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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Since 1996 there has been a significant expansion of the academic establishment, which together with the replacement of staff who have moved, has provided an opportunity for the department to reshape its research profile. The Department has restructured its research activity away from two large research centres into four groups that better fit the research interests of the existing and newly appointed staff. In particular, since the last assessment, staff recruitment to expand our taught Masters portfolio into the areas of counselling psychology and health psychology has enabled the Department to develop a significant new research strength in these areas.

Research Groups The four current research groups together with their membership (which extends beyond staff presently returned in RA2) and specific research interests are:

Cognitive and Developmental Psychology - Dr Dickins (evolutionary psychology; language origins; theoretical psychology), Dr Hardman (reasoning; decision making), Professor Millar (infant cognition), Dr Spencer (visual development; autism; infant cognition) and Dr Ungar (spatial cognition of blind people)

Health & Counselling Psychology - Professor Bor (aviation psychology; systemic therapy; family illness), Dr Elander (pain management and sickle cell disease), Dr McCartney (personality: theory and measurement; addictive behaviours), Dr Papadopoulos (psychodermatology; medical psychology; disfigurement), and Dr Troop (eating disorders)

Neuroscience - Dr Laws (cognitive neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry) and Dr Sanders (hormones and cognitive performance)

Social & Work Psychology - Ms Baldry (360-degree feedback; self-awareness, psychometrics), Dr Charman (family relationships; criminal justice system); Ms Lochun (forensic psychology) and Ms Marson (social identification; organisational change; refugee resettlement), who has recently submitted her PhD Thesis, have joined the group.

Psychology Research Committee This departmental committee is active in three areas: (a) it is responsible for the development of departmental research strategy, (b) it co-ordinates and oversees the operation and resourcing of research activity within the department, including pump-priming for new research, (c) it scrutinises postgraduate research student MPhil/PhD proposals and regularly monitors their progress. All staff currently undertaking research are members of the Committee, which holds regular, minuted meetings and publishes an annual report of staff activity and MPhil/PhD student progress. The Chair of the Research Committee is an ex officio member of the Departmental Management Team (DMT) at whose fortnightly meetings research is a standing agenda item. This arrangement (a) ensures that research matters can inform and influence DMT discussions and decision making, and (b) provides for prompt consideration at management level of research issues as they arise. With two members on the Research & Postgraduate Programmes Committee, Psychology is unusually well placed to inform and contribute to debate on research issues at University level.

The Department’s research environment is enhanced in a number of ways:

Improved Research Facilities Staff changes enabled a strategic decision to move away from animal research, thus freeing extensive space for a long-term investment in a broader spectrum of research. With £301k of central university funding the vacated space was reconfigured and equipped in 1999 as a customised suite of laboratories to support staff and postgraduate research. The new facilities were specifically designed to provide a good fit with the new research groups and developing research areas with dedicated facilities for each of the four research groups. There is also new laboratory space for the use of undergraduate and taught postgraduate students which includes an additional networked computing laboratory with 29 desktop PCs.

Research Assistance and Research Studentships During the assessment period the Department has maintained an establishment of three research assistants to support academic staff research. In 1998 the Department successfully negotiated with the University to convert these posts into combined Research Assistant / Studentships. The postholder registers for a research degree to undertake their own research within an area cognate with that in which they provide assistance to academic staff. The creation of this novel post within the University allowed the registration of two additional MPhil/PhD students with guaranteed funding for four years.

Facilities for Postgraduate Research Students All full-time postgraduate research students have standard office facilities with a networked desktop PC and free access to photocopying. They have full use of the departmental test materials collection and research laboratories. The University annually audits the provision of these facilities. The Department has an MPhil/PhD Admissions Tutor and a Postgraduate Research Student Tutor. Research supervision is provided for each student by a Director of Studies, a second internal supervisor and a Thesis Committee. The students' progress is regularly monitored by the Departmental Research Committee and formally recorded in its minutes. Both the students and their Directors of Studies make independent annual reports to the University. The Department’s recently established Postgraduate Research Student Forum provides a forum for formal discussions between the students, their Tutor and the Head of Department.

External Research Collaboration The Department actively encourages and supports staff engaging in collaborative research with researchers in other institutions by facilitating visits with dedicated research time and financial contributions to travel and minor research expenses. This activity has been effective in stimulating research and providing access to specialist facilities and populations, e.g. Dr Laws with the Institute of Psychiatry, Dr Sanders with Cambridge University, Dr Spencer with University College London and Dr Ungar with Anglia Polytechnic University (see RA6 for a complete list).

