A Wellcome chance for introspection and innovation

The research funder is seeking a head for its new science strategy department. Plus the latest higher education jobs and appointments

May 15, 2014

Source: Wellcome Trust

Scanning the horizon: new science head will help trust find future opportunities

Impact has inevitably become the watchword for university research departments since its inclusion in the criteria for this year’s research excellence framework.

Now, the biggest non-governmental funder of university research in the UK, the Wellcome Trust, is focusing more on how it assesses impact by establishing a new department in the area and looking for someone to lead it.

The department of science strategy, performance and impact will look at how it predicts and measures results from its existing portfolio of grants and consider whether the organisation is missing opportunities in science.

Its new head will be expected to scrutinise the existing internal committees, systems and criteria that are used to make funding decisions to see if other methods could offer more potential.

“At the level of science we need to be introspective. Are we working in the right ways? Are we doing the right things? We have decided to do more of that,” said Kevin Moses, director of science funding at the trust.

Each year, the trust spends £600 million on research in the UK and overseas and the post holder will look at past assessments of impact to see if the systems in place to measure it are up to scratch.

New criteria and other factors that could help the trust to make “wise decisions” on funding will also be considered.

Wellcome currently has various methods of measuring impact. These include end-of-grant reports, annual visits to funded scientists and research meetings. “We have not been really systematic and we want to think harder about that,” Dr Moses said.

“I can imagine all sorts of things,” he added, which he suggested could include a combination of “arithmetic metrics” and “common sense”.

Scanning the horizon to find future opportunities that the trust could plug “productively” with new funding is also part of the remit. This will involve holding discussions with people in other organisations in the UK and overseas as well as those in the different science departments of the trust to spot potential new areas of science and new funding mechanisms for research.

One aspect of this will be making sure that the trust does not duplicate the efforts of others.

“We need to think about how we best apply our money to new large initiatives,” Dr Moses added.

The head of the new department will be able to recruit a further three team members to help with the tasks.

Dr Moses said that there are a number of backgrounds that could lead someone to be the right candidate for the job. This could include scientific or clinical researchers, people with administrative and funding experience, economists or journal editors.


Top roles: senior-level administrative jobs

University of the West of Scotland
The University of the West of Scotland is looking to appoint a director for its international centre based at the institution’s Paisley campus.
Closing date for applications: 23 May 2014
View the full job description and apply for this role

University of St Mark and St John
The University of St Mark and St John in Plymouth has an opportunity for an executive dean of research, postgraduate and innovation.
Closing date for applications: 30 May 2014
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Staffordshire University
Staffordshire University is seeking a candidate to fill the role of deputy vice-chancellor (research, enterprise and external).
Closing date for applications: 16 May 2014
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A University of Southampton academic has been honoured by two academic bodies. Tim Leighton, professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, has been awarded the 2014 Rayleigh Medal – the highest accolade from the Institute of Acoustics – and a fellowship by the Royal Society in recognition of his scientific achievements.

Jean McEwan has joined the University of Exeter as vice-dean (education) at its medical school. Professor McEwan is a consultant cardiologist and joins from University College London.

UCL has appointed Nick Brook, currently head of the School of Physics at the University of Bristol, as its new dean of mathematical and physical sciences.

The University for the Creative Arts has announced that creative writing expert Craig Jordan-Baker will be joining its School of Film and Media in September. Dr Jordan-Baker will lecture for the new undergraduate courses in media and creative writing, and journalism and creative writing.

Joy Notter, professor of community health at Birmingham City University, has been awarded the Campaign Medal for Services to Health from the Vietnamese Ministry of Health for her contribution to improving healthcare in the country.

Queen Mary University of London has appointed David Sadler as its new vice-principal (international). Professor Sadler, currently vice-president for academic affairs at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in China, will take up the post on 1 September.

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