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What is meant by Research Culture is being hotly debated, both in the context of REF 2029 and as part of institutional strategy creation.

The Royal Society’s commonly referenced definition signals that: “Research culture encompasses the behaviours, values, expectations, attitudes and norms of our research communities. It influences researchers’ career paths and determines the way that research is conducted and communicated”.

The CoARA Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment identifies three key principles about the way in which in which research is conducted (with integrity centred on reproducibility, responsible innovation, collaboration, interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity); communicated (to maximise impact, built on transparency and openness, and partnership with the public); and cascaded (by supporting career paths and training to recognise a diversity talents, skills, and outputs, and embrace team science as the way of working). This distillation of the detailed CoARA agreement provides a useful anchor for the debate, enabling us to consider not just how research in our organisations is conducted (compliance with ethics, trusted and open research, creativity, a commitment to EDI) but also the why: to maximise the quality and impact of research.

Commitment to enhancing research culture change is also prominent in the DSIT R&D People and Culture Strategy and is backed up by significant funding from the Wellcome Trust and UKRI. There is a palpable energy and genuine commitment to wanting to demonstrate that as a sector, we care about the people, the process as well as the products of research. Research culture has, arguably, become the zeitgeist of the 2020s.

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