MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Met


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Research Leadership Development Journeys: Interview with Prof Jamie McPhee

To celebrate the re-launch of the Future RKE Leaders programme, throughout February and March I have been posting interviews with a selection of previous Future RKE Leaders cohort members. Each kindly shared details of their research leadership development journeys, providing useful insights for those looking to develop their research leadership skills.

Our fifth and final interview is with Prof Jamie McPhee, Head of Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences and a member of the 2014 Future RKE Leaders Cohort.

Prof Jamie McPhee

Please name a research leader who you admire. What is it that you admire about them?

Jamie named three people who he had worked closely with, had learnt a lot from, and been inspired by in his career. Firstly, Emeritus Professor David Jones, as he was an innovator in his field of muscle physiology, and the first to apply techniques that are now commonly used. Professor Jones produced many papers throughout his career and was always very modest. Secondly, Jamie named Professor Marco Narici, who is now based at University of Padova in Italy. Professor Narici is very well connected both internationally and nationally. He demonstrated to Jamie the value of networking as people now come to Professor Narici with their new ideas. The third person Jamie named was Professor Hans Degens, currently a fellow member of the Musculoskeletal Science and Sports Medicine Research Centre. Jamie described Professor Degens as a great character, always very accessible and willing to help and collaborate.

What have been the key turning points or ‘light bulb’ moments in your leadership development journey so far?

Reflecting on his career, Jamie believes there is no such thing as developmental ‘light bulb’ moments; that breakthroughs do not happen suddenly. For him, development is a process of incremental gains resulting from lots of unseen hard work. Over a period of continuous improvement, the result is good quality papers and good quality grant proposals. When these proposals are funded this is when a transformation can occur, by increasing the pace and quality of your research.

How do you bring others along with you?

Within a research group Jamie found he was often surrounded by like-minded people, working towards the same goal. In this way success is shared and it is relatively easy to bring people along on the same journey. Jamie has found this becomes more difficult on a larger scale, when you have oversight of multiple groups. At this scale there is increased competition for resources and as a leader you want everyone to be able progress. Jamie’s approach is to ensure effort is rewarded and distribution of resources is transparent and fair. Jamie feels it is also important to support everyone to understand the common strategic direction, ultimately encouraging a shared vision. 

In what ways do you use your leadership skills to promote your research outside of Manchester Met? 

In Jamie’s experience, your external reputation is key. Publications provide a foundation for you to build on by presenting your research at conferences wherever you can. Over time, this can translate into invited talks which are opportunities to demonstrate how your work fits in with that of others. In turn, these activities help you to extend your network and build collaborative partnerships. By building these connections you are now able to access and engage with national and international research groups. It is Jamie’s view that the key to building your external reputation is making the effort to reach out.

How did the Future RKE Leaders programme support you on your leadership development journey?

Jamie benefited from the opportunity to make connections with university leaders and people with influence across the university. He also benefitted from meeting researchers at the same career stage as himself. He found they had similar aspirations and faced similar challenges and they were able to build a good cross-faculty network. He was also provided with insight into university processes, knowledge of which he has found essential for effective research leadership.

How have you continued to engage with your career development since completing the programme?

Jamie views his research career development as a continuous and ongoing process since his time as an undergraduate. He has found he has progressed by working to adapt to each new challenge with the support of different mentors. The role of Head of Department presented a major new challenge. Jamie continues to seek out advice from many different sources, which enables him to best understand and respond to the requirements of the role.


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Research Leadership Development Journeys: Interview with Dr Annabel Latham

To celebrate the re-launch of the Future RKE Leaders programme, throughout February and March I am posting interviews with a selection of previous Future RKE Leaders cohort members. Each kindly shared details of their research leadership development journeys, providing useful insights for those looking to develop their research leadership skills.

Our fourth interview is with Dr Annabel Latham, Senior Lecturer in Computing and a member of the 2016 Future RKE Leaders Cohort.

Dr Annabel Latham

Please name a research leader who you admire. What is it that you admire about them?

Annabel named Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who is a space scientist and science educator who currently co-presents the astronomy TV show ‘The Sky at Night’. Annabel attended a workshop in which Dr Aderin-Pocock gave a talk about her career journey. Annabel found this really inspiring, in particular how Dr Aderin-Pocock challenges barriers to achieving career goals experienced by new mothers.

This was very pertinent to Annabel’s own professional journey, as it was the birth of her daughter which moved her to re-train and pursue a career in research. This change was driven by a desire to show her daughter she could do whatever she wanted with her life.

