Category Archives: Research Support

Pump priming applications invited

Research Development, Research Support.

The Research Office are pleased to announce that there are enough funds left in the 2011/12 pump priming budget to fund an additional 8 projects. It has therefore been decided to hold an additional round.

The Research Office would like to invite all staff below Professorial grade and who have not previously been awarded pump priming funds to apply. Professorial staff who entered the University on the grade directly from industry or a professional background, but whose previous role did not include research are also eligible to apply.

All applications will be reviewed by the assessment panel, who will decide which of the applications should be supported. Priority will be given to early career researchers.

The deadline for applications is 5pm Monday, 25 June. Completed applications forms should be returned to Anna Ramberg on anna.ramberg.1@city.ac.uk (one hard copy with signatures plus one sent as an email attachment).

For more information, guidance and the downloadable application form go to https://intranet.city.ac.uk/staff/research_support/research_support/city_opportunities/pumppriming.html.

New rules on Boarding Passes for all EC-FP7 project participants

Research Support.

City University London received a visit from the audit firm Ernst & Young in relation to declaring the costs incurred on certain FP7 projects. The auditors have been advised by the European Commission to check that travel boarding passes are kept and presented as part of the audit trail. Therefore with immediate effect all participants in projects are required to submit their boarding passes for travel paid by an EC-FP7 grant.

In February Ernst & Young were appointed by the European Commission to audit some of the cost statements the University had submitted to the European Commission in declaring costs incurred on certain FP7 projects. The audit firm was pleased with the way the files were presented. This may sound trivial but the auditors have to look through big stacks of paperwork and presentation is essential for good cooperation. EC auditors want to see the audit trail for every item of expenditure and any item of expenditure for which the University cannot provide the related invoice or receipt at the time of the audit or within reasonable time thereafter will be disallowed, meaning that the cost has to be met from other budgets. Any salary cost for which no signed timesheets are presented will be disallowed – this also explains the Research Office’s insistence on timesheets.

The Research Office also received an important hint at the last audit visit about future compliance checks. Auditors have been advised by the Commission to check that boarding passes are kept and presented as part of the audit trail.

All participants in EC-FP7 projects are therefore required to submit their boarding passes for travel paid by an EC-FP7 project either to the Research Office directly or as part of an expenses claim in relation to that particular travel.

The need to present boarding passes as part of the audit trail implies that only travel which has actually occurred can be claimed back from the project. If the University has paid for a flight ticket but the University staff in question did not in the event travel, the European Commission will not pay. You may now ask what if a flight is missed because of unforeseen delays on the way to the airport or the staff member in question had to cancel because of sickness. The Financial Guidelines for FP7 do not explicitly refer to these cases. However, according to the guidelines, only activity that has taken place can be charged to the project. Missed or cancelled flights are activity that has not taken place, hence not an eligible cost to the project. Such cases should be discussed with Purchasing Services for refund from the supplier or more likely refund through the University’s insurance.

Once again it is essential to submit your boarding passes for all travel undertaken as part of an EC-FP7 project as soon as possible. This requirement is effective immediately.

For more information please contact Dr Claudia Kalay in the Research Office on claudia.kalay.1@city.ac.uk.

REF Code of Practice now available

Research Support.

The draft Code of Practice for the selection of staff for REF 2014 is now available on the REF microsite. This has been considered in a number of University committees and approved for dissemination to staff in its draft form. The University is required to submit its Code to the Funding Councils by 31 July 2012 for approval for use during the selection process for REF 2014. The current draft will be reviewed after the REF rehearsals, which are now underway, and in the light of any further feedback received.

Further discussion is also to take place with the Equality Committee regarding the details of the process for dealing with any sensitive personal circumstances raised by staff. This part of the process allows for the inclusion of staff in the University REF submission with fewer than the required number of research outputs without incurring any penalty.

The document includes a cover paper which explains the background to the Code and the points raised in discussion within the University. The draft Code sets out the details of the procedure which will be used in the selection process. There is still further work to be done both within Schools and at University level through the REF Steering Group to define the criteria against which staff will be selected for each Unit of Assessment, within the context of a University threshold requiring four outputs of at least 3* quality (or a reduced number of outputs where individual circumstances apply in accordance with the REF guidance on submissions), unless there is a strategic reason for the inclusion of a member of staff with fewer outputs at this quality level. These details will be published along with the final version of the Code later in the year.

The threshold for inclusion has been set in the context of the future funding of research in universities through the QR funding received from the Higher Education Council Funding for England. It has been confirmed that funding will only be provided after REF 2014 for research assessed as of 3* or 4* quality, with considerable weighting towards 4* activity expected. All UK universities are therefore focusing their REF submissions on research activity of the highest quality.

