Why does the university have the Individual Research Plan (IRP) framework?
The main aim of the IRP process is to provide a framework to support research-active academic staff in planning and developing their research and research careers.
The IRP framework is designed to ensure fairness and provide increased transparency regarding the allocation of research allowances. By asking researchers to reflect upon their research priorities and identify their training and development requirements in order to carry out the research, we can ensure that the appropriate support is in place, particularly for Early Career Researchers.
Who is affected?
Anyone who wishes to request a research allowance from their line manager, all members of academic staff on the single pay spine, and all professional staff will have to complete an IRP to detail their research plans for the coming year.
How does it work?
The individual academic completes their IRP form and updates their annual research record. Within the IRP form, the academic will describe their research plans for the coming year alongside their overarching vision for the next five years. The academic will request a research allowance for the coming year to help turn their research plans to reality.
The IRP panel will review and discuss the plans, including the requested allocation and the overarching vision. They will consider whether the plans are achievable within the defined timeframe. The panel may recommend that the request for an allowance is supported, or they may recommend a different (higher or lower) allocation that they believe is more appropriate to the planned activities.
The panel will also provide brief feedback to explain to individual researchers and their line managers, who are responsible for resource allocation, why it has made specific recommendations. The panels will be attended by a member of the Research Business and Innovation (RBI) Directorate, thereby ensuring that the RBI are informed of researchers’ plans well in advance, and so are able to provide the best support to help deliver these objectives.
How long does the process take?
The IRP and the research record forms are not intended to take a long time to complete. However, the individual academic will need to invest some time to ensure the level of detail that they provide is sufficient to inform the panel and enable them to make a recommendation that reflects the level of activity proposed. The form is currently available and submission is required by 1 April 2016, with the time allowance commencing in September 2016.
What happens if my request is not met in full?
The IRP panel does not make a final decision. The panel will pass its recommendations to the line manager for resource allocation, who will need to balance requests for research allowances against other factors as they do currently. In the event that an individual wants to question the panel’s recommendations, there will be the opportunity to request further discussion with the faculty Head of Research. Any queries around the final allocation awarded needs to be directed to the Head of School/line manager responsible for resource allocation depending on the exact circumstances.
Why are we asked to fill in our research aims for a year? Research can take years to come to fruition – and also, what happens if there are changes?
The panel is made up of researchers who understand fully the complexities and changing nature of research projects. They will recognise that the process from developing the concept, undertaking any necessary pilot studies or literature reviews, submitting an application for funding, obtaining that funding, undertaking the full project and then producing outputs, is one that can take several years.
They also know that the nature of research is uncertain and that there can be good reasons why it may not be practicable to achieve everything that is planned over the year. This is why the researcher is asked to reflect on their previous year’s activities on the form, and to explain any differences from what had been planned at the start of the last cycle.
The exercise will also help the panel to understand the specific complexities of the individual’s research, thereby adding a confidence factor to their recommendations.
Who will sit on the IRP panel?
The IRP will be chaired by the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, or their representative. The panel will also comprise the Faculty Head of Research, a minimum of two senior research staff from the school, and two junior research active staff from the school.
A member of the RBI will attend the meeting and the entire process will be serviced by a member of the faculty research support office. All of these people are experienced researchers or research support staff. The panels will also be constituted to ensure they comply with national good practice and, where possible, adhering to DMU’s Equality and Diversity policy.
Isn't this about research to the exclusion of teaching?
This exercise is about ensuring fairness and improving transparency of a current process, and, about trying to ensure that there is a balance between research and teaching across all the schools.
HEFCE defines research as 'a process of investigation leading to new insights which are effectively shared'. Innovation in teaching methods is a form of research and DMU needs to ensure it disseminates findings from pedagogic research in the best ways to maximise the benefits for both the institution and the student body (within DMU as well as nationally and internationally).
Isn't this just performance management by the back door?
No, the IRP system is about making sure that we can offer support, training, and guidance so that our staff can achieve high quality and high impact research. This scheme is aimed at developing and investing in talented DMU researchers and creating a system by which we can quantify the contribution research allowances make to the university. It will also benefit the academics both directly and indirectly by raising the research profile of the university.
What happens if my research is not eligible for REF? Are IRPs only about concentrating on elite research?
The main aim of IRPs is to provide a clear framework which will support our staff in delivering a broad range of research, some eligible for REF and some not.
There will be no pre-defined subject areas that can or cannot apply for a research allowance through this scheme. One of the objectives of the scheme is to move away from a situation whereby an individual researcher is granted/denied a research allowance based on the value placed on their research by their line manager, to a system where the requested allocations have been independently validated by a panel of experts and expert generalists.
This will reduce the risk that only those perceived to be in a ‘research elite’ can access this support.
The panel has been designed to include junior researchers to ensure that the needs of early and mid-career researchers have a voice. The attendance by a member of the RBI is intended to ensure that the RBI can effectively identify and work with individuals who want to undertake research and help them to succeed, even if they do not manage to secure a research allocation in any given year.
Couldn’t this lead to the situation where someone could write down something which just sounds good on the IRP form to win research allowance?
IRPs will be reviewed alongside the individual’s research record form which provides a summary of an individual’s research activities to date. Researchers will be asked to reflect on what they did with their previous year’s research allowance, compared to what they planned.
If an individual secured a research allowance and then undertook a different, but equally valid, piece of research then the panel will be likely to take the view that the research allowance was used appropriately.
However, if the individual failed to achieve the planned objectives or adequately explain any deviations then the panel may not look favourably upon the request for a continuation of the research allowance, unless there are significant mitigating circumstances.