During this talk Dr Aderin-Pocock also demonstrated the importance of science outreach, something which Annabel also champions through her work as Chair of the IEEE UK and Ireland Women in Engineering (WIE) Affinity Group.

What have been the key turning points or ‘light bulb’ moments in your leadership development journey so far?

For Annabel, these occurred as part of the Future RKE Leaders programme as it provided time for personal reflection, resulting in her feeling more empowered. In particular, mentoring provided Annabel with an objective view on her leadership development. She found the mentoring process worked to give her permission try new things and to challenge herself. An example being the pursuit of key research networking opportunities, including a two-month research trip to the educational technology laboratory at a German AI Institute in Berlin. Also key was the opportunity for discussion with fellow programme participants and the resulting formation of a supportive peer group, who again encouraged her to challenge herself.

How do you bring others along with you?

Annabel demonstrates leadership in a variety of ways at Manchester Met. She led her departmental application to Athena Swan, which was the first department to apply for an independent award. Annabel was able to provide a template and guidance for subsequent applications from other departments. Within teaching, Annabel leads a unit contributing to a core Masters course with critical business links. Annabel also takes part in lots of informal mentoring within her UCRKE and department.

In what ways do you use your leadership skills to promote your research outside of Manchester Met? 

Annabel is Chair of the IEEE UK and Ireland Women in Engineering (WIE) Affinity Group. IEEE WIE is the largest international professional organisation dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists. Through this group, Annabel is linked into key professional networks including industry and academic representatives and has been invited to speak about her research on a number of occasions, including several conference plenaries. Under her leadership the UK and Ireland Group won the IEEE Region 8 (Europe, Middle East and Africa) 2019 award for WIE Group of the Year. Reflecting on her role as Chair, Annabel recognised the opportunities it has given her to implement her leadership skills through organisation of group members and allocation of roles matching individuals’ strengths.

How have you continued to engage with your career development since completing the programme?

Through mentoring, Annabel was introduced to workload management and prioritisation techniques and tools. This led to a significant shift in mind-set. Where Annabel previously felt overwhelmed she now feels empowered to take ownership of her situation and think practically about how to get everything done. To continue her practice of personal reflection Annabel continues to dedicate one hour per week to planning.

What advice do you have for successful nominees to the Future RKE Leaders scheme?

Annabel advises successful nominees to take advantage of the time the programme provides for personal reflection, as she felt this was key for her leadership development. For the same reason, Annabel also advises nominees to take ownership of the development process, particularly the mentoring partnership, as you get out what you put in.


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Research Leadership Development Journeys: Interview with Dr Rob Drummond

To celebrate the re-launch of the Future RKE Leaders programme, throughout February and March I will be posting interviews with a selection of previous Future RKE Leaders cohort members. Each kindly shared details of their research leadership development journeys, providing useful insights for those looking to develop their research leadership skills.

More details on the Future RKE Leaders programme can be found on our Research Development Sharepoint.

The deadline for nominations is this week: 12pm Wednesday 26th February.

Our third interview is with Dr Rob Drummond, Reader in Linguistics and a member of the 2015 Future RKE Leaders Cohort.

Dr Rob Drummond

Please name a research leader who you admire. What is it that you admire about them?

Rob named Professor Hannah Smithson, Head of the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies (MCYS) within Manchester Met Arts and Humanities Faculty. Rob works with Professor Smithson through his role as head of Youth Language in MCYS. Rob admirers Professor Smithson as she is ambitious and clearly communicates her vision. She is also open to other’s opinions and ensures the success of MCYS by building and nurturing a strong team rather than solely focussing on her own career.

What have been the key turning points or ‘light bulb’ moments in your leadership development journey so far?

Reflecting on his career so far, Rob was able to identify a series of pivotal training and funding opportunities. Rob feels that he was able to progress his career by making the most of each opportunity and taking care not to become complacent following a successful outcome. For example, starting with some accelerator funds, followed by a sabbatical period and a writing retreat, Rob submitted a successful bid to The Leverhulme Trust, which in turn led to the successful AHRC bid with colleague Dr Erin Carrie. Rob also commented that it can be difficult to model your career development on others as you only tend to hear about successful outcomes, especially concerning the grant application process.

How do you bring others along with you?

Rob consciously looks to work collaboratively where possible, especially with more junior colleagues. As part of their current research project funded by The AHRC, Rob and his co-investigator Dr Erin Carrie incorporated two Research Associate positions and a number of ‘jobs for students’. Through roles like this, Rob is able to support junior researchers to develop and grow and in doing so, extend the legacy of the grant funding.

