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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

CONTEXT. The department is one of the most dynamic and productive in the UK (see: www.shef.
ac.uk/ trp). Graded 5 in the last RAE, its research performance has improved substantially since then. Compared with 1996, we have:
· a larger, more research active staff (13/100% returned, up from 10/91%) [RA1];
· produced research outputs of higher quality (83% are refereed papers, up from 68%) [RA2];
· supervised more PhD completions (23 doctorates awarded, up by 77% from 13) [RA3a];
· attracted more research students (36, up by 50% from 24) [RA3b];
· dramatically increased ESRC research studentships (up five-fold from 4 to 20) [RA3b]; and
· continued to derive external funding overwhelmingly from peer-reviewed sources [RA4].
Our research aims are to use the distinctive action orientation of planning research (a) to help rejuvenate learned professions in the built environment and (b) to contribute to wider social science debates. We pursue these through the research objectives of: (i) bringing theoretical insights to bear on practical problems; (ii) developing a rigorous research training culture for staff and research students; and (iii) pursuing effective dissemination strategies to ensure results reach the academy and practice. This narrative describes: our research clusters’ leading-edge contributions to theory and policy development; the research school’s key role in our research culture; the research policy and management structures which support these activities; our assessment of our performance; and our research strategy for the next five years.
RESEARCH CLUSTERS (Primary and secondary members thus). Interdisciplinary, collaborative research is emphasised by all clusters. Over half the projects cited below (indicated by ©) were conducted with other highly rated departments. Gross funding is given here (so the data do not match those in RA4). This gives a better indication of the scale of the projects with which the Department is involved. Research assistant (RA) and research student (PGR) details relate to all who commenced and/or completed their work in the RAE period (hence numbers exceed those in RA1 and RA3a). Each cluster has significant, secured external funding to extend its work into the next RAE period.
Information Management Research Cluster. Members: Bibby, Campbell, Craglia (leader), Stephenson; 7 RAs and 6 PGRs (4 ESRC funded) over the RAE period – 1.25 RAs and 3 PGRs currently. Principal focus: information-policy interactions. Activity is organised in three streams.
Geographic information (GI) policies and data infrastructures. This work includes the European Science Foundation’s GISDATA programme led by Sheffield (£635k, Masser, Craglia ©, 1993-7), research for the EC on GI-POLICY, and GI-METAdata (total €140k, Craglia, Masser ©, 1995-7), a project coordinated by Craglia examining Methods for Access to Data and Metadata in Europe (€810k, EU ©, 1998-2000) and comparative studies of policy and data infrastructures in France and Greece by 2 research students. It has had a fundamental influence on science and policy by shifting the focus of attention from the predominant technology-led paradigm towards one that is information-led and more closely embedded in the social dynamics of organisations and networks. This perspective underpins new GI Policy prepared for the EC by Craglia (see RA6) and will have major impacts across Europe as a model for public sector organisations.
Applications of geographic information for policy analysis and modelling. Significant contributions have been made to: incorporating theoretical developments in spatial analysis into the working practices of organisations; testing the robustness of different methodologies against the characteristics of the data available in real applications; and creating intelligence out of administrative data sets in novel ways to analyse the spatial variations and impacts of government policy. This work relates to a range of sectors, spatial levels and policy contexts including: Trans European Transport Networks (
355k, EU, Craglia, Masser ©, 1996-9); transport investment and the formation of firms in lagging European regions (research student); the impact of rail service change on Italian regional disparities (Ferrovie Dello Stato, Bibby, 1998); quality of life indicators for urban areas in distress (20k, EU, Craglia, 1998-9); GIS-based methodologies for assessing housing need (£39k, Housing Corporation, Bibby, Campbell, Stephenson, 1996-8; £10k Plymouth City Council, Bibby, Stephenson, 1999); accessibility to rural services, and analytical input into the „State of the Countryside“ Report (£7k Countryside Agency, Bibby, 1999); and development of a methodology for the formulation of local brownfield development targets (Bibby).
