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Professor Claire Warwick appointed Chair of Russell Group research committee

(14 June 2017)

Professor Claire Warwick, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Durham University’s Professor Claire Warwick has been appointed as Chair of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research (PVCR) Committee of the prestigious Russell Group.

The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

Here, Professor Warwick, Durham’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), talks about her appointment and the key role that research plays in furthering understanding and innovation.

Q: What is the role of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research Committee of the Russell Group and why is this important?

The PVCR Committee is a relatively informal group, which meets every six months. We discuss current areas of interest, for example the Stern Report on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions - or the Industrial Strategy. We welcome visiting speakers from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and other areas of government and policy making. This allows us to share ideas among the different research intensive universities, and to be part of the discussion of current issues in government that are relevant to research.

Q: What are the main issues that the Committee is likely to be dealing with?

At the moment, it's likely to be the development of the REF, once the results of consultation on the Stern report are known; the Industrial Strategy; and the future of research funding after Brexit. This is a challenging time for UK Higher Education, so it's very important that the voice of the research intensive universities is heard in such discussions.

Q: What do you think you can bring to the Committee, as Chair?

I enjoy chairing committees, and have chaired many of them in the past. So I'm confident that I can continue the excellent work of the previous Chair, Professor Nick Wright from Newcastle University and his predecessors, who established our, open, collegial way of working. It's important that, in turn, I make it possible for committee members to have open and robust discussion, but always in an atmosphere of mutual respect. It's also important that the committee feels welcoming to visiting speakers, and that they are able to speak openly to us, and gather useful views to feed back to government.

Q: Your specialism is digital humanities. Do you think this will influence your approach?

Being a humanities scholar makes me quite unusual as a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research). I think that makes me especially aware of the importance of recognising the diverse nature of the UK research establishment. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is vital, of course, but the arts, humanities and social sciences also have a vital role to play in the research landscape and the contribution it makes to economic prosperity. As a digital humanist, I understand the importance of collaborative research, and of interdisciplinary approaches. So, putting the two things together, my background means I am especially aware of the value of diverse approaches to research problems. I'm also very used to discussing research problems with colleagues from different disciplines, and from beyond academia. I'm sure all this will serve me well as Committee Chair.

Q: Durham has strong research partnerships with a wide range of external organisations from business and industry, public sector, charities, and the creative and cultural sectors. Can you tell us about the importance of these links?

We are fortunate to work with a range of external partners: on a University level these include IBM, DONG Energy, Durham County Council, Akzo Nobel, CPI, Haringey Council, Procter & Gamble, and Arts Council England. Individual researchers also have numerous links with external organisations. We work with a variety of large and small external organisations which enables us to engage in more innovative and bespoke partnerships, and also provides us with opportunities to share our world leading research to a much wider audience. Our researchers help to solve the problems that individual organisations would find it difficult to address – for example in the areas of wind energy, big data, process innovation, surface science and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology – along with encouraging and supporting inward investment opportunities for the region. So it's a mutually beneficial process, providing that makes a vital contribution to academic research and economic prosperity and productivity.

* Commenting on Professor Warwick’s appointment, Acting Director of the Russell Group Dr Tim Bradshaw said: “This is a crucial time for UK science and research, which are fundamental to so many aspects of the UK economy, society and culture.

“Professor Warwick has all the skills and experience necessary to ensure the UK’s leading research universities continue to make a strong case for international collaboration and investment in high quality research. 

“I look forward to working with Claire as she takes on this important role.”

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