COVID-19: An update from our research community

COVID-19: An update from our research community

Our researchers have been exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on society. On this page, you will find a collection of articles and blogs which explain how we are contributing to the fight against the pandemic, along with updates for the Coventry University research community from Richard Dashwood, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

Official statements

As the lockdown restrictions have started to ease, we are beginning the journey to understand how we will carry out research activities, ensuring that safety shapes all of our decision making through the transition to the ‘new normal’.

A phased reopening of some of our research laboratories in the Alison Gingell and the Engineering and Computing buildings has been underway since 8 June. This is part of the wider pilot scheme to test new procedures and to provide the safest and most functional working environment that we can.

All of our lab spaces have been risk-assessed in line with COVID-19 government-mandated guidelines, and new operating procedures have been implemented during this pilot phase. The initial trial, whereby staff have returned to the labs voluntarily, has gone well and we will continue to review and build on this in the coming weeks.

I am also pleased to report that throughout lockdown our research community has continued to thrive and prosper; our bids for new funding over lockdown have increased by two thirds on the previous period, with many of these proposals addressing calls for COVID-19-related research.

Tuesday 23 June was ‘International Women in Engineering Day’, and our very own Professor Elena Gaura from the Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing is featured as an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council champion.

I am delighted to reveal that Coventry University has been nominated for two 2020 Postgrad Awards (hosted by FindAMasters and FindAPhD). The Doctoral Capability and Development (DCAD) Conference has been shortlisted for ‘Best PG Student Experience Initiative’, and a Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities PhD candidate, Molly Browne, has been nominated for ‘PhD Student of the Year'. These nominations are testament to our thriving postgraduate community, and the support initiatives organised by the Doctoral College and the Centre for Research Capability and Development. The Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations has also received the prestigious Athena SWAN Bronze Department Award in recognition of its commitment to promoting gender equality.

A number of planned events have been adapted to go ahead virtually, with the Centre for Postdigital Cultures holding an online launch for a project aimed at sharing research expertise aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal on equitable and inclusive quality education.

We’ve also been improving our research presence across the university website. Changes include new Research Excellence Framework (REF) and REF2021 webpages, housing an extensive collection of research outputs and our Code of Practice. In addition, some of our research centres now have dedicated webpages to promote and publicise their PGR offer with digital promotional brochures also in development.

And finally, the latest edition of Innovate magazine is now live and highlights the quality and diversity of our research over the past year.

Our research community has persevered, adapted and responded incredibly well to the sudden shift in our working lives, and I would like to personally thank everybody for their hard work and commitment.

Stay safe and stay connected.

Richard Dashwood

Coventry University research community update: changes to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

On 24 March 2020 Research England announced that, due to the effects of COVID-19, the REF exercise would be postponed but the census date for staff would remain unchanged at 31 July 2020.

Research England are consulting on the REF timetable changes and recently invited feedback to gather initial views on the revised submission date and the impact period deadline.

On Tuesday 5 May 2020, Coventry University submitted its response. We have requested that any delay to submission deadlines be kept to a minimum. If a delay is deemed necessary, then we request 31 March 2021 – the earliest option presented by Research England. In addition, we have also proposed that the impact period maintains its original deadline of 31 July 2020.

Postponing the submission deadline beyond the proposed date would not only delay the result in terms of its use in the league tables, but also push back the funding settlement which would reduce the benefits of an anticipated increased grant. We believe this would have a disproportionate effect on those institutions who (like Coventry University) have invested significantly in research over the current REF period.

Our argument is that the full effects of COVID-19 will not be known for many months, possibly years. There is currently no understanding of timelines for the COVID-19 situation, and as such the social distancing restrictions currently in place significantly limit the prospect of any further impact being realised. Delays carry with them costs for the sector in terms of workload and staffing, and the extension of REF preparations will result in a hugely disruptive exercise at a time that is already uncertain for us all.

Despite this uncertainty, Coventry University’s preparations are in an advanced state and as such we are on track to meet the original timelines. This will not only ensure we are ready to meet any possible new REF deadlines, but also maximise any potential benefits some further preparation time could provide us.

A message for our research community from Richard Dashwood, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

As we work through these unfamiliar and unprecedented times, one thing that is clear is the serious and wide ranging impacts of COVID-19.

Our first and foremost priority is to ensure the safety of our staff and students. In line with Public Health advice, face-to-face teaching was suspended and moved online, and the university campus has been closed to try to further prevent the spread of the virus.

Whilst many of us can work remotely, others who conduct experimental research and fieldwork have had to pause their activities. Regardless, we are doing all we can to make sure everyone stays supported and connected. Senior research leaders are regularly meeting to keep up to date with all guidance and will continue to work swiftly to implement the necessary changes to keep everyone safe.

Over the past few days we have reengineered how we operate and approach our daily tasks, not just as an institution but as research centres and individuals.

Our staff have been truly amazing in their handling of this situation:

The Doctoral College ensured that the impending Doctoral Capability and Development Conference (DCAD) was not postponed but moved swiftly to virtual format. The online conference was attended by 121 participants, and included live chats, webinars and online workshops for postgraduate researchers and staff across the university.

The DCAD conference also hosted the awards for ‘Outstanding Research Supervision Team’. The annual awards recognise and celebrate inspiring and supportive supervisory teams across the University, who are nominated by their postgraduate supervisees. This year’s winning teams are both housed in the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations: a big congratulations must go to the Communities, Identity and Politics Research Group and the Faith and Peaceful Relations Research Group for their hard work and dedication to their students.

In addition, more than 25 PhD students and research staff from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences have volunteered to help University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) with testing patients for COVID-19 in the coming weeks. Many of the volunteers are overseas students who cannot get home and want to help our local NHS services. The University has also drawn up a list of equipment it could provide to the NHS to help it increase the number of tests it can carry out.

Finally, a big thank you must go out to our research community. As you would expect, many are working quickly to support the national effort to understand coronavirus and its wider impact, offering advice to policy makers, industry and many others.

There are so many incredible initiatives taking place across the University’s research centres and institutes, and we’ll report them in future updates. Please continue to follow the government’s guidance and take care of yourselves, your families, and your community.

Read more about the University's response to COVID-19.

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