guide

Blog post

The Secret Lives of International PGRs

Department: School of Education

Lead applicant: Dr Darren Webb (School of Education)

Co-applicants: Dr Antonios Ktenidis (School of Education), Prof. David Hyatt (School of Education)

Summary: This project sought to uncover the hidden labour undertaken by ‘international’ PGRs that often remains invisible to academic and professional services staff. The challenges within PGRs’ academic studies include their experience being imbued with not only pedagogic power relations in their relationships with their supervisors but also with the legacy of a colonial past still visible in our universities every day. This legacy is visible in the language that is used to them and about them: they are interpellated as ‘international’ students, as a homogenous group, grounded in their fee-paying status, rather than with an understanding of their diversity and the hierarchies of such a diverse group of people.

Our project sought the voices of international PGRs in uncloaking the ‘hidden challenges’ they encounter and the physical and emotional labour required to face them. An international PGR within the School of Education was engaged as a Research Associate in order to undertake semi-structured interviews with other international PGRs. The data gathered was rich and powerful and was used to inform two key Outputs a set of recommendations (a toolkit) for supervisors, departments and the university; and three fictionalised composite case studies illustrating the experiences of the international PGR community.


Recommendations booklet: The Secret Lives of International PGRs

Short animations:

Fostering cultures of open qualitative research

Department: iHuman

Lead applicant: Dr Matthew Hanchard (Department of Sociological Studies and iHuman)

Summary: Normative scientific notions of reproducibility and replicability are well established for assessing and/or evaluating research in STEM fields. As a result, cultures of making open quantitative datasets and the processes and methods used to generate them transparent have become standard expectations of good research. Qualitative research, often steeped in interpretivism, place less importance on reproducibility. Methods such as ethnographic immersion are seen to negate the process, small sample sizes make anonymity problematic, meanwhile personal interactions in interviews or focus groups differ from one day to the next - depending on the dynamics of that interaction. Meanwhile, funders, regulators, and national bodies are currently moving towards an expectation that research of all types be made open access.

The project examined: (1) how a culture of open qualitative research might be fostered; and (2) to report on what resources are needed to support it. It addressed questions about the perceptions and practices of open qualitative research, including making qualitative data and analyses open access, and in working in more transparent ways. Rather than focussing only on the technical and processual aspects, the project also covered epistemic debates i.e., on what it might mean to make interpretivist inquiry open at various stages.

Find out more on the iHuman site


Report: Fostering cultures of open qualitative research


Building an Open Research community across the University

The funding supported the inaugural Annual Open Research Lecture in December 2022, delivered by Professor Tom Stafford, which facilitated discussion and raised the profile of open research as a key TUoS priority.

A developed and expanded OpenFest 2023 ran in September 2023, including an online symposium which attracted over 100 attendees from across the UK and internationally. The OpenFest Sheffield Showcase, co-delivered with Sheffield Hallam, provided an opportunity to share good practice and culminated in the launch of the Open Scholarship Community Sheffield (OSCS), a grassroots open research community bringing together colleagues from TUoS and SHU which will lead to further activities and ongoing impact in future.

Where possible, OpenFest sessions were recorded, allowing the Library to preserve and further share talks for a wider range of interested colleagues.  

A component of the funds was also used for small prizes to encourage ORCiD use and uptake among the PGR community. 

Incentivising Open Research within the University

The library developed a project to run a second round of the Open Research prize, previously run by the library in 2021, this time with separate staff and PGR categories and an additional category for research teams.

This enabled the University Library to reward and showcase good practice in open research and to create a series of written case studies which are hosted on the open research webpages as an important advocacy resource.

We created three short video case studies about the winners and runners up, plus an additional short film ‘Open Research at Sheffield’

Expanding discipline-specific support for FAIR research data management 

Following earlier work to develop guidance on FAIR data for different disciplines, the Library recruited a Research Data Steward to advance the project further, working closely with departments to produce and implement guidance for a range of disciplines. ERC funds supported the initial stages of this role.

Together with the Open Research Manager, the Data Steward produced the online FAIR Guidance resource, which provides broadly applicable guidance for researchers at each stage of their project together with detailed advice for those handling specific data types.

This resource has been extremely well-received by researchers at TUoS and beyond and provides an important tool to support good practice in data management and sharing.

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