In what ways do you use your leadership skills to promote your research outside of Manchester Met? 

Rob’s research is public facing and community centred, he is therefore heavily involved in a number of outreach activities including talks in schools. Rob regularly appears as a language expert on radio and television, working to challenge prejudice and promote linguistic equality. To this end, Rob is in the process of contributing evidence to an All Parliamentary Group on the teaching of oracy (spoken language) in schools.  

How did the Future RKE Leaders programme support you on your leadership development journey?

Rob felt the most valuable part of the programme was meeting fellow cohort members from other faculties and gaining a different perspective. He also appreciated the opportunity to meet, and have access to, senior leaders for their insight. As a member of the programme, Rob was granted additional status within his Faculty. This led to further beneficial experiences such as the chance to mentor others.

How have you continued to engage with your career development since completing the programme?

Towards the end of the Future RKE Leaders programme, Rob applied for progression to Reader, but unfortunately his application was unsuccessful. Rob used the feedback from his application to guide his career development over the following two years and actively addressed the gaps in his C.V.. This resulted in a successful application to Reader in 2019. In the role of Reader, Rob is looking to develop his leadership skills further by continuing to support early career researchers and feeding into Centre and Faculty leadership teams.


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Research Leadership Development Journeys: Interview with Dr Shoba Arun

To celebrate the re-launch of the Future RKE Leaders programme, throughout February and March I will be posting interviews with a selection of previous Future RKE Leaders cohort members. Each kindly shared details of their research leadership development journeys, providing useful insights for those looking to develop their research leadership skills.

More details on the Future RKE Leaders programme can be found on our Research Development Sharepoint. The deadline for nominations is 12pm Wednesday 26th February.

Our second interview is with Dr Shoba Arun, Reader in Sociology and a member of the 2015 Future RKE Leaders Cohort.

Dr Shoba Arun

Please name a research leader who you admire. What is it that you admire about them?

Shoba named the senior management leaders in Manchester Met’s Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU). She feels they have been successful in setting a vision for PERU and building on key strengths of its members. This has enabled transformation of their work into outward facing activities that influence policy and create impact through social research. Consequently, Shoba believes the leadership team to have been key game changers in their field.

What have been the key turning points or ‘light bulb’ moments in your leadership development journey so far?

Shoba listed three key moments: attending a Diverse Leader programme accredited by the Institute for Leadership Management in 2015, becoming a mother, and successful promotion to Reader last year.

How do you bring others along with you?

Shoba’s approach is to invest in an individual’s specific strengths and support them to see the benefits of a collective vision. Shoba feels it is important for individuals to be aware of their strengths and how they can be harnessed to benefit both their career and the institution.

In what ways do you use your leadership skills to promote your research outside of Manchester Met? 

Shoba translates the skills she has developed on her leadership journey into creating legacy through all she does. This may be through small tasks such as parent-teacher interactions at her child’s school, or initiating an endowment fund for her dear friend who is missing after the disappearance of the MH 17 flight in 2014.

How did the Future RKE Leaders programme support you on your leadership development journey?

The programme introduced Shoba to different methods of approaching her current role and career ambitions. She now breaks down tasks and looks to set goals, develop strategies, and works to influence others and build relationships in her every day work. Shoba also developed the understanding that leadership is not confined to top down approaches and needs to be exercised on a daily basis, such as taking decisions, allocating resources and supporting colleagues.

How have you continued to engage with your career development since completing the programme?

Shoba continues to engage in career development through training from peers and as part of formal programmes. In particular, Shoba has attended formal training addressing teaching practice and project management. Reflecting on her recent development activities Shoba has deepened her understanding of peer support methods, diversity management and collective strength building. Shoba has seen direct benefits of her development activities to her current EU funded project, Micreate that looks to improve inclusion of diverse groups of migrant children at an educational and policy level.


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Research Leadership Development Journeys: Interview with Professor Bamidele Adebisi

To celebrate the re-launch of the Future RKE Leaders programme, throughout February and March I will be posting interviews with a selection of previous Future RKE Leaders cohort members. Each kindly shared details of their research leadership development journeys, providing useful insights for those looking to develop their research leadership skills.

More details on the Future RKE Leaders programme can be found on our Research Development Sharepoint. The deadline for nominations is 12pm Wednesday 26th February.

Our first interview is with Professor Bamidele Adebisi, Professor in Intelligent Infrastructure Systems and a member of the 2014 Future RKE Leaders Cohort.

Professor Bamidele Adebisi

Please name a research leader who you admire. What is it that you admire about them?

