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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Introduction: Background and context.

Since the 1996 assessment the psychology subject group has undergone a period of rapid growth coupled with reorganisation of the research focus. Appointed in 1996 as Dean of School, Professor Donald Pennington took direct responsibility for research development and initiated a policy of recruitment aimed at enhancing the research profile of psychology and simultaneously developed a strategy combining teaching remission and school funding directed towards supporting research activity in the group. In 1998 the Psychology Group expanded with the development of a Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology, which is a joint provision with Warwick University, and the subsequent appointment of Clinical Psychology staff. The Psychosocial Research Centre (PRC), which developed from a psychology background prior to 1996, continued to grow and develop under the directorship of its founder Professor Julie Barlow. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the research produced by the centre it is being submitted as part of UoA 11.

In 1997 Dr Chris Sterling was appointed as research lead within the psychology subject group, followed in 1998 by the appointment of Professor Louise Wallace whose role is to support research more widely within the School of Health and Social Sciences. The new appointments undertook the continuation and further development of the policies initiated by Professor Pennington. Dr Sterling left in 1999 and Dr Tony Cassidy took over as research lead for the Psychology Group in December 1999. While many of the current staff are young and new to academia the Psychology Group is currently rapidly developing as a research force and the current submission is evidence of a high level of commitment to the development of high quality research.

The policies initiated since 1996 have produced:

· An increase in the number of research active staff in post from 3 to 23, of which 12 are being returned in this submission.
· An increase in the number of research students from none to 4.
· Increase in research output from 8 to 59 refereed publications.
· A clear research strategy for the Psychology Group.

Research groups and research activity

The research activities of staff focus within three broad groups, i) The stress, lifestyles and health group, ii) The sensation and perception group, and iii) The social and applied psychology group.

i) The Stress, Lifestyles and Health Group

This group follows a theme which had been active in psychology at Coventry prior to 1996 in the work of Professor Julie Barlow and Steve Macey. Professor Barlow founded and currently directs the PRC which is part of the UOA11 submission. The work of Professor Donald Pennington and Dr Mark Forshaw reflects collaboration with the PRC. The appointment of Dr Tony Cassidy and Dr Sarah Baker in 1997 strengthened the group. Though Dr Baker moved to Keele University in 1998 collaborative work on stress and coping between Dr Baker and Dr Cassidy continues. This has produced a joint paper on stress in fire service personnel (submitted to Work and Stress) and a longitudinal study of stress, coping and outcome in undergraduate students which is a collaboration between Dr Cassidy, Dr Baker and Dr Melanie Giles at the University of Ulster. Dr Cassidy and Dr Giles are also collaborating on a project looking at the development of vulnerability to stress in older children. Dr Delia Cushway, appointed as Director of the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme, joined the group in 1998. Collaborative work between Dr Cushway and Dr Cassidy includes a research studentship which is held by Ellen Hodgkins. The appointment in 1999 of Dr Sheila Bonas and Dr Orla Dunn enhances the group further (see RA6). Professor Louise Wallace has published research in the period on a controlled trial of stress management for chronic stable angina. She has established a new research group to examine the role of catastrophic cognitions and panic disorder in chronic emphysema patients, with publications in the cognitive behaviour therapy journals. She and Professor Julie Barlow are currently collaborating with Professor Jim Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island on the development of CD ROM based interventions to influence teenage sexual activity and condom use. This project has input from Cathy Hamlyn, Head of Sexual Health at The Department of Health. Professor Wallace is also a grant holder within the Centre for Social Justice (UoA41) of a National Lottery Board grant for work on race and disability, which will produce research output in the social and health psychology journals.

Table 1: Staff contributing to the Stress, Lifestyles and Health research group

Returned staff
Non-returned staff (see RA6b)
Cassidy A J
Bonas, S
Cushway D
Dunn, O
Elliot, J (see RA6b)
Garvey, K
Forshaw, M
Pennington, D (see RA6b)
Wallace, L (see RA6b)

ii) The sensation and perception group:

There has been a theme in parapsychology at Coventry under the direction of Dr Tony Lawrence from before 1996. Dr Lawrence works in collaboration with Professor Robert Morris at Edinburgh and Dr Chris Roe at University College, Northampton. Dr Lawrence is an established expert in the field and his work has attracted widespread media attention (example the Times Higher Education Supplement). His research supports two externally funded studentships at Coventry. Dr Paul Castle was appointed in 1997 and undertook research in the area of olfaction in collaboration with Christine Broughan, Dr Chris Sterling and Professor Steve Van Toller at the University of Warwick. Dr Castle and Dr Sterling left in 1999 and the work has been continued by Christine Broughan, who still collaborates with Professor Toller and Dr Sterling. More recently Christine has been working with Professor Graham Bell at the University of New South Wales. The group has been strengthened by the appointment of Dr Laura Taylor and Dr Mark Norrish in 1999 and the very recent appointment in 2000 of Dr John Williams. Dr Taylor, Dr Norris and Dr Williams have recently completed their PhDs and are new to academia. Dr Taylor is included in the submission because of two substantive publications. Dr Taylor works in the area of theory of mind and is currently developing collaborative work with Dr Cushway on theory of mind in children’s dreams and a project on bullying with Dr Cassidy. A paper from the latter is being presented at the BPS Centenary conference in March 2001.

