10 June 2020

Fit for the future: creating stronger research leadership in Social Sciences

Professor Matthew Flinders, from the University’s Department of Politics and International Relations has released a National Review on research leadership in partnership with UKRI.

A group of people discussing with a notepad and laptop

Professor Matthew Flinders, from the University’s Department of Politics and International Relations has released a National Review on research leadership in partnership with UKRI Economic and Social Research Council

The review – based on extensive engagement within and beyond the UK research community – provides 12 recommendations for achieving stronger research leadership that’s fit for the future, including Creating Core Capacity, Facilitating Mobility and better embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Professor Flinders said: ‘The report has been carefully designed to offer a suite of recommendations that can be introduced either as self-standing measures or brought forward in stages as part of a wholesale reform agenda. 

‘The report is also based on the notion of the academic community working together to facilitate the mobility of people, ideas and talents with UKRI really playing a catalysing and facilitating role. My hope is that the research leadership opportunities that I have identified will be accepted and taken forward in order to underpin the UK science base and to drive innovation.’

The UK is home to a world-class community of social scientists who in recent years have made major contributions to understanding social and political change around the world, contributions which have played a highly significant role in underpinning the quality, impact and reputation of UK science. 

‘However, the extent and pace of both technological and social change underline the need for science to reflect upon the need to change and adapt to new challenges and opportunities,’ said Professor Flinders. ‘Approaches, procedures and ways of working that may have been ‘fit for purpose’ in the past are in no way guaranteed to ensure that any discipline or field of inquiry is ‘fit for the future’.

‘In addition, a focus on research leadership provides a huge opportunity to tackle long-standing issues in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion. If we want to create research teams that are genuinely diverse in terms of talent, perspectives and experience – and that are focused not on 'heroic' research leaders but on the basis of creating a number of different leadership roles within a project – then we have to see equality, diversity and inclusion not as 'a problem' but as a positive opportunity to recognise and reward a wider range of people.

‘The chance to lead a national review into research leadership has been an opportunity to explore major challenges – about institutions, cultures and incentives – and to forge fresh approaches.’

Read the National Review of research leadership or follow Professor Flinders on Twitter

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