Case Study

University of Glasgow

Interview conducted 18 November, 2021  Compare case studies

The University of Glasgow (UofG) is a public, research-intensive University that values the generation of impact beyond academia both nationally and globally. It comprises over 6,700 researchers in 23 academic schools, undertaking disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research. Since 2019, UofG has focused on  five key priorities for the development of positive research cultures: collegiality, career development, research recognition, open research, and research integrity. These align with several global initiatives that advocate for a good research culture. UofG signed DORA in 2020 and the Hong Kong Principles in 2021, showing its support for holistic values in evaluating research and researchers.  

The first UofG Research Strategy was launched in 2020 with the strategy of building around existing University principles for research: that the quality of research is valued over its quantity, that the University succeeds when the individual succeeds in their career, and that the University values all contributions to research. This values-based research strategy has three priority areas: collaboration, creativity and careers, which strongly influence the University’s approach to developing the research culture and to innovation in research recognition.

Interview originally conducted November 2021Case study updated April 2024.

Who: Organization profile

Country United Kingdom
Profile of institution comprehensive university or equivalent
Number of FTE researchers ~5,600 (1,400 Research & Teaching), ~1,200 (Research only) and ~3,000 (Postgraduate Research Students)
Organization of research evaluation Faculty/department levelInstitutional/university levelResearch unit level
Who is involved? academic leadershipacademic researchersCollege staffHR stafflibrary staffpolicy staffPostgraduate research studentsresearch professional staffresearch support or management stafftechnicians

What: What changed and the key elements of change

Recognizing that research excellence and a healthy research culture are mutually reinforcing, UofG developed a research culture action plan that included a strong focus on introducing fair approaches to assessing research quality and recognising a range of contributions to research. To foster this, the Academic Promotion process was revised to (a) recognise collegiality and open research as integrated expectations of career progression and (b) to introduce parity of merit between research outputs and societal impact.

To reinforce UofG’s commitment to DORA, several initiatives were carried forward. An Institutional Statement on Responsible Research Assessment was published with a view to recognizing the varied contributions of researchers and research supporting staff at the University. To strengthen this goal, UofG has committed to several initiatives that include:

UofG seeks to further develop and embed clear and fair approaches to valuing different contributions and contributors to its research endeavours, and to sharing its views in important sector conversations on the measurement of research excellence. In this aspect, Open Research practices have been considered as an essential facet of research culture. By signing the Concordat on Open Research Data, UofG has created an institutional Open Research Action Plan that provides integrated financial support for Open Access publication and has significantly increased the proportion of open access outputs.

The drive towards a positive research culture has embedded several initiatives with a view to acknowledging the impact that researchers at UofG create, which include:

  • Embedding the CRediT taxonomy in the institutional Code of Good Research Practice and providing training resources on how it can be used.
  • Adoption of a narrative approach to annual appraisal, and promotion, supported by a suite of support resources and training courses to engage with Narrative CV writing at individual and team level.
  • Recognising and celebrating examples of good practice through Research Culture Awards (2019-2021) and the ‘People Make Research’ project (2022-present). These efforts have collectively raised the profile of over 300 staff members making important contributions to their positive research culture.
  • Appointment of new Academic Leads for Research Inclusive Research and for Good Research Practice.
  • Launching a Research Scientist career track to recognise staff with specialist research knowledge, expertise, and profile, but who have followed a non-traditional (Research and Teaching, or Teaching Specialist) pathway.

Why: Motivation for change

The motivation for change from within UofG was built on the increased recognition across the University of the importance of the quality of research over its quantity and that how research is done is as important as what is done. The process began in 2014, initially influenced by the end of the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014 cycle which presented an opportunity to plan ahead and to nurture conversations about the next cycle. This included a new focus on how quality research could flourish. Within this, discussion of how to evaluate research quality across different disciplines took priority.

In conjunction, UofG conducted a research culture survey (of research staff and technical staff), followed by a consultation with all academic units to interpret survey data, and to provide a qualitative understanding of the priority areas for action. This, in turn, led to conversations about research recognition more widely, across and beyond the university. Dialogue with funders, societies and publishers followed, creating collective momentum for work to ensure a positive research culture across the UK’s research ecosystem. This focus on quality over quantity enabled the University to improve its research quality performance in REF2021 and UofG is committed to continuing this direction of travel for REF2029, understanding that the next step change for research assessment reform needs to be ‘grassroots’ level, engaging with communities to create shared understanding and build even greater momentum. In support of this, in 2022, the university invested in two new teams: the Research Culture Team, and the Research Integrity team. Working alongside the Research Data Management Team, this has dramatically increased capacity to increase the needed reach and high levels of community engagement.

How: Processes and dynamics for developing, implementing and managing change

At each critical point in the journey, UofG has worked to understand that approaches to research assessment and research recognition are a function of local research cultures, and of the people who occupy those cultures. While working with key partners in each of the schools, UofG has been able to design tailored ways forward, customized for each discipline’s unique needs. While the institutional-level action plan for developing research culture was devised and approved by the university’s senior management group, it was informed by many individual conversations, and delivered through collaborative pop-up teams spanning academic schools and professional services, bringing together human resources, the library, the research office and academic discipline leaders. Furthering this people-first approach, the University recently (re)launched two new institutional collaborations, (a) the Research Culture Commons and (b) the Lab for Academic Culture.

The Research Culture Commons is a university-wide network that brings together members from across academic roles and disciplines, culture development specialists and project leaders, postgraduate researchers, research professional staff, graduate schools, technicians, research staff, and HR specialists, and includes all the Deans of Research. Working as a collective with shared interests, and shared online and on campus spaces for dialogue, enables us to achieve more than working in silos.

In 2020, the UofG Lab for Academic Culture was established to oversee the implementation of institutional culture initiatives and to increase capacity for collaboration with funders and other institutions. In 2024, the Lab underwent significant expansion in both membership (bringing together trusted experts drawn from diverse specialisms and key university service areas) and in remit. The Lab’s focus is the maintenance, development, and enhancement of positive academic cultures in which everyone can thrive, and it provides ongoing reflective critique and challenge to enable that. Under academic and professional Co-Directorship, the Lab is now a key steering group for the University’s research culture work holistically. 

More about this work can be found on the UofG Research Culture web pages.

When: Timeline for development and implementation

UofG introduced a network of research integrity champions and advisors across all its academic units in 2015, and in 2018 it revised its promotion criteria to recognise collegiality, commitment to open research, and introduced parity of merit between outputs and societal impact. In 2019, UofG signed up to the UK Concordat for Researcher Careers and published its research careers action plan.

UofG has launched several initiatives such as annual rewards for research culture (2019), a Lab for Academic Culture (2020). In 2020, it published its institutional strategic priorities for research culture, and launched its first dedicated Research Strategy 2020-2025, focussed on Collaboration, Creativity and Careers.

In 2024, UofG will create the next iteration of its Research Culture Action Plan, renewing its commitment to research recognition and research assessment that focuses on quality of research over quantity. A forthcoming project is based on the data from UofG People Make Research initiative which underpins a tri-university collaboration. This collaboration aims to address the paucity of systematic knowledge on how collegiality in research can be fostered, recognised and rewarded. It also aims to expand the definition of who can be viewed as a research leader to a wider set of role types, and individuals in the research ecosystem.


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