This week a good friend of mine, Dr Angela McShane of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is coming to my department to give a paper to our newly inaugurated Textual and Visual Cultures Seminar. This is just a small part of our attempts to develop a stronger research culture in the department. So how much is your department doing and what more could you do?
A department’s research culture is not just about hosting seminars with external speakers, although that helps. It’s also good for colleagues from the department to have a forum where they can present work and where they can liaise with PhD and MA students. Colleagues can come together and share interests in research clusters which can be informal or formalised into projects or even centres.
Research-heavy universities such as the Russell Group have these techniques well-honed but for anyone based at a post-1992 university, your department might be slower to get things off the ground. The good thing about this is that you can help start research initiatives and contribute ideas as to what the research culture might look like.
Other aspects of research culture might include departmental advice and support on research grants. Sharing best practice in this area can really help early career scholars boost their chances of success.
But most significantly, for a research culture to really flourish the department and the university hierarchy have to be willing to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ and provide funds for research leave and research trips. Expecting staff to undertake research activities while working under huge teaching loads is not really practical. So staff have to get fully on board; but they need a little help from the institution as well.
Do you think that your university and department have got this right? Is your research culture flourishing? Are you provided enough time and space to research within the busy academic year?