Bamidele named Professor Bahram Honary. Whilst at Lancaster University Professor Honary taught Bamidele on his Masters course in Advanced Mobile Communication, then went on to supervise Bamidele’s PhD and work with him during his Post Doc. Bamidele admired Professor Honary’s approach to research as he was not only interested in the fundamental science but also how the resulting research could be applied. Professor Honary worked closely with businesses and has his own successful company. Bamidele felt Professor Honary’s leadership went beyond effective management as he was interested in his team members’ lives and was always looking beyond himself.

What have been the key turning points or ‘light bulb’ moments in your leadership development journey so far?

A key ‘light bulb’ moment for Bamidele was when he realised that leadership was about service; you put in the resources and time to serve others and you do this without any strings attached. To be able to lead successfully, Bamidele also found he needed to be prepared to take on associated responsibilities. Bamidele first noticed this at school and through activities outside of work. This appreciation was then reinforced in work and by literature Bamidele has read around the topic.

How do you bring others along with you?

Bamidele feels it is important that his team recognise the value in what they are doing and that they are going on a journey together. To achieve this he works to provide clarity of purpose, clarity of vision and clarity of associated reward and benefits.

In what ways do you use your leadership skills to promote your research outside of Manchester Met? 

Leadership positions bring different opportunities such as invitations to chair and speak at conferences. Bamidele sees these opportunities as an opening to let national and international networks know what his team is working on. By collating the stories of his team’s activities, he can promote his team and the university.

Bamidele also noted that as he was in a position to influence more junior colleagues, for example his PhD students and Postdoctoral researchers. When these researchers move on to other institutions, they transfer his ideas with them, widening the impact of his experiences.

How did the Future RKE Leaders programme support you on your leadership development journey?

To begin with, Bamidele found writing the application useful as it encouraged him to think about the different ways he could contribute and pass on the benefits he gained from the course to others. Once the programme started Bamidele found it valuable meeting the participants from other faculties. They provided him with an alternative perspective and appreciation of the high quality research conducted across the university. Bamidele also valued the opportunities to meet senior university leaders and hear about their vision for Manchester Met. From this Bamidele was better able to discuss with colleagues any institutional changes that were taking place. He recognises that here he was developing his leadership role by taking on the responsibility of being a voice for the university.

How have you continued to engage with your career development since completing the programme?

Bamidele completes regular reviews (at least quarterly) of his career development, incorporating his PDR document. When thinking about his development Bamidele finds it useful to consider three key points: purpose, metric and commitment, taken from the book titled ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’, by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon. Firstly, purpose: identify where you want to get to. Secondly, metric: determine how you will get there. Bamidele feels it is important not to guess at this part. He advises speaking to others who have got to where you want to be so you can determine specific outputs. This way you can better identify the gaps in your own C.V. and then work out how to close these gaps. Finally, commitment: you need to be committed to closing the gaps so it is important to be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve.  


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Study shows beneficial effects of blocking brain inflammation in an experimental model of Alzheimer’s

Take a look at this article detailing new research on Alzheimer’s disease funded by the MRC and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

A study, published today in the journal Brain, has found that blocking a receptor in the brain responsible for regulating immune cells could protect against the memory and behaviour changes seen in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The research was jointly funded by the MRC and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

It was originally thought that Alzheimer’s disease disturbs the brain’s immune response, but this latest study adds to evidence that inflammation in the brain can in fact drive the development of the disease. The findings suggest that by reducing this inflammation, progression of the disease could be halted.

The team hope the discovery will lead to an effective new treatment for the disease, for which there is currently no cure.

To read more, please visit: http://bit.ly/1Odncn9


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Dr Josh Edelman talks about his AHRC ‘Cultural Value’ funded project on The Value of Amateur, Subsidised and Commercial Theatre for Tyneside’s Audiences

What can theatre do for a city? Why should its citizens value it, and make time and space for it within their lives? Why should democratic governments, charged with nurturing and developing not just an economy but a society, spend their limited resources on it? And how do these values differ between theatrical forms, between cities, between modes of production and between individuals? Our project seeks to address these questions through a qualitative and quantitative study of the theatrical audience of contemporary Newcastle, Gateshead, and the surrounding Tyneside region: what draws them to the theatre, what values they take from it, and what effect this has on their lives, and the different values different sorts of theatre hold.