Table 2: Staff contributing to the Sensation and Perception research group

Returned staff
Non-returned staff (see RA6b)
Broughan, C
Eames, K
Lawrence, T
Norrish, M
Taylor, L (see RA6b)
Plester, B
Williams, J

ii) The social and applied psychology group

The work of Dr Tracey Swaffer on the social and psychological aspects of crime and delinquency reflects a theme that predates the 1996 assessment at Coventry. Dr Swaffer has worked in collaboration with Professor Clive Hollin at Leicester University and is currently based at Rampton Hospital where she moved in 1999. Dr Sara Willott joined the group in 1997 and has made a strong and valued contribution from the perspective of critical social psychology. Her work focuses on male identity and covers crime and unemployment. The social and psychological aspects of crime theme was strengthened through the appointments of Sarah Brown and Julie Harrower in 1999 and Dr David Giles in 2000. Sarah Brown’s work focuses on attitudes towards the treatment of sex offenders and Dr Giles has published on memory and eye witness accounts though his main focus is on parasocial interaction. The applied theme is reflected in the work of Professor Wallace on aspects of management and culture in organisations and Dr Ghulam Nabi on career development. Nigel Lloyd’s work has reflected a more general social psychological focus but he is currently moving into research on work. Dr Cassidy’s work also contributes to this theme in terms of a number of projects on organisational identification and coping styles which have been presented at national conferences and a second collaborative project with Dr Baker at Keele on unemployment and underemployment in recent graduates. Dr Giles and Dr Cassidy have been successful with the first stage of a funding bid to the Leverhulme Trust for a project on parasocial interaction and adolescent health.

Table 3: Staff contributing to the Social and Applied Psychology research group

Returned staff
Non-returned staff (see RA6b)
Giles, D
Brown, S
Nabi, G
Harrower, J
Willott, S
Howat, D
Cassidy T (see also Table 1)
Lloyd, N

Subject group support for research

The research strategy initiated by Professor Pennington and further developed by Professor Wallace within the school has been mirrored in the development of a subject specific research strategy within the psychology subject group. Staff recruitment focuses on further enhancing research and research active staff are supported through teaching remission and time tabling. The current research lead, Dr Cassidy, works closely with the head of subject, Julie Harrower and indeed with all of the subject group on all matters to do with research. The programme of research seminars initiated in 1997 within the subject group has continued and provides a base for dissemination and discussion of research amongst the group. Subject group support is currently based around the very active Psychology Research Interest Group (see RA5c).

Over £120k has been spent on building and modifying space to accommodate research. In the period 1998-9 new laboratory space was developed to accommodate research on odours and smell, cognitive and physiological research, and social and developmental research. In addition more sophisticated equipment for use in physiological research was purchased and installed, and a library of psychometric tests developed. These facilities support a range of research themes.
The Olfaction laboratory directly supports the work of Christine Broughan on odours. The social laboratory supports the social and developmental themes and research involving interviewing and video tape recording. The physiological laboratory supports research on stress and health for example work on measuring immune function through saliva assays being carried out Ellen Hodgekins as part of her PhD programme.

Staffing policy

There has been a substantial turnover of staff in the subject group during this RAE period and much of the current policy is a response to this turnover as well as the substantial growth in the size of the subject group in the past 2-3 years. While the departure of category B staff has impacted on the research groupings to some extent, replacements have allowed more of a focus on themes. The departure of Dr Paul Castle whose area was olfaction, and Dr Chris Sterling and Dr Barlow Wright whose area was cognitive neuroscience in 1999 refocused the sensation and perception group and their replacements Dr Norrish, Dr Taylor and Dr Williams bring new strengths to this altered focus. Two new appointments were made in February 2001 to take up posts in June 2001, and a number of other posts are anticipated.
On appointment all new staff are given an induction which involves meetings with the research lead for the subject and Professor Wallace, current chair of the School Research Committee. They are also invited to participate in the research seminars and the Research Interest Group. Both the school and the subject group provide encouragement and support for new staff and those not research active to engage in research. Timetables are organised around the principle of providing at least one research day per week for all staff and taking into account the current research activity of each member of staff. Funding is provided on a competitive basis by the School Research Committee, for pump priming and supporting current projects. For example school funding supported the employment of a temporary RA over the summer vacation 2000 on a project with Dr Cassidy which led to two papers presented to the BPS London conference in December 2000.

Self Assessment

In the 1996 submission it was pointed out that psychology as a distinct subject group had only been established in 1993. The current submission reflects a substantial achievement in 7 years against a back cloth of rapid growth in psychology as an academic subject nationally and at Coventry with the concomitant changes in teaching and learning strategies and the types and levels of course offered. The specific projects identified in the 1996 submission for Dr Lawrence and Dr Swaffer have been successfully completed and are included on RA2. Dr MacAndrew left in 1996. The project on motor sport was completed and published by Dr Judy Eaton who left in 1999 and is not included in RA2. Collaborative work with the PRC has continued and the health theme has evolved as the strongest current theme in psychology at Coventry. The changes have now been consolidated in a firm research strategy as outlined in RA5c. This strategy will produce substantial increases in high quality research and increased bids for external funding over the next few years.


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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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