New government strategy will ‘put people at the heart of R&D’

The R&D People and Culture Strategy seeks to attract, support and retain world-class talent in UK research

The government has launched a R&D People and Culture Strategy designed to boost the UK’s reputation as a global hub for research and innovation.

The new strategy has been published alongside the government’s Innovation Strategy, and was developed in collaboration with the sector, including academia, industry and charities and organisations such as Universities UK and pharmaceutical company GSK.

As part of the R&D People and Culture Strategy, the government is to review the research funding offer “to retain, attract and support the very best researchers, innovators and their teams”. It will also undertake a review of youth engagement “to encourage more, and more diverse, young people into research and innovation careers”.

As we build back better by unleashing innovation, it’s vital that we create a research environment that attracts and retains people from all backgrounds – science minister Amanda Solloway

The new commitments include: developing a ‘New Deal’ for post-graduate research students following a UKRI-led cross-sector consultation later this year; supporting training programmes to encourage more interaction between academia, industry and the charity sector; and a ‘Good Practice Exchange’ to help ensure “the right culture” is created within academia, by developing talent, tackling bullying and harassment and promoting diversity.

“The incredible work of the UK’s scientists and researchers over the past year in response to the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us how crucial it is to make R&D a compelling and inclusive career path for as many people as possible,” said science, research and innovation minister Amanda Solloway.

“This Strategy is driven by our vision of a more inclusive, dynamic, productive and sustainable UK R&D sector in which a diversity of people and ideas can thrive to drive economic and societal benefit for the UK. As we build back better by unleashing innovation, it’s vital that we create a research environment that attracts and retains people from all backgrounds so that we can continue making cutting edge discoveries while cementing UK’s status as a science superpower.”

An R&D system is only as good as the people working within it – Stephanie Smith, Russell Group

The announcement of the R&D People and Culture Strategy  was welcomed by the Russell Group, whose head of policy Stephanie Smith said:

“An R&D system is only as good as the people working within it and the strategy published today sets out important steps we can take together to recruit and retain world leading domestic and international talent for the UK. It’s great to see government take forward many of the recommendations included within the Russell Group’s ‘Realising our Potential’ report on building a positive UK research culture.

“In developing the next generation of research stars and striving to build a research culture which supports individuals and teams, universities will be critical to reaching the goals set out in the People and Culture Strategy and we will be working with colleagues from across the sector to deliver positive change.”

In March, the government also launched a review into research bureaucracy, led by University of Sussex vice-chancellor Professor Adam Tickell, to tackle the rise of bureaucracy in UK research and “free up researchers to pursue world class research” by removing excessive and complicated administrative demands. Interim findings are expected in the autumn.


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