Improving UK research culture

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Improving UK research culture

Results of a survey of over 4,000 researchers, published by Wellcome Trust, have revealed high levels of stress and insecurity, with many researchers experiencing long hours and aggressive working conditions. The survey was published as part of Wellcome’s initiative to reimagine research and improve the culture for all. 

The next steps of Wellcome’s Research Culture work include a series of town hall meetings at universities across the UK to discuss the issues raised in the survey and will culminate in a ‘Reimagine Research’ summit in London in March.

The NIHR has a number of activities underway currently that will contribute to improving the research culture, including implementation of an equality, diversity and inclusion plan. In addition, several initiatives are focused on assessment of more meaningful impact criteria for research outputs and improving how research is undertaken (for example, the Team Science initiative).

NIHR will also be continuing to work with researchers’ host institutions to ensure the research community is supported in their career development.

Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said: “These results paint a shocking portrait of the research environment – and one we must all help change. A poor research culture ultimately leads to poor research. The pressures of working in research must be recognised and acted upon by all, from funders, to leaders of research and to heads of universities and institutions.”

Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at Department of Health and Social Care, and co-lead of the NIHR, said: “We commend the Wellcome Trust for undertaking this survey and highlighting the worrying picture of the current research culture. At NIHR we are committed to continued collaboration with stakeholders across the research system to ensure research excellence is achieved in a supportive and inclusive environment and look forward to participating in the ‘Reimagine Research’ summit.”

Hosting your Café Culture discussion

Café Culture is an opportunity for you and your colleagues to talk about the challenges you face in research culture, reflect on what a better culture would look like, and propose solutions for how Wellcome and other parts of the system could change.

Thousands of researchers have taken part in the largest ever survey into experiences of research culture.

Now we want to hear your solutions. Your Café Culture conversation will be one of many taking place across the world.

Sign up to receive a Café Culture toolkit

To host your conversation, you’ll need a Café Culture toolkit, which includes a discussion guide and activities.

We have a limited number of toolkits to post out, so apply soon if you want to make sure you get one. After these are gone, or if you’re based outside the UK, we’ll email you a print-your-own version. Sign up to receive your toolkit 

How to set up your discussion

It’s completely up to you how you arrange your Café Culture session – it could be part of a casual coffee break or run as part of a wider meeting.

Find a space and time. You’ll probably need at least 60 minutes.

You can run a Café Culture with three or more people, although we recommend a maximum group size of 10 to make sure everyone has a chance to speak. It may be most comfortable if the participants are at a similar career stage.

Familiarise yourself with the information in your Café Culture toolkit, and share the pre-read material with attendees before the meeting.

Make your voice heard

After your discussion, share your ideas:

Your conversations will feed directly into our work to craft goals for creating a better research culture, driving the changes Wellcome will be making and encouraging others to make.

We’ll also be inviting every Café Culture participant to join our Research Culture Ambassador Network. Through the network you’ll be given resources to help encourage a better culture at your organisation, and get a chance to contribute to the next phase of our work.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about hosting a Café Culture discussion or about our Research Culture Ambassador Network, email culture@wellcome.ac.uk.

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