Listening to our research community

We're continuing to engage with our research community to understand the strengths in our environment, identify areas to improve on and create the future of our research culture together.


 We have a number of forums to ensure everyone in our research community can influence our approach.

These include University-wide networks for our Department Directors of Research and Innovation and Directors of PGR, and University Committees for Early Career Researchers and PGRs.

We have also established a Research Culture Steering Board.

PGR Research Culture Survey 

In November and December 2022, we surveyed our PGR community to better understand their unique experiences of our research culture, listen to their thoughts and suggestions, and pinpoint areas where we can provide better training and support. 

There were 617 responses, constituting a response rate of around 15%. 

We asked PGRs for their thoughts on five key areas:

  • Current research culture and research leadership 
  • Experience of their PGR course 
  • Mental health and wellbeing 
  • Bullying, harassment and research misconduct

The findings of this survey have been collated in an internal report (staff/PGR login required)

Overall, the majority of respondents said they have a positive experience of the research culture at Sheffield and identified many examples of existing good practice. The findings also suggest that there is still work to do around raising awareness of the wellbeing support available and the existing processes for reporting discrimination of any form.

A number of areas for improvement were also raised along with practical suggestions that could help us enhance our culture with PGRs in mind. For example, ensuring that opportunities for socialising are inclusive for mature students, disabled students, part-time students, international students or for students located outside of Sheffield.

External consultancy on research culture

In 2022 we worked with Research Consulting to commission a report into the research culture at Sheffield. 

We gathered input through a series of interviews and themed focus groups, with 53 participants representing senior leadership, early and mid-career research staff, research and technical support staff and PGRs.

We wanted to know:

  • What are the key features of excellent research cultures?
  • What is good about the culture at Sheffield currently?
  • What are the barriers to an excellent research culture at Sheffield?
  • What changes would have the biggest impact on culture?

Participants identified a number of positive aspects of our research culture, including:

  • A basis for a University-wide collegiate and collaborative research culture
  • A supportive environment for postgraduate students with a wide range of training and development opportunities
  • Proactive measures in place to improve equality, diversity and inclusion
  • An Academic Career Pathway (ACP) that is a progressive step forward

Participants also identified some issues with the current environment, including how research is valued and prioritised and their experience of day-to-day process and delivery.

Many improvements are already taking place in the ongoing plans to enable an excellent research culture for all, in some cases involving tweaks to existing policies and processes to ensure they are appropriately communicated and put into practice.

The findings of this consultation have been collated in an internal report (staff/PGR login required)

Research town hall 2022

On 3 November 2022 John Flint, Deputy Vice-President for Research, hosted the Research town hall.

John and colleagues – Deborah Lodge, Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation, Neil Harris, former Deputy Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation, and Dr Tom Stafford, Academic Practice Lead and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology – shared updates on the Research strategy delivery plan. 

They covered research excellence and the REF, research culture and researcher development, open research and early career researchers and postgraduate research students. 

They then answered questions from the audience before handing over to the attendees to discuss priority areas for research. These discussions focussed on three topics: delivering research excellence, research culture and postgraduate research student experience. 

These activities support our two Research pillar priorities which are to enable and actively promote a culture of research excellence and to become the institution of choice for postgraduate research students.

See the event summary and next steps on the Staff Hub (login required)

Mid-Career Researcher (MCR) Task and Finish Group 

We recognise there are specific challenges and opportunities for our MCR community that may be overlooked by traditional career development pathways. 

The Mid-Career Researcher Task and Finish Group was set up in September 2022 to further our career development support for MCRs, and as part of our commitment to the Researcher Concordat.

The group was tasked with:

  • Reviewing and considering the work on mid-career provision previously conducted at Sheffield, our current institutional offering, and that of other Russell Group members and other initiatives in the sector.
  • Making recommendations for Sheffield’s development offering for MCRs
  • Considering how the Group's outputs might also inform and assist the delivery of other strategic objectives, such as research excellence, with a collective focus on improving leadership development for researchers.

The main point to emerge from the Group's investigation is that MCRs face a set of specific challenges, and that we need to enhance our bespoke support for MCRs' progression and development as we have already sought to do with ECRs.  

It is also important to acknowledge that progression and development is not simply linear, and to avoid making assumptions that MCRs no longer require certain forms of support such as grant capture or producing world-leading outputs.

The group's findings and recommendations have been collated in an internal report (staff/PGR login needed)

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.