Especially for a six-month project, this may seem impossibly broad. The value of the arts for society has been so thoroughly debated over the last 50 years—indeed, over the last 2500 years—that these questions may seem unanswerable at best, and ignorant at worst. We have two defences against the charge of naiveté. First, while the relationship between arts and society has been a major debate within aesthetic philosophy since Plato (see the useful intellectual history in Belfiore & Bennett’s 2013 The Social Value of the Arts), very often this discussion remains at the level of theory, or at best, refers only to a few extraordinary examples of artistic achievement. Very rarely has this philosophical debate come into full dialogue with good data on the reality of the living art world: not just exceptional masterpieces, but the day-to-day reality of the social practice of making and attending to the arts. Second, theatre makes a poor proxy for the other arts. The theatre has always been a bit of a problem for aesthetic thinking; too commercial, too collaborative, too entertaining, too low-class, it has been seen as more akin to circuses for the masses (or rituals for the faithful) than poetry for the discerning reader. Claims to the value of the arts as an autonomous sphere are much harder to maintain for a business like the theatre where public opinion and the public purse are ever-present forces.

How can we make a small contribution to the addressing of these very large questions? Our methods have been developed by the Project on European theatre Systems (known as STEP), of which both the project’s research assistant, Dr Maja Šorli, and I are members. STEP is a group of theatre sociologists from seven countries around Europe. It is led by Dutch arts sociologist Hans van Maanen. Building out of the work our first book, Global Changes/Local Stages (2009), STEP has developed a set of metrics to gauge the values that theatre has for audiences, and a common questionnaire and focus group technique to measure them. The values these metrics try to capture are based on the post-Kantian theories of the social value of the arts, including those of George Dickie, Arthur Danto, Pierre Bourdieu, Niklaus Luhmann, Bruno Latour, Nathalie Heinich and others, as described in van Maanen’s book How to Study Art Worlds (2009). By sharing a common set of metrics and measuring technique, we can create a data set that is easier to replicate and much more comparable. Using survey and focus group techniques to measure the value of the experience of the theatre is difficult. But using these techniques to compare the value of different theatrical experiences is much easier. We can, for instance, see how audience members value different theatrical genres differently, or how people from different demographics value their experiences differently, and so on. We can also compare the theatre of different cities. So far, STEP members have used these methods in Aarhus, Denmark; Tartu, Estonia; Maribor, Slovenia; Berne, Switzerland; Groningen, the Netherlands and Debrecen, Hungary. Together, these projects are assembling the largest single data set on the audience experience of theatre in contemporary Europe. The initial results of these international comparisons have now been published in the journal Amfiteater, which will be online by the end of the year.

On Tyneside, we worked in partnership with most of the local theatre community, and in particular the Empty Space, a valuable theatre resource organization for the local area. We complied over 1600 surveys and conducted 12 focus groups. A particular focus of our Tyneside work is the different values that amateur, commercial and subsidized theatre hold for their audiences. From the perspective of what an audience takes from it, what makes subsidized, not-for-profit theatre different from its amateur and commercial cousins? What are the values that amateur theatre realizes, and are they more like that of the professional theatre or more like that of a local football club? Answers to these questions would be fascinating to arts sociologists, of course, but they will also help those who organize, promote and fund theatrical work in this country to have a better understanding of the effect they actually have on audiences so that they can better advocate for it.

Our initial findings showed that we could identify two relevant sets of values that theatre had for its audiences. One set of values (which we called the I Component, for impressiveness, as it contained aspects of the audience’s emotional and aesthetic admiration for the performance) was consistent across commercial and subsidised theatre; audience members saw it in all kinds of professional theatre (though not to the same extent in amateur theatre). Another set (which we called the C Component, as it contained ways in which the performance posed an emotional, aesthetic or intellectual challenge to its audience) seemed to mark a remarkably clear separation between commercial and subsidised theatre. Subsidised theatre audiences embraced these values, while commercial theatre audiences did not. More detailed results have now been published in our final report, which specifies these two components in considerable detail. But our analysis raises questions as well, particularly about amateur theatre. Though amateur theatre did not score as well on the I Factor as its professional counterparts, this did not seem to matter to audiences so much. It had a particular draw — a joy in watching the arduous, impassioned labour of people ‘just like us’ — that seemed both potent and compelling, even when audience members knew no one in the cast. We are talking with the Empty Space and our amateur theatre colleagues on Tyneside about conducting a follow-up project to learn more about this area.

Joshua Edelman is senior lecturer in the Department of Contemporary Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University

This Blog post originally appeared on the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project Blog: https://culturalvalueproject.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/joshua-edelman-the-value-of-amateur-subsidised-and-commercial-theatre-for-tynesides-audiences/