You can read more about this and download the Code via www.city.ac.uk/ref/preparations-at-city/equality-code.

City awarded €230k for a Food chain assessment project

Research Development, Research Support.

City University London has been awarded €230k for a project titled “Global and local food chain assessment: a multi-dimension performance-based approach” (GLAMUR). This grant follows the recent award of €151k for another EU collaborative project on “Harmonised environmental sustainability in the European food and drink chain” (SENSE).

The general objective of GLAMUR is to integrate advancement in scientific knowledge of the impact of food chains (with application of knowledge to practice) and to increase the sustainability of food chains through public policies and private strategies. Dr David Barling, Reader in Food Policy in the School of Health Sciences, is the key person responsible for the successful project application.

“We would like to congratulate Dr Barling for taking a leadership role in establishing and building up relations with lead European institutions on food policy. By pursuing international collaboration in this way, Dr Barling has helped to raise City’s profile as well as attracting funding for research,” said Dr Dilly Tawakkul, International Research Development Manager in the Research Office. “Dr Barling, with the support of his colleagues in the Centre for Food Policy, has attracted over €850k research income through EU-funded projects in the last three years and has built up a solid network for food policy studies with 23 different countries across Europe. His achievement is remarkable.”

This three-year project is funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). Fifteen different partner institutions are involved covering ten countries across Europe. The total award for the project is €3 million.

FP7 is the EU’s main instrument for funding research in Europe. It is made up of four main blocks of activities forming four specific programmes: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. FP7 supports research in selected priority areas, including health, ICT, energy, environment, transport, security, social sciences and humanities. There are new calls for proposals every year and the deadlines are normally between October and April. For more information please follow the link: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/participate_en.html

The Work Programme for the next round is expected to be published around 20 July but the preparation has already begun. For more information and professional support, please contact Dr Dilly Tawakkul in the Research Office on dilly.tawakkul.1@city.ac.uk.

Changes in the EPSRC peer review process

Research Development, Research Support.

In line with its Strategic Plan published in 2010, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has undertaken further work over recent months in shaping its portfolio of research and training in “areas, which are internationally excellent and nationally important”. As a result ESPRC investment, i.e. funding portfolios, will be managed to give more weight and budget resources to the identified priority areas.

Over recent months the EPSRC has reviewed the peer review process in consultation with a group of experienced panel members and chairs. The peer review process is central to the assessment of applications received. The EPSRC website features a detailed description of the peer review process and its implications for the assessment of applications. A good starting point to learn about the process is the FAQ section of the EPSRC website.

Research quality remains pre-eminent in assessing applications. However in line with its Strategic Plan, the EPSRC has introduced National Importance as a major secondary criterion for the review process. National Importance is “the extent to which the research proposed has the potential, over 10-50 years, to meet national strategic needs”.

All reviewers are expected to comment on how a proposal fits the criterion of National Importance. Proposals should take account of this criterion and address the national importance of the proposed research.

Review panels will also be given a contextual briefing by the EPSRC in the wider context of the portfolio.  All reviewers will be asked from April onwards to comment “on how the research fits with and complements other UK research already funded in the area or related areas, including the relationship to the EPSRC portfolio and strategy”.

The EPSRC will still accept and fund proposals in all the thematic areas covered by its remit. But as investment will be pulled more towards priority areas, some areas will see reduced funding allocations and hence potentially stronger competition for funds. If you are interested in EPSRC’s fellowship opportunities, please consult the list of priority areas first as the Council will only fund fellowships in those areas.

The portfolio and investment plans are summarised on the EPSRC website.

The areas in which fellowships are available have been updated and can be found on: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/fellows/Pages/areas.aspx.

Applicants are expected to describe their proposal in the context of the portfolio from April 2012 onwards.

For more information please contact Dr Claudia Kalay in the Research Office on claudia.kalay.1@city.ac.uk.

City at the Digital Shoreditch Festival 2012

Enterprise Support, Research Support.

Mark 21 May to 1 June 2012 in your diaries, because City University London is planning exciting workshops and training events during the two weeks of the Digital Shoreditch Festival.

Digital Shoreditch is a celebration of the outstanding creative, technical and entrepreneurial talent of East London and Tech City. Cass Business School, the School of Informatics, the Department of Journalism and the Enterprise Office are all heavily involved in the project. Together they will organise a wide range of workshops, where the topics will vary from digital marketing to raising funding for new technology start-ups.

“Through our participation in the Digital Shoreditch Festival we aim to enhance the presence of City University London at the Silicon Roundabout”, said Leo Castellanos, who spearheads City’s involvement in Digital Shoreditch.

John Rennie, Lecturer in Journalism, is planning to run a digital newspaper during the two weeks of the event.

