Vision and Recommendations

Vision and Recommendations

Posted by Anne Horan on Jul 29, 2011 7:05 pm

The future of higher education chemistry departments in the UK should be shaped by excellence and competitiveness in research and teaching
Over the next 10 years, a coherent UK university research and innovation strategy is in place which is based on excellence and competiveness.
To do this requires:
  • World-class undergraduate chemical sciences teaching attracting high numbers of the best students living in all areas of the UK as well as from around the world.
  • The UK is a dynamic and successful region in the global arena. It attracts and keeps world-leading researchers, as well as international research and commercial investment.
  • Funders, Government and the science community define a national strategy and research priorities together.
To achieve this vision, the following steps (3.1 - 3.7) need to happen.

  1. Are the vision and steps 3.1 - 3.7, appropriate?
  2. Do steps 3.1 - 3.7 miss or overlook any important areas?
  3. Who should coordinate the proposed steps 3.1 - 3.7?
  4. How can we ensure that efforts made by HEI’s are effective and communicated across the sector?
  5. Where can cost savings be made, and how should savings be prioritised?
  6. How can we measure our progress and what indicators would indicate success?
Please contribute your views on the Chemistry Landscape MyRSC forums, providing evidence, where appropriate.
Attached Files

Some comments from the School of Chemistryon the document "The Chemistry Lanscape", The University of Manchester

Posted by Christopher Whitehead on Sep 7, 2011 2:52 pm

Some comments from the School of Chemistryon the document "The Chemistry Lanscape", The University of Manchester

p. 1: “Laboratory infrastructure is a key R&D enabler but in 2011 capital funding for infrastructure was reduced by 50%...”
Strictly, thsi remark applies only to EPSRC's funding of capital equipment. In Manchester we have been fortunate that in recent years there has been investment in laboratory refurbishment and equipment.  However, without an underlying funding stream to maintain the infrastructure, the ability to undertake world-leading research will rapidly be degraded.
p. 3 “The interface between industry and higher education is essential to the growth of chemistry-using industry sectors”
The North West, with its concentration of chemistry-using companies, offers considerable scope for industry-academic interaction and already has many excellent examples of good practice.  For example, the Organic Materials Innovation Centre (OMIC) pioneered a highly successful model of collaboration, extended through the Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC), in which project scientists are available for the types of short industrial project that are otherwise difficult to undertake within an academic environment.  However, this type of activity needs to be underwritten through a basic level of funding.

p.4  "Careers guidance and training opportunities for chemists working in SMEs"
University careers services need to be informed about the changing landscape in employment prospects within the chemical industry in particular the move towards away from the large companies to activity in smaller SMEs.  This requires a big change in how they work.

p. 4 2.5
This should read "Industry and Universities work together to develop courses........"

p . 5 The UK as a Region

There must always be an agenda that encourages growth and investment in the regions and equal opportunity geograpphically. Otherwise, manufacturing and the supporting education will become strong in some regions and wither in others.  Regionalism needs proactvie support.
p. 6 “Universities, Government and industry take a longer-term approach to research”
It is often said that the UK research base is highly inventive, but very poor at taking invention through to commercialization.  The greatest barrier to implementing research results within the UK is the extremely short-term vision of UK industry, which in turn is driven by short-term thinking in the City of London.  A long-term approach to research requires long-term thinking in the City. 
p. 6 “the best innovation happens at the interfaces between strong core disciplines ”
Both the need to maintain strong core disciplines and the importance of effective collaboration at the interfaces between disciplines should be underlined.  From the perspective of individual researchers, there has to be a mechanism for properly recognizing the contributions of all partners in a collaboration – chemistry must not be perceived as merely providing a service to other disciplines.
p. 6 “‘Fundamental’ and ‘applied’ research cease to be considered as separate entities by the community”
Whilst a subdivision between ‘fundamental’ and ‘applied’ research is a gross oversimplification, the need to maintain a healthy level of ‘curiosity-driven’ research must not be overlooked.  Today’s industries are founded on yesterday’s curiosity-driven research and serendipitous results.  The desire to meet specific challenges must not restrict the ability of researchers to follow interesting results in any direction they might lead.

p. 7  "PhD and postdoctoral training"
It is vital that the role played by Ph.D students in research is recognised. A Ph.D. is not solely a training in research but a contribution made by the individual to research output (this is implicit in the conditions of the award of a Ph.D.).  The research output of many HE Chemistry groups depends significantly on their contribution and the withdrawal of project studentships as a part of a well designed and manged research project will signficnalty weaken the UK's research competiveness in Chemistry.

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