Why do you think a positive research culture is important?
A healthy research culture creates a supportive environment that values people and inspires and enables them to thrive at what they do (e.g. conducting good research), while people feel they belong to their place of research. In the current times of change, a healthy culture can impact performance at a personal, social and institutional level by improving people's wellbeing and their sense of achievement, nurturing collaboration and helping each other with a common goal because they feel that what they do matters.
A healthy culture can allow the University to adapt and develop unique ways to succeed.
What aspects of Research culture are most important to you?
Research culture needs to empower people to flourish, feel supported and valued beyond each division. It is important that institutional processes recognise and act upon differences across faculties (e.g. funding challenges, teaching pressures), and create a supportive and stimulating community that allows people to develop a sense of belonging and collaboration.
Can you give an example of an action you have taken to improve research culture?
In the challenging context of the pandemic, new doctoral researchers did not know each other, felt isolated and were limited in their choices on what they could do to meet each other. During my role as PGR director, I created a social programme as an informal space to encourage interactions and improved the research culture among doctoral researchers. All doctoral students and their families or friends were invited to join weekly walks on campus, monthly hikes and other activities that they wanted to promote. This initiative started in the Stirling Management School and attracted the attention of other Faculties who wanted to be part of this space for discussion, socialisation and having a voice as a group.
When I suggested the creation of a doctoral research society, they embraced the idea and developed it as a social hub to cultivate a sense of community and collaboration amongst research students. As a result, students nominated me for the Research Culture award as an Outstanding Mentor. It has been great to support them in this initiative and see how well they are doing organising events in collaboration with other Universities, supporting other students at University who want to study for a PhD, growing personally and professionally while they develop relationships that they will keep for the rest of their lives during their experience at the University of Stirling.
What is something that you personally would like to do next to improve research culture?
Following my experience as PGR director, I would like to improve the research culture for doctoral researchers, nurture their professional and personal development and help them in their transition from students to colleagues. Doctoral studies tend to be a lonely journey and healthy culture can offer social support, guidance and inspiration for them to thrive in their future careers.