Another major initiative was the establishment (with Geography) in 1997 of the Sheffield Centre for Geographic Information and Spatial Analysis (SCGISA, Director Craglia, £127k, University grant) to promote multidisciplinary basic and applied research in the social sciences. SCGISA has fulfilled its mission through the conduct of projects of high scientific value and/or policy relevance including research on: population characteristics and the provision of police services (£68k, Home Office, Craglia, © Haining, Cambridge, 1998-9), local area crime reduction (£66k, Home Office, Craglia, 2000-01), multi-agency information sharing in Sheffield (£14k, Sheffield Safety Partnership, Craglia ©, 1997-9), and mapping the needs of children and youth in Sheffield (£10k Joint Commissioning Group, Sheffield CC and Sheffield Health, Craglia ©, 1999).
Information-communication and policy debates. Novel work is deepening understanding of how technical information and natural language are used in the construction of policy and planning discourse. Significant methodological developments involve the use of computation and natural language programming by Bibby: to analyse local plans as bundles of illocutionary acts (£4k University grant, 1996-7); to integrate GIS and logic programming to build a map interpreter (applied in practice for Plymouth City Council); to detect residential conversions by automatic interpretation of the Postal Address File and the Leaf Coppin Land-use Gazetteer (£3k, RICS Education Trust, 1999, applied in research for DETR); and to develop methods for operationalising positions in first philosophy, applied to research on rural settlements for the Countryside Agency. Campbell has applied a social interactionist perspective to computer implementation and the use of information in planning which Stephenson has extended by examining the role of technical information in the development plan policy process, Regional Planning Guidance, and methodologies for urban capacity studies (£2k, Department/University grant, 1999-2000). Related research student projects focus on cartographic acts and the construction of real-world objects, and the role of Internet-based communication and public participation in planning.
Planning Theory and Practice Research Cluster. Members: Abram, Booth, Campbell (leader), Ellis, Henneberry, Marshall, Richardson and Stephenson; 1 RA and 18 PGRs (9 ESRC funded) over the RAE period, 9 PGRs currently. Principal focus: the development of analytical and normative understanding of planning through the study of the interaction between theoretical concepts and policy and practice.
Values in Planning. The Cluster has made major contributions to debates within planning and the wider social science community about ways of theorising planning, focusing on normative concerns. Campbell and Marshall have developed highly original work applying the insights from moral and ethical theory to understanding the practice of planning and its theoretical foundations (£4k, University/Department Grant, 1996). Campbell’s period as Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley (1998) enabled a comparative contribution to be made to the debate about the interplay between private interests and public values in planning. This is complemented by Ellis’ timely study of the concept of third party rights in development control which has influenced the thinking of several NGOs including FoE, CPRE and RSPB (£2.5k, Department/University Grant, 1998-9; £1.5k, FoE, 1999). Insights into the construction of environmental responsibility in planning policies and LA21 processes have been examined by Marshall and 3 doctoral studies, the latter including innovative work on indigenous perceptions of sustainability in Trinidad and Tobago. Research students have undertaken further, related work on the construction of race in planning (2) and on how contested concepts of the common good have influenced policy on built environment conservation.
Planning Frameworks and Policy Implementation. Insightful analyses and reconceptualisations of key aspects of planning practice and policy making are a key concern. This is exemplified by Ellis’ analysis of the operation of power in development control (PhD) and Booth’s pioneering work on the role of administrative discretion in planning as well as his historical appraisal of development control which relates land use regulation to the evolution of thinking about the nature of property (£3.5k, British Academy, 1999). A major study of planning obligations and their role in mediating between planning, development interests and society has further developed the work on plan-making and regulation (£30k, Land Development Studies Trust; £2k, DETR; Campbell, Ellis, Henneberry, 1998-00). The findings have had significant implications for understanding of the nature of contemporary planning practice; of the role of financial instruments in urban regeneration and planning; and of the construction and distribution of development values in land markets. The results have informed the Urban Task Force Report, the DETR’s review of planning obligations and FoE’s submission to HM Treasury’s Review of Financial Instruments (see RA6). These analyses of regulatory planning practices are complemented by focus on substantial policy fields. Richardson has undertaken innovative studies of the practices underlying the construction of transport policies at both national and international scales, using Foucauldian discourse analysis to highlight the way tensions between economic development and environmental protection are integrated in European infrastructure planning. His work has been supplemented by the application of a new appraisal approach to examine conflicts in objectives in the implementation of transport policies in rural Scotland (£20k, Scottish Executive, © Farrington et al, Aberdeen and Cardiff, 1999-2000) and an important study of sustainable transport policy which directly influenced the policies of several local authorities (£50k, Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, © Banister et al, Manchester, 1997-9). Further comparative dimensions have been brought to the cluster’s work through Booth’s analysis of French urban policy which culminated in a conference in Lille (£1.7k, British Council Alliance Programme, Booth, 1996). Related doctoral research includes a reinterpretation of the development plan process by theorising the link between plan-making and context, a comparative study of major development projects in London and Paris and an investigation of land reform in Zimbabwe.