“John Rennie is engaging undergraduate students as volunteers to go out and cover the events, interview, get pictures, video, audio, tweet etc. for each day of the festival.  He is proposing to hold a conference each morning, and send the student reporters out on jobs, and then there will be a wrap-up each evening. John and two of his colleagues will be around all day to help students to get the content online”, said Gail Marsom, Enterprise Manager in the School of Arts.

The project is expected to build links with the local community and businesses, and has the potential to develop relationships with the growing number of digital companies in the area.

The festival will run from 21 May to 1 June 2012 and will be highlighting the thriving digital and technological talent from Clerkenwell to Stratford, Old Street to Bethnal Green and Dalston to the City and beyond. Shoreditch will be turned into a digital playground with late-night parties, open houses, workshops, interactive artworks and installations, and augmented reality games. For more information on the Festival please visit Digital Shoreditch website.

For more information about City’s involvement or to see how you can take part, please contact Leo Castellanos in the Enterprise Office on leo.castellanos.1@city.ac.uk.

Esther Bourne – You think you know, but you have no idea (until you read the article)

Enterprise Support, Research Development, Research Support.

A Farewell to Esther Bourne

By Claudia R Kalay

Does anyone still remember what he or she did on 17 September 1990?

Esther Bourne most likely will, not just because she has a good memory, but that day she took up employment at City University London as a Senior Cashier.  However I doubt whether she knew then that this place was to become her “working home” for the next… twenty-two years.

A coffee, a cigarette and something else

Having previously worked in a bank she must have dealt with some quite stressful situations and she was certainly well qualified to work as a Senior Cashier. But her time in the Cash Office was not uneventful either. A well-informed source reports that Esther only narrowly escaped disaster in the Cash Office, when her then line manager almost set fire to the office by dropping cigarette ash on papers lying on the desk (Yes! Those were still the days when smoking in offices was allowed). Quick action was needed and all available coffee and tea dregs were poured onto the papers as no fire extinguisher was in the cash office. This was possibly the first glimpse of Esther’s fearlessness, which would – no doubt – come in useful as a life-saving virtue for a later line manager.

The lady and the poster

But after four years in a sealed environment it was time to get out. She had come to see that university life is all about improving oneself and advancing one’s career as its natural outcome. Spurned by office gossip about an advert for the position of an Accounts Assistant in Research Grants and Contracts (RGC), she applied for the post and joined the team in the hot mid-August 1994.

And she stuck with it for the next eighteen years. Some people may find such prospects dull or even dreary. Well, they are wholly mistaken. The complexity of the subject demands nothing less than continual learning of new matters as research policies, funding body and auditing demands and peculiarities, academic expectations put on universities by governments, internal demand and need for restructuring and such relentlessly change… Are you already lost? Well, Esther is the master and commander in the field. And I can vouch for the fact that Esther is a keen learner and a live wire who would not put up with humdrum. She is as lively as you can get, keen and conscientious in her work, sharp in her thought. And if that is not impressive enough she is also a poster girl for the Plain English Campaign with a dry sense of humour.

Work, party and a wasp

Accounts Assistants in RGC may have come and gone but Esther and her line manager Andrea Tinson were holding the fort, very much to the benefit of the University.  In order to survive all the endless hours of hard work over Excel spreadsheets, SAP print-outs and ever more demanding funder queries (not to mention academic requests) the routine was occasionally broken by one of the famed office parties (strictly outside office hours, of course).

It was also Andrea who benefited most from Esther’s courage and stability. While Andrea jumped for cover at the sight of any wasp approaching, Esther was not fooled by those tiny mindless creatures. She stood up against them at the open window.  A quick whack with the back of her hand and the wasp was eliminated – work could continue.

Andrea and Esther – a formidable duo ruling the world of RGC at City for almost a decade after Esther had been promoted to Research Administrator in May 2003.

For my own benefit the second half of the duo decided to stay on when Andrea left for new adventures in the School of Social Sciences in October 2007. The interim period until my arrival in January 2008 was surely Esther’s hardest test but she mastered it with flying colours.  If it had not been for her ability, hard work and dedication as well as her strength in leading the team, RGC would have crumbled – at a financial cost to the University.

Even the University had eventually come to see Esther’s positive influence and she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Prize in 2010.

The new duo

As for me, I was just glad to have her. I must have had the right credentials in her eyes. The interview panel reassured her that I looked a bit like her previous boss – the first thing Esther told me when being introduced at the CREU launch in December 2007.

It made for a great start. Now I know that I also must have glowing cheeks.

