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Research Policy and Support

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Next Generation Impact

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In Conversation with David Sweeney

In this session we will clarify how and why visibility/citations etc. relate to REF style ‘real’ impact and why this may be more relevant in some disciplines than in others.

David Sweeny, Executive Chair, Research England

After gaining First Class Honours in Statistics at the University of Aberdeen, David worked at two BBSRC-funded research institutes, as a consultant statistician before developing mathematical models of plant growth. His work on the computational aspects of this led into broader applications of IT in education and research, and he was Director of Information Services at Royal Holloway, University of London, before moving into university leadership as Vice-Principal (Communications, Enterprise and Research) in 2004. In this role, he was responsible for research strategy and for developing Royal Holloway’s research-led commercial and consultancy activities.

He joined HEFCE in 2008 as Director (Research, Innovation and Skills) and led the development and implementation of the first Research Excellence Framework including the new impact agenda element. He was responsible for research policy and funding, knowledge exchange and university/business relations.

In May 2017, he was appointed the first Executive Chair of Research England, a new council established as part of UKRI, alongside the seven Research Councils and Innovate UK. Research England is the biggest research funder in the UK with responsibility for university block-grant funding for research and knowledge exchange. In UKRI, he has particular responsibilities for Place (Regional Funding), Commercialisation and Open Science.

David has been invited to visit many countries to advise on research assessment and funding, particularly with respect to research impact. He is also co-chair of the Implementation Task Force for Plan S, the international initiative on full and immediate open access to research publications.

David was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen in 2012, was Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Newcastle, NSW in 2015 and is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

Shane Weller, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research & Innovation at the University of Kent in conversation with David Sweeney, Executive Chair at Research England:

After studying at the universities of Oxford and Yale, Professor Shane Weller taught at Oxford before taking up a position in the Department of Comparative Literature at Kent. Prior to his appointment to the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, he was Head of the School of European Culture and Languages.

Shane’s teaching and research interests lie in the fields of modern European literature and culture, and the history of ideas. His publications include books and articles on a range of modern European writers and thinkers, as well as on topics such as the history of nihilism, cultural nationalism, and cosmopolitanism. His latest book, Language and Negativity in European Modernism: Toward a Literature of the Unword, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. He has recently completed a book entitled The Idea of Europe: A Critical History, contracted for publication with Cambridge University Press in 2021.