Scottish pooling model could make UK splash

April 23, 2009

A model being trialled in Scotland for sharing research across disciplines and institutions could be adopted across the UK.

Research pooling, in which different universities work together to improve their results, has already been deemed a success in Scotland, with many universities being rewarded for their collaborative work in last year's research assessment exercise.

Now, at a conference hosted by the University of St Andrews on the topic of knowledge transfer earlier this month, researchers have agreed to broaden the model across disciplines, with academics from different universities and subjects set to work together on a series of major projects.

Alan Miller, former vice-principal for research at St Andrews, said the future was "very much interdisciplinary" and that Scotland was well placed to test the model.

"Because we are a small country, we can grapple with new models more readily than the whole of the UK," he said.

He added that Scotland expected the rest of the UK to follow its lead: "Certainly, research pooling has created a huge amount of interest," he said.

"It's quite a unique model where we flip from universities competing with each other to working collaboratively, as if they are one single department."

David Gani, director of research policy and strategy at the Scottish Funding Council, agreed that Scottish universities were best placed to trial the model.

He said: "In Scotland, we have been able to cultivate a culture of collaboration and expertise in facilities-sharing. This has led to a strong foundation for other types of collaboration, investment and joint working."

Professor Miller added: "If we can then build knowledge transfer into the pooling agenda, it is something that the rest of the UK will be interested in.

"Even five years ago when we were putting the research pools together, knowledge transfer hardly came into the discussion at all. But all the more recent pools have had to have it very high on the agenda."

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