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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

INTRODUCTION
The School of Earth Sciences is committed to a vigorous research programme centred on the three areas of hydrogeology, palaeobiology, and tectonic processes. Following the last RAE, research in the School has been substantially reorganised to enable and encourage innovative, multidisciplinary research on strategic, process-centred science goals. The composition of the teams created within the current research group structure reflects this decision. The Hydrogeology Research Group embraces environmental geophysics, applied mathematics, numerical modelling, and organic and inorganic geochemistry. The Palaeobiology & Palaeoenvironments Research Group encompasses systematic, phylogenetic and ecological approaches together with sedimentology, and the Tectonics & Basins Research Group integrates structural geology, basin analysis, marine and terrestrial geophysics and magmatic studies. The composition of the groups allows their distinctive research aims to develop coherently whilst promoting cross-group interactions and cross-fertilization of concepts and techniques. For example, ties exist between the Tectonics & Basins and the Palaeobiology & Palaeoenvironments research groups in the areas of redbed stratigraphy, palaeoenvironments, the thermal history of basins
, and in Caledonian and related tectonics. Complementary themes are exploited in the area of fluid flow modelling, an essential expertise of the Hydrogeology Research Group that is also employed by the Tectonics & Basins Research Group, to understand the expulsion of fluids from accretionary wedges and thermal advection in sedimentary basins. Two members of staff (Ixer and Ashworth) work actively, but independently, in their chosen research fields ('mineralisation and mineral archaeology' and 'metamorphic processes and textures'), as these fall outside the research domains of the three groups.
Several appointments have been made to strengthen the restructured group framework. Two chairs (Hutton, Mackay) were appointed in 1997 to head the Tectonics & Basins and Hydrogeology research groups respectively and, subsequently, four lectureships have been added in key areas (Riley, Rivett, Sansom and Thomson). A NERC Research Fellow (Donoghue) will transfer to a lectureship on completion of his fellowship in 2002. Of the newly appointed staff, most are young researchers, and 50% of the Category A staff are under the age of 45. Two new research appointments are approved for 2001/2002, and both appointees are expected to transfer to lectureships after three years. Five research contract staff will also join the School in the next 6 months. Two 3-year appointments in the areas of hydrogeological modelling and environmental geophysics will start in May.
Research activity and output has increased significantly across the whole spectrum of activity since 1996, embracing high-quality personal and postgraduate research as well as research supported by grants and contracts. Annual grant income has doubled in 4 years. Publication output includes 201 papers in international journals and edited works and the population of postgraduate research students has increased substantially, from 26 registered during the last RAE cycle to 53 registered between 1996 and 2000. All these measures demonstrate the renewed research vigour that has been cultivated throughout the School during the last five years.

Research management
Research is co-ordinated and monitored at the School level through a Research Committee that comprises a Research Chairman (Hutton) together with representatives of the research groups and the Postgraduate Research Tutor. The Research Committee has the remit to develop policy on research strategy, establish the balance of support between groups, encourage new initiatives and bids for research facilities, advise on staffing issues, and monitor and advise on grant applications and grant progress. The committee meets regularly with the Head of School and three of its members also sit on the School Strategy Committee. In addition, members of the committee interview and appoint research students, and oversee the monitoring of their training and progress. The research student population is financially supported by a broad portfolio of research council, industry, governmental and School-funded studentships. Research is disseminated within the School through research group meetings, weekly research seminars, Lapworth Society lectures (involving distinguished outside speakers)
and our annual, in-house, two-day research student colloquium. A programme of refurbishment and rejuvenation of school facilities has been carried forward alongside the development of shared facilities across the University, such as the Centre for Electron Microscopy that incorporates SEM, TEM and FEG-ESEM instruments and the Freshwater Aquatics Research Laboratory. Within the RAE period, the School's fluids laboratory has been fully refitted, extensive replacement of instrumentation in the rock magnetics laboratory has been completed, and a comparative histology facility has been established. Most recently, the School's research computing laboratory has undergone an extensive upgrade which includes the addition of five new high performance workstations.
The School benefits from the continuing active involvement of emeritus staff (Coope, Lloyd and Hallam) and honorary staff within the research groups. Young lecturers and research fellows are present in all three research groups and, from the earliest stage, are fully integrated and involved in research group activities. They have formal mentors in addition to their group leaders, and their teaching hours and administrative duties are kept at a low level in order to allow their research profiles to develop
. Additionally, new staff are required to complete a 100-hour University course that contains important and relevant material to research. The School strongly encourages all staff to participate in the rolling programme of sabbatical research leave.

Review of RAE 1996 objectives
The principal objectives outlined in the 1996 RAE document have been met (see research group activities for details) but new staff appointments and the group restructuring have also allowed several additional projects to be completed
. The School’s participation in a major University initiative in environmental science, as proposed at the last RAE, resulted in strong collaborative links between the Hydrogeology Research Group and the School of Geography and Environmental Science through the CERT. This collaboration contributed to the Group's success in the URGENT thematic research programme on Urban Regeneration, funded by the NERC, and continues to develop strongly through the lowland catchment research initiative, LOCAR, funded by the JIF and NERC.


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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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