Facilitating the Dissemination of Staff Research Output The Department commits 75% of its annually audited staff development budget to support the dissemination of staff research outputs at conferences. On average in the last five years this has enabled staff to participate at some 12 national and 7 international conferences per year.

Research Seminars A fortnightly Visiting Speakers Programme is open to undergraduates and postgraduates as well as all staff members. Each year the programme is carefully structured around a predominant theme that maps on to the interests of a particular research group. In 1999-2000 the theme reflected the interests of the Social and Work Psychology Group with presentations on discourse analysis and applications of new methodologies in social psychology. In 2000-2001 the theme reflects the interests of the Cognitive and Developmental Psychology Group. In November 2000 the Department began using staff contacts with international scholars to arrange keynote lectures closely linked to a specific aspect of the curriculum and designed to attract a wider audience of staff and students from across the University and beyond.

Research Work In Progress (RWIP) Workshops To promote familiarity and understanding of current research activity as well as facilitating a culture of mutual support and the exchange of advice and information a fortnightly programme of RWIP Workshops has been running since 1997. Staff currently engaged in research projects and postgraduate research students present the workshops to an audience of teaching, research and technical staff, and postgraduate students.

Research Papers in Psychology This recent innovation provides an opportunity for staff to distribute draft manuscripts within the Department for comment and subsequent discussion. It is especially valuable to younger researchers, allowing them to write complete articles and to present them for constructive feedback from colleagues. These arrangements extend the provision of mutual support beyond the work in progress discussions to the process of writing for publication and responding to peer review.

Research Away-Days The Department holds periodic off-site meetings to provide a relaxed and focussed, collective opportunity for staff to review and evaluate departmental research strategy and to discuss ways of facilitating and developing future research initiatives. Outcomes of these meetings include the proposals to develop the current four research groups and the Research Assistant / Studentship initiative.

Staffing Policy
Since 1996 the Department has had the unprecedented opportunity to reshape its research strategy and activity. The opportunity arose largely out of a successfully negotiated increase in academic establishment with the expansion of our postgraduate programme. This was augmented by several appointments to replace established researchers who left during the period: one from cognitive psychology, one from social psychology and two who headed up the Department’s animal research.

The Department’s staffing strategy has been three-pronged. It has appointed a number of younger staff, successfully attracted well-established researchers to key areas and created Research Assistant/Studentship posts.

The appointment of a younger group of staff was an investment made on the basis that they were at the stage of submission of doctoral research and already well engaged in initial research publication. This group includes Ms Baldry, Dr Dickins, Ms Lochun, Ms Marson, Dr Papadopoulos and Dr Spencer. These appointments have been complemented by the appointment of established researchers in the areas of Neuroscience (Dr Laws), Cognition (Dr Hardman), Health Psychology (Dr Troop) and Counselling Psychology (Professor Bor). Professor Bor and Dr Troop joined Drs Papadopoulos, and Elander to create a critical mass of research work in the Health & Counselling Psychology area.

The Department successfully negotiated with the University to create up to three Research Assistant/Studentship posts in Psychology which combine the provision of research assistance to research active staff and the opportunity for the appointee to undertake a research degree. Appointees register for a research degree within the first six months of taking up the post, which are budgeted for up to four years.

Currently, there are 25.4 full-time equivalent teaching staff (excluding two vacancies and one 2-year leave of absence). Fourteen have been appointed within the assessment period and of these 3 have obtained their PhDs since January 1996 with two awaiting a viva. In the short term, this has meant that a substantial proportion of research active staff are at an early stage of their research career, generating proposals for research projects and applying for external funding. However, all have already made significant progress in publishing their research findings (Ms Baldry, Dr Dickins, Dr Papadopoulos, and Dr Spencer). In the medium term this will increase research output.

The Department has met the challenge of developing its younger researchers by providing a dedicated research day per week for completion and submission of the PhD and providing pump priming in the form of research assistance. Integral to the staffing policy as a means of promoting research has been the provision of research `mentoring’ support for younger researchers. This has been positively achieved by having a mix of experienced researchers and the support provided by the Research Work in Progress workshops (RWIPS). Staff who have benefited from these arrangements include: Ms Baldry, Dr Dickins, Ms Lochun, Ms Marson, Dr Papadopoulos, and Dr Spencer.

In addition, newly appointed staff at all grades have a lower teaching allocation during their first year of appointment. This is intended to enable them to establish their research in the new setting and ensure research momentum during their probationary period.

Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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