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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

(a) Research Structure and Environment
The Department has undergone a steep upward curve of development since 1996, establishing a vibrant doctoral programme and a corpus of research active staff. The University’s research aspirations for this new Department were underscored by the early appointment of a senior media research figure with an international reputation (Gunter) as Director of Research. As the first applied journalism department in the UK to give such emphasis to research, we have led or been a partner in research projects, many of which has been inter-disciplinary, grossing over £400k in the review period.
The Department has obtained research funding from government, industry (broadcasting and print), research councils and charitable bodies. Two large studies of the representation of violence on television were funded by broadcasting consortia (BBC, BSC, BSkyB, Channel 4, ITC, ITV) during the 1994-97 period. This research yielded a book and three journal papers, informed public debate about the regulation of TV violence and received widespread media coverage. Together with SIBLE (Sheffield Institute of Biotechnological Law & Ethics), the Department completed a major study for the Ministry of Agriculture (1997-98) on media and public understanding of biotechnology, which yielded a book-length technical report for MAFF, a paper to the House of Lords committee on regulation of biotechnology, and two journal papers. A study of the implications for journalism practice of contempt of court law for the Alexander Maxwell Law Trust yielded a handbook for journalists. EPSRC-funded research (partnered with Computer Science and the Press Association) has established a text analysis system (software driven) to determine the uptake of PA feed by major newspapers.
The Department has been successful at converting its research into academic publications. During the review period, staff published 12 scholarly books (contributing to theoretical and research literature), 34 refereed journal articles, 16 book chapters, 8 non-refereed publications, 23 conference papers, and 5 technical reports for research sponsors on journalism and media issues.

Research Links: International. The International reputations of the staff members have enabled the Department to engage in a range of collaborative research projects with other institutions in Europe and elsewhere. Such projects include: research into media coverage of sleaze in Europe with the University of Navarra, Spain (Sanders); newsroom and political coverage research with the University of Wellington, New Zealand and University of Navarra, Spain (Sanders); impact of digitisation on newsroom practices with University of Navarra, Spain (Sanders, Harrison); and governance of sport in Europe with Department of Sociological Studies, Sheffield University and University of Loughborough in the UK and a network of European partners (Harrison); comparative work with the University of California, Santa Barbara on measuring TV violence (Gunter).

Research Links: UK. Research here includes studies of the impact of the introduction of broadcast TV on the island of St. Helena with Cheltenham & Gloucester College of HE and University of Plymouth (Gunter); audience memory for TV advertising with UCL and Middlesex University (Gunter); European media regulation with University of Essex (Harrison); journalists’ use of the Internet, with City University Internet Studies Group (Cole).

Research Links: University. An early objective was to establish an inter-disciplinary network of research partners across the University. Research links have been firmly established with many other disciplines (e.g., Computer Science, English, Information Studies, Law, Management, Medicine (Departments of Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Paediatrics, Nursing and Midwifery, and School of Health and Related Research), Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology), through joint research projects, grant applications and supervision of research students. The Department is represented on the management boards of the Institute of Language, Speech and Hearing (ILASH), Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), and Political Economy Research Centre (PERC).

The Department’s research structure can be considered under the following headings: (1) Research Committee; (2) Advisory Committee; (3) Research Clusters; and (4) Postgraduate Research.

(1) Research Committee. Research strategy is managed by the Research Committee which meets approximately bi-monthly and whose chairman (Gunter) reports to every departmental meeting. It allocates funds for research stimulation and the support of junior members of staff and doctoral students with research-related expenses (e.g., conference attendance); and arranges regular research seminars for staff and research students. It also reviews performance of departmental Research Clusters (see below) and provides feedback on research proposals and grant bids.

(2) Advisory Committee. The Department appointed an advisory committee of media industry professionals (Peter Charlton, Editor, Sheffield Star; Clive Jones, CEO, Carlton TV; Clare Mulholland, ex-deputy-CEO, ITC; Paul Potts, Editor-in-Chief, Press Association; Alan Rusbridger, Editor, Guardian; Ray Snoddy, Media editor, The Times; Donald Trelford, Visiting Professor) to offer advice on research strategy, networking within industry, research sponsorship and course development (often stemming from research). The committee meets twice a year with the Head of Department and Director of Research, reviews the Department’s research agenda and provides advice on industry interests and links, and on the dissemination of research to the public.

(3) Research Clusters. Much of the Department’s research is organised in clusters comprising academic staff and research students. Clusters hold meetings approximately bi-monthly to plan and initiate research, network with other researchers in the field, and construct grant bids. There are two principal clusters: (1) Euro Media and (2) Violence, Crime and Media.
The Euro-Media cluster (Sanders, Harrison, Gunter, Cole and two PhD students) is concerned with examining media structures, media regulatory and ethical issues (with special emphasis on journalistic practice in print and broadcast media) and trade in media products across Europe. In the review period, research under its major themes has yielded 3 books (with 2 more under contract), 4 journal papers, 1 book chapter, and 3 conference presentations. It has participated in a collaborative research application, the results of which are awaited, for an Accompanying Measures (Stimulation Grant) from the EU to examine the Governance of Sport in Europe (Harrison). It is also involved in research into standards in journalism practice with media departments in Amsterdam, Madrid, Dresden, Paris, Tours and Pamplona (Sanders).
The Violence, Crime and Media cluster (Gunter, Wykes, Harrison and two PhD students) is concerned with pursuing theoretical and empirical studies of media representations of crime and violence or conflict. Its research has investigated violence on television and journalistic issues related to the reporting of crime and conflict. Outputs from research on its major themes include: 4 books, 4 book chapters, 10 journal papers, 7 conference papers (5 at international events) and one technical paper (for the British Board of Film Classification).

(4) Postgraduate Research. From a single research student in its first year of existence (1994-95), increasing to 4.0 ftes in 1996, the Department has 8.75 ftes in 2000-2001, divided evenly between UK and overseas candidates. Three students have so far graduated with PhDs (Arundel, 1999; Campbell, 1999; AlShehri, 2000). Three more will complete in 2001. UK research students have been funded by grants from the Percy Hoskins Memorial Trust, the Alexander Maxwell Law Trust, the broadcast industry, and departmental awards. The Department has established its own training programme for research students guided by ESRC and University requirements. Details of this programme are published in the Department’s Research Training Guidelines, also available on the web. Each research student has access to PC-based workstations (with word processing, spreadsheet and statistical package [SPSS] access) in dedicated office space within the Department.
(b) Staffing Policy

The Department expects all staff on academic grades to continue to improve their research activity. Good research performance is an integral part of staff development and plays a key part in determining promotion. The Department operates a mentoring system for junior academic staff whereby the Director of Research advises on targets and reviews performance annually, identifying where support may be needed. This process may lead to recommendation of financial support. During the review period, University and department research stimulation funds have assisted the development of three junior-level staff (Harrison, Sanders, Wykes). In 2000, Professor Trelford stood down as Head of Department and was replaced by Professor Cole. The latter is an experienced journalist and academic department head with special research interests in journalism and the Internet and will lead the Department’s expansion into this field. Following the departure of Wykes in early 2001, three new appointments are being made (1 x SL, 2 x L) both to build on her input and to strengthen the Department’s research activity in areas including electronic journalism and European media regulation and structures. This expansion is testimony to the Department’s future research ambitions, which are firmly located in media practice.

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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