Governance Practices: All the preceding work is framed by studies of governance practices. A crucial dimension of this output is research analysing and reconceptualising the relationship between the state and society, most particularly the role and nature of public involvement. Abram’s highly original anthropological investigations have provided insights into how the planning process mediates the conflicting aspirations of local residents in the context of housing allocations in the South East of England (£35k, ESRC, Abram ©, Murdoch, Cardiff, 1996-7). This work on public involvement is now being extended and developed through a comparative study of community planning initiatives in Norway and Scotland (£45k, ESRC Future Governance Research Programme, Abram ©, 2000-01). The ability to carry out detailed ethnographic studies has been facilitated by Abram’s award of a visiting fellowship at the University of Oslo (£7k, 2000). Further comparative insights in public involvement are provided by Richardson’s contribution to a study examining how to democratise local planning processes in the Czech Republic under the EU PHARE TACIS Democratisation Programme (1997-8) and Campbell’s work in the United States. Richardson is also currently conducting a detailed observation of the life of a consensus building approach to countryside management in a protected area (Peak District National Park Authority, 2000-01). The development of new understandings about the theory and practice of public involvement is crucial to all these studies, most especially the way knowledge is constructed and enrolled. A substantial body of doctoral research adds further to this work including studies based in Taiwan, South Africa and Thailand which challenge western models of public involvement, studies of how the construction of democratic relationships has influenced the environmental values being propounded in relation to Local Agenda 21 (2 studies) and a discourse analysis using actor network theory to reveal the way participation initiatives are constructed in development planning. Regional governance practices have also been examined in the light of new emerging relationships. Stephenson shows how debates surrounding regional housing allocations provide insights into the concept of institutional capacity (£2k, University/Department Grant, 1998-9) and highlights both the missing links and changing role of planning as new governance structures emerge.
Urban Regeneration Research Cluster. Members: Crook, Henneberry (leader), Hughes, Valler; 5 RAs and 29 PGRs (13 ESRC funded) over the RAE period, 1.4 RAs and 12 PGRs currently. Principal focus: theory, process and policy related to urban regeneration in three areas.
Housing as a medium for the physical and social regeneration of urban areas. The cluster’s work has deepened understanding of the supply side of the private rented sector since deregulation and its response to government initiatives, especially how market processes influence the regeneration of private rented housing. The only recent comprehensive national surveys of private landlords (DoE, £72k, 1994-6, Crook, © Kemp, Glasgow; DETR; £91k, 1993-6; £110k, 1997-9; Crook, Hughes, Henneberry (latter © Kemp,)) produced new knowledge of their motives for engagement in the sector and of the implications of rent determination for investment and standards. Further research has characterised: individual equity investment in the private rented sector (£22k, ESRC, Hughes, 1995-6); the barriers to equity and debt funding by financial institutions (£25k, Rowntree (JRF), Crook, © Kemp), including specially commissioned international comparative analysis of the impact of taxation (£5k, JRF, Crook, 2000); and has produced a new methodology for measuring rates of return in the sector (£14k, British Property Federation, Crook, © Kemp, 2000). Early work on housing associations’ role in modernising former local authority estates which was one of the first to identify low demand problems (£63k, JRF, Crook, © Darke, Oxford Brookes, 1994-6) has been extended by Crook and Hughes through 6 ESRC studentships covering the design, role and management of social housing in low demand areas. The market and distributional effects of using planning obligations to achieve affordable housing provision are being explored for the first time by Crook (£159k, JRF/Housing Corporation, © Whitehead, Cambridge/LSE, 2000-01). Related doctoral work (2) covered planning and affordable housing policy in Malaysia.
The role of property in urban regeneration. Henneberry’s research on the impact of infrastructure investment on urban regeneration (£88k, ESRC Transport and Sustainability Research Programme; £68k, SYPTE/DoT; 1992-6, © Lawless et al, SHU) resulted in the identification for the first time in the UK of a discrete link between transport investment and house prices. Subsequent work (£125k, ESRC Cities: Competitiveness and Cohesion Research Programme, 1998-00, © Guy, Newcastle) made a substantial contribution to methodology and theory in property research by identifying the spatial mismatch between property development and industrial activity and the economic and social processes underlying it, and by applying a ‘cultural institutionalist’ approach to the analysis of the inter- and intra-urban behaviour of property actors. Henneberry is extending this work through 2 ESRC CASE Studentships examining the social construction of development ‘types’ (with Boots Properties plc, 1999-02) and international economic and property investment trends (with Investment Property Databank Ltd, 2000-03). Other research student projects (5) covered related aspects of development and urban policy in the UK and overseas.
Local economic development policy and urban regeneration. The results of Valler’s research on the private sector’s role in partnership organisation (£37k, ESRC, 1996-8, © Wood, Geography) challenged established rationalist and structuralist explanations via the significant development of an agency-oriented approach to the analysis of business participation in local governance. The argument was pursued through an international conference on ‘Reflections on the Institutional Turn in Local Economic Development’ (£1k, Department/University grant, Valler, © Wood, 1998) which attracted leading international scholars, including Cox, Jessop, Mayer and Peck. Papers given form the basis of a special issue of Environment and Planning A (2001) and a book (Ashgate, 2002), co-authored by Valler. Related research student projects (4) have considered various aspects of local economic and social policy. A significant initiative was the establishment of the Urban and Regional Policy Research Institute (URPRI, Co-director Henneberry, University grant £63k) in 1996 to promote policy related interdisciplinary work by the Departments of Architecture, Geography, Landscape, Politics, Sociological Studies and Town and Regional Planning. URPRI has undertaken a major evaluation of the operation of EU structural funds in the Objective 2 region of Yorkshire and the Humber (GOYH, £75k, 1997-9) and, through 2 PGRs, supported Valler’s (and © Wood’s) work on place promotion and third sector politics in the new local governance.
RESEARCH SCHOOL. The Department has one of the most successful Research Schools in the planning discipline. It is fundamental to the Department’s research activities and is housed in a dedicated building. Each student is provided with exclusive desk space and access to networked computing facilities. Our research students undertake theoretically rigorous, innovative studies within a lively, supportive, demanding and managed environment. They are fully integrated into the research life of the Department through the Research Clusters and the weekly research seminar programme (running in its current form for 8 years) and make a significant contribution to the Department’s character and culture. The Department plays a leading role in research training for planning in the UK. It has ESRC Mode A and CASE recognition and has developed a MA in Planning Research: one of very few masters courses in the discipline to receive ESRC RT recognition.
The Research School has grown from an average size of 14.3 FTE for the 1996 RAE period to currently 19.8 (RA3 data). The high quality of the research being undertaken is emphasised by the award of 20 ESRC studentships since 1996, 56% of all studentships for this period, compared to 4 awards funding 17% of research studentships in the last RAE period. In 1997 the Department secured 7 out of the 8 ESRC competition awards made to planning departments. The commitment to research at the interface between theory and practice is shown by the award of 6 ESRC CASE studentships in the last 2 years (see RA3b). The Department also hosted 2 Commonwealth Scholars. Overall, PhD degree awards have risen from 3.25 per year for the 1996 RAE period to currently 4.6. However, this hides a considerable growth in awards, 10 in 2000. Crucially, the Department has achieved a submission rate within 4 years of 70% and a completion rate of 90% (for all students; ESRC rates are higher). These figures are the product of rigorous management by Research Committee including: twice-yearly progress reviews, monitoring of supervisor performance both as part of the twice-yearly reviews and by annual anonymous student evaluation; general review of concerns by Staff: Research Student Committee; and participation by all staff in supervisor training.
Career development is a vital component of the doctoral process. Our students develop high levels of academic craft and scholarship. Since 1996, while registered full-time, research students from the Department have (i) presented 38 conference papers in 11 countries including South Africa, Kenya, Cuba, USA, Portugal, Finland and Germany; (ii) given presentations at ESRC Workshops; (iii) secured places in open competitions at, for example, AESOP and the NCGIA/GISDATA Summer Schools; and (iv) published 13 refereed journal papers, 4 book chapters and 5 other articles. Students are offered the opportunity to register on the University’s part-time Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education. All research students awarded PhDs during the RAE period (23) have obtained employment (3 lectureships in UK universities and 8 in universities overseas, 5 research associate posts in universities, 7 research posts in government or in charitable research foundations).
