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Developing an inclusive and supportive research culture

Advance HE supports institutions and individuals to enhance and develop their research culture. Offering audits, professional development, bespoke consultancy and equality charters to tackle the challenges research faces.

Research culture encompasses the behaviours, values, expectations, attitudes and norms of our research communities. Currently, many researchers feel that there is a focus on quantity of outputs rather than real quality, which leads in turn to intense pressure. This can have an adverse effect on staff wellbeing and quality of research. Further issues such as: access and participation of underrepresented groups; bullying and harassment; research leadership; and, supporting the careers of researchers, continue to be present in the research community and require sector-wide transformation.

Advance HE supports institutions and individuals to develop their research culture. We offer audits, professional development of staff, bespoke consultancy and our equality charters, including Athena Swan, to tackle the challenges research faces.

Want to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about how Advance HE can support your institution to develop an inclusive and supportive research culture please complete the form by clicking the button below.

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Evidence of the need for change

Findings from Advance HE’s Postgraduate Research Experience Survey 2021 show that, unfortunately for several areas, including research culture and professional development, the trend over the past three years is of a slight decline in PGR satisfaction. PGRs call for more proactive offering of counselling and other forms of mental health support to researchers, and for a culture of expecting and accepting that researchers should be stressed to be changed.

In January 2020, the Wellcome Trust published a report about research culture in which nearly two-thirds of researchers surveyed reported that they had witnessed bullying or harassment, and 43% reported having experienced it themselves. Just one in three reported feeling comfortable speaking up about this, with many doubting appropriate action will be taken.

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Advance HE's approach to supporting the research community

Advance HE take an holistic approach to supporting institutions to enhance and develop research culture. We can provide a structured plan to:

  • Identify strengths and areas of challenge
  • Develop strategies and plans to tackle challenges
  • Undertake interventions
  • Assess the impact of the work completed.
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We were looking for something a bit different - not an exploration of culture with a report and recommendations, or an off the shelf short training/development programme but a longer term, bespoke piece of work that would enable my school teams to become empowered and skilled in exploring their own culture and developing it themselves with our support. We felt that Advance HE’s combined expertise in inclusion, culture, education and leadership made them unique in the sector and most likely to be able to deliver what we were looking for. When I spoke with the team there, they listened to our needs, learned more about our context and designed and delivered this programme. Having worked with them for over 12 months now I have learned that they also bring a flexibility and responsiveness to the context making this not only a bespoke and fit for purpose programme from the start but one that has evolved with our changing needs.”

Professor Sherria Hoskins

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Health, University of Portsmouth

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Identifying your strengths and challenges

Advance HE has deep contextual understanding of the challenges faced within the research community. Our expert team can provide a fully combined qualitative and quantitative offering, underpinned by sector wide datasets from our student surveys and our sector leading higher education statistical reports. We offer multi-pronged evaluation and a specialism EDI:

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Developing strategies and planning solutions

We can support your institution to develop a research strategy or support the development of an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy which include research culture as a key consideration. We can also support your institution to develop smaller interventions around staff development or other considerations. Each strategy or solution is developed with insights gathered before which have identified areas for improvement and which areas to reinforce.

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Delivering solutions

Through a rich history of bespoke consultancy, development programmes and working with institutions around the world, we are able to deliver solutions such as in-house development programmes which build both capability and capacity.

Staff Development Programmes

Through our open programmes and events portfolio, and those tailored to your institution's context, we can deliver staff development which focuses on enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion. We can deliver programmes focused on dignity and respect and leading research teams. Specific examples include:

Bespoke consultancy and enhancement support

Your challenges can be diverse and complex. Using Advance HE experts and a vast pool of experienced associates, Advance HE are well positioned to tackle these difficult issues. Our support is aimed at improving organisational performance and driving positive change by bringing people together for collaboration, being supportive and enabling, working as an enhancement body and being a critical friend. Our bespoke consultancy and enhancement services tailor solutions to your context, leading to impactful and lasting change.

This is exactly the programme that every academic should complete in their first five years, and repeat at a later stage. It is absolutely excellent and just what I have been looking for over a number of years.”

Dr Valerie Pinfield, Head of Chemical Engineering, Loughborough University

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Assessing the impact

It is important to reflect on any of the initiatives implemented to support the development of an inclusive and supportive research culture. Working out what works and what doesn’t provides the impetus for strategies taken forward into the future. It is also important to celebrate success. Advance HE can support this reflection through services such as:

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Research Leadership Development Programme

The Research Leadership Development Programme addresses the challenge of contemporary research leadership by developing confident and authentic leaders who are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to promote effective research culture. 

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Thrive - A project to develop new models of team working

Thrive is an initiative by the University of Liverpool, AdvanceHE and the AHRC - funded by Research England. It aims to co-develop a new collaboration model for research teams, fostering inclusivity and diversity. The model will undergo a live pilot during an upcoming funding call with AHRC in 2024.

Bookings are now open for 'Thrive Together' codesign workshops. The workshops are a place where vibrant debate, knowledge sharing, networking opportunities, and strategic discussions converge to shape the future of team-based research collaborations.


Online: 22 January 2024, 10:30-12:00

Online: 6 February 2024, 10:00-11:30

Face-to-face: 27 February 2024

Find out more and book now
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Advance HE membership and benefits

Advance HE has developed a membership package for Research Institutes, with over 25 institutions currently members. Research Institute membership includes access to the Athena Swan gender equality charter, along with discounts on a number of our services.

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