Esther is a model employee. She knows what she is doing. She does it diligently. She is very perceptive and comes up with good suggestions for improvements. She is a great team player who is willing to jump in and help out in the team when work gets tough. She is professional, straightforward and does not need to hide her qualities behind a torrent of self-glorifying pronouncements. She is well-organised – in an admin job juggling concurrently non-stop queries, requests and tasks is essential; and she does it with ease. And over time a valued friendship has settled in.

Heaven only knows, she might have delayed her departure for a few more years if it was not for that annoying comment by the Chief Financial Officer at Ken Cridland’s leaving do about it being time to move on. But even though her loss will hit me and the team hard, I am glad she placed the application for the job as Research Finance Manager at the Institute of Education, University of London. She deserves to go further in her career. Her ability needs new room to shine.

I wish her all the best as she takes up her new job on 4 June 2012 and know that she will do a great job.

P.S. Est, I knew you did not want to have a speech at your leaving do, so fully obliging, I did it in the newsletter.

Research Outcomes System (ROS) – an update on developments

Research Support.

Those of you who have held grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) or Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the past six years will be aware that the first data-gathering exercise is underway now.  With the system having gone live in November, the race is on to fill it with data.

The Research Councils have assured universities that data previously provided in final reports will be uploaded to the ROS by them. This should cover a lot of old records. In future, Councils expect grant-holders to update the system regularly as part of the grant-holder’s responsibility.

In order to avoid having to type in publication data twice, City Research Online (CRO – City’s institutional repository) offers the option to extract your stored publication data for the publications linked with your grant or grants into a spreadsheet which can be uploaded to other systems needing only easy layout configurations. This way, you can make CRO your main reference for publication data and upload to other systems as needed. This is a more efficient way to handle your own publication records.

ROS also collects narrative information on key findings and impact.  These can be added per grant directly in the ROS. Councils will use the information gathered to showcase research outcomes and impact so clearly we only stand a chance of featuring in such publicity if academic staff have provided their data. The Councils will in particular use it to strengthen their case for funding in talks with the Government.

The importance of the system has been underlined by the EPSRC’s decision to use it for final reporting on outputs and outcomes in the future. There will still be a short final report form to be completed on Je-S but that form will only include a small number of fields to pass the validation check. ROS should be used to report outcomes.

ESRC has replaced the old ESRC Society Today system with ROS. All grant-holders have to publish their abstracts now on ROS. NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) will start using the ROS in 2013.

EPSRC, ESRC, AHRC and BBSRC have been late in launching their data collection system. The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have been running their own data collection systems for some time now. About a year ago, the Science and Technology Facilities (STF) Council adopted the MRC’s eVal system for its own data collection.

For more information, contact Dr Claudia Kalay on Claudia.kalay.1@city.ac.uk

For guidance on use of City Research Online, contact the CRO team on publications@city.ac.uk

PIs urged to keep commitment records

Research Support.

In a bid to improve the way expenses are monitored and reconciled, the Research Grants and Contracts (RGC) team reminds Principal Investigators (PIs) that it is important to implement commitment accounting. A simple spreadsheet to record expenditure committed on projects is sufficient. This helps to ensure that all expected and planned expenditure can be captured on a timely basis resulting in more effective budget monitoring and forecasting accuracy.

The need for commitment accounting was first raised by the internal audit in 2010 and PIs were asked at the time to start keeping local spreadsheets. A subsequent internal audit in September 2011 found that, from a sample of five projects, none of the PIs kept a log of commitments locally. The internal audit report therefore issued a recommendation for PIs to keep a local record of future commitments (expenses) to support accurate and timely financial monitoring, and inform the Research Office in a timely manner of any expense claims over £500.

The RGC team recognises both the importance of the recommendation and the additional practical effort involved in setting this up locally. In order to help this along we would like to work with PIs in finding a mutually convenient solution. The RGC team prefers to work in cooperation with PIs rather than set up an Excel template and simply tell you all to use this from now on and submit to the RGC team on a regular basis.

The RGC team would be grateful for feedback on this issue to learn what is already done locally and how the RGC team could help implement this recommendation.

Please contact Dr Claudia Kalay on Claudia.kalay.1@city.ac.uk with your feedback and suggestions.

City Research Online – Now accessible from the City website

Research Development, Research Support.

The Research Office and the City Research Online team are pleased to announce that City Research Online web pages are now live.

The new resource contains bibliographic details of research produced by the University’s staff and research students, including journal articles, conference papers, books and book chapters, and doctoral theses, with links to the full text of items where this is available.  Where a full text paper is available the search results will provide a link enabling the paper to be downloaded. The author of a paper of interest can be contacted via the People link at the top of the page. The pages also include guidance on use of City Research Online for staff.

For more information contact Neil Stewart, City Research Online manager, on publications@city.ac.uk.