RESEARCH POLICY AND MANAGEMENT. The Department’s annually updated strategic plan ensures that resources effectively underpin research. The Department’s Research Committee sets research policy and monitors it through annual reviews of Department, cluster, Research School and individual activity. It manages the research element of the Department’s recurrent non-staffing budget which funds Department research studentships, entitlements for staff conference travel, and a research stimulation fund offering grants for research initiatives on a competitive basis (see Research Clusters for examples). The distribution of shares of recovered overheads to grant recipients rewards success. The Committee has editorial responsibility for the Department’s research papers series. It also monitors the work of research students and supervisors. Opportunities for staff to develop research supervision skills are offered through training and by pairing less experienced supervisors with more experienced colleagues.
The Department’s Research Clusters have a membership of staff, research assistants and research students. They act as a forum for the exchange and development of research ideas; provide advice on research funding sources and on the dissemination of research findings; and offer opportunities for participation in externally-funded projects and in writing for publication. Clusters hold regular discussion groups, seminars and workshops. Membership is not exclusive and events are open to all to encourage interdisciplinarity and collaboration in research.
The Departmental Staff Development Policy is fully integrated with research and provides substantial support for new/young researchers. It applies to academic staff and contract researchers (in line with the CVCP/Research Council Concordat) and covers, inter alia, induction, mentoring and career development. More experienced staff actively support and advise less experienced colleagues. Annual staff reviews inform the departmental staff training and development plan which includes research related actions (e.g. away days on research student supervision, on writing and publication and on obtaining external research funding). New academic staff have lower than average teaching and administrative loads to assist in the establishment of personal research programmes. A study leave programme (1 semester for each of 2 staff pa) supports individual and departmental research. The University runs a special career development programme for contract researchers. The Department is an exemplar in this regard. Crook leads the HEFCE funded study of the management of contract researchers (£240k, 2000-02). All research assistants employed during the RAE period (13) are either still with the Department or have obtained employment in academic, research or related positions.
RECRUITMENT. Following a fundamental Departmental review in 1996 it was resolved: to develop further the Department’s academic leadership of the planning discipline; consequently to reinforce the evolving focus on theory and practice in planning; and to adopt a staffing policy which emphasised the selective recruitment of high quality researchers and the continual development and internal promotion of staff. This approach underpinned the successful management of a period of rapid and profound change. Professors Choguill (ill health) and Masser (early) retired unexpectedly in 1996. All new appointments were made at lecturer level. Most new staff joined the Planning Theory and Practice cluster (Abram, Ellis, Richardson). The Information Management and Urban Regeneration clusters were maintained at their 1996 sizes. Stephenson joined the former after Masser’s departure. The Development Planning cluster, of which Choguill was the sole member in 1996, was discontinued. Campbell and Henneberry were promoted to Personal Chairs, Booth to a Readership and Craglia to a Senior Lectureship.
SELF ASSESSMENT. The Department has achieved all the currently valid objectives set in the 1996 RAE (RA5, 5.1). It has successfully restructured into three clusters. The Research School has grown and the MA Planning Research has been firmly established. The development of strategic alliances with the Universities of Cornell, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lyon-II and Aalborg and the Politechnico di Milan has continued. The successful development of SCGISA and URPRI has enhanced interdisciplinary work. International and comparative work has continued to develop. The Department’s response to the challenges it set itself has effected a substantial and beneficial change in the research culture. The subject reorientation of the Department has resulted in greater engagement in an area (planning theory) with considerable scope for scholarship but limited funding opportunities. Despite this, research income has grown substantially since 1997. The application and critical appraisal of new theoretical insights, methodological innovations and non-standard approaches has accelerated. Positivist, quantitative research, often within a mainstream economics frame, remains important (e.g. Craglia, Crook, Henneberry, Hughes,) but qualitative research applying, inter alia, ethnographic approaches (Abram, Campbell), discourse analysis (Bibby, Richardson), actor network theory (Abram) and comparative techniques (Booth) within perspectives provided by regulation/regime theory (Valler) cultural institutionalism (Henneberry) and others is of increasing significance. There is a strong commitment to the dissemination of research results involving proactive engagement with policy makers and other research users. Because teaching is thoroughly informed by research our taught students are research-aware (QAAHE, 1998; RTPI Accreditation Board, 2000).

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Last updated 17 October 2003

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