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Investing in staff secures world-leading research

Giving academics the time to develop their research projects was central to Brunel University London’s success in REF2014.

A number of Brunel’s REF impact case studies have directly benefitted from the university’s Research Leave programme, awarded to staff whose research meets the university’s own criteria of world-leading work for the benefit of society.

Research Leave was vital in giving Dr Simon Taylor and his team from the Department of Computer Science the opportunity to develop technology that helped a number of enterprises speed up their computer simulations and investigate how the technology could be used to study nuclear waste management for Sellafield plc.

The programme also provided significant time for Professor of Dynamical Systems and Computing, Zidong Wang, to collaborate with colleagues at Fuzhou University, China in designing a system that serves as an early warning for potential heart attack victims.

Research leave was also vital in enabling Professor Mary Gilhooly and her team from Brunel’s Institute of Environment, Health and Societies to produce a decision training tool for professionals to accurately identify and prevent elderly victims of financial abuse. The system has been picked up by organisations across the world, including Age Concern New Zealand, and is serving to raise international awareness of a growing problem.

Professor Geoff Rodgers, who led the REF submission for Brunel, said: “Our REF success demonstrates just how important it is to give academics the time to develop their work. Investing in our staff has helped us increase the volume of quality research we submitted this year and we’re delighted that so much of it is regarded as globally significant.”

Academic research carried out at Brunel is used as a valuable addition to the teaching curriculum.

Lecturers use their research to inform classroom learning and include research findings in recommended reading lists for students.

Meanwhile, Brunel students have access to a range of research workshops and seminars presented by academics and PhD students, while Brunel Library gives students access to eBooks, journals and academic papers via BRAD (Brunel published academic papers) and BURA (Brunel University Research Archive).

Brunel also offers academics the opportunity to apply for the university’s BRIEF (Brunel Research Initiative & Enterprise Fund) Awards, designed to give new members of academic staff below the level of Senior Lecturer up to £15,000 to carry out research or buy-out teaching time.

Elsewhere, Athena SWAN Awards support female members of staff who have had a period of maternity leave and staff who have taken adoption or paternity leave over a significant period of time.

The REF, which assesses the quality of research at universities across the country, showed that the volume of world-leading and internationally excellent research being carried out at Brunel University London has increased by more than half in the past six years.

It placed 61% of Brunel’s submitted work in the top two categories, compared to just 43% in its precursor, 2008’s Research Assessment Exercise.

Work from a total of 577 researchers was entered in 2014, compared to 534 in 2008. The increase highlights the strong research culture at Brunel, which ensure that students are taught by leading scholars at the forefront of their fields.

For examples of the impact case studies described, please follow the links below: