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The University of Southampton
Working as a Researcher

Research Culture

Research culture describes the manner and environment in which we support, conduct, share and use research. It includes principles such as open research and research integrity and practices such as collaboration, co-design, interdisciplinarity and knowledge exchange, along with the environment that we make for each other through our interactions.

Our research culture is shaped by our values, attitudes and behaviours, and provides the framework within which we carry out and communicate our research. At its best, our research culture empowers us to realise our ambitions and aspirations, creating an environment where our research flourishes and our whole research community thrives.

At the University of Southampton, we take pride in supporting each and every person involved in research with the environment and resources needed to achieve their goals. Our collaborative and interdisciplinary research community involves postgraduate research students, researchers, academic and technical staff, professional services teams, external partners, collaborators, and research participants. Together, we tackle complex problems and find innovative solutions that result in real-world impact.

Our institutional strategy, launched in 2022, puts people at the centre of our Triple Helix of education, research, and knowledge exchange and enterprise. At the core of our Research and People Strategic Plans lies a commitment to enhancing research culture, with explicit objectives to “attract, support, and retain the next generation of research leaders from across the world, from different backgrounds and experiences” and to “empower our staff and students to thrive and enable them to achieve their full potential”.

Key to the realisation of our Strategic Plans is a portfolio of university-wide projects, including Reducing Casualisation, Workload Principles, and Career Pathways, which will bring about significant change to our culture and current ways of working.

Understanding the barriers to a positive research culture is central to our commitment to the Researcher Development Concordat and HR Excellence in Research award. Our ongoing work towards our Athena Swan and Race Equality Charter awards, University Mental Health Charter, and Disability Confident Leader accreditation addresses important inequalities for staff and students involved in research. Through consultations, data gathering, meetings and workshops involving key stakeholders, including researchers at various career stages, research leaders and professional services colleagues, we have identified a series of core priorities and begun to address key challenges.

Further information is available for University of Southampton staff and students on our internal Research Culture SharePoint site.

Our priorities

Our five priority areas encompass the rich and varied work taking place across the university and our research community to enhance research culture at the University of Southampton.

Research Culture diagram with some highlights from the main text

Fostering a supportive, inclusive and respectful culture ​by promoting equality, diversity and inclusion, addressing underrepresentation, promoting mental health and wellbeing, and tackling bullying and harassment in research and postgraduate research study.

Current projects include:

Black Futures Postgraduate Research Scholarships

The prestigious Black Futures doctoral scholarship scheme funds talented UK-domiciled Black and mixed Black heritage students to pursue postgraduate research at Southampton. With 15 fully-funded scholarships already underway in the Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences, the university-wide scheme aims to address the under-representation of Black students in postgraduate research and enrich our research community. As well as financial support, students are supervised by supervisors trained in race equality and cultural competence, receive pastoral support from independent tutors and have access to student-led networks to enhance their overall research experience.

Reverse Mentoring Programme

Our reverse mentoring programme offers senior research leaders and decision-makers valuable insight into the lived experiences of underrepresented groups at our University through honest, open and respectful conversations. Our mentors, representing varied protected characteristics such as ethnic minority backgrounds, disability, neurodivergence, LGBTQIA+, or low socioeconomic status, reveal barriers faced by certain groups and help leaders reflect on and challenge their attitudes towards inclusion. The relationship provides a space to explore areas of good practice and collaboratively generate ideas and priorities for positively influencing our University culture.

Enhancing the conditions for recruitment and employment by ensuring fair and inclusive recruitment, induction, appraisal and promotion practices at all career stages, addressing issues with workload and job security and celebrating the diversity of career pathways.

Current projects include:

Super Recruiter Project

Our Super Recruiter network champions inclusive recruitment practices across all levels and all Faculties and Professional Service areas within the University. Super Recruiters undertake training to equip them with the knowledge and confidence to challenge any unconscious bias within the recruitment decision making process. Operating as trusted advisors, Super Recruiters support, influence and role model inclusive recruitment practice, acting as 'critical friends' to hiring managers and recruitment panels. This initiative minimises the barriers to developing and sustaining a diverse workforce and fosters a culture of inclusivity and best practice sharing across the entire University.

Researcher work-life balance study

We are committed to promoting a healthy work-life balance and productive work patterns. An ongoing study is exploring factors influencing work-life balance and productivity amongst staff who undertake research at the University. This qualitative study provides insights into the work patterns of research-active staff to understand perceptions of factors that either facilitate or hinder work-life balance. The goal is to ascertain how the demands of research roles can be balanced to enhance career sustainability and improve overall well-being. The study’s outcomes will guide interventions to create an environment that supports a healthy and sustainable research culture, whilst ensuring due recognition of all work responsibilities.

Developing, retaining and inspiring people by supporting career development and increasing research leadership skills.

Current projects include:

Anniversary Fellowship Scheme

Launched in 2022 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the University’s Royal Charter, our flagship Anniversary Fellowship Scheme has selected two cohorts of inspirational Early Career Researchers to date. The programme aims to attract and develop talented researchers who have the potential and ambition to become the research leaders of the future. Their research interests span from skeletal regeneration, West African medicinal plants, and printed electronics to security in migration enforcement. Our Anniversary Fellows benefit from three-years’ independent research funding, additional funding for research expenses and access to mentoring, career development and networking.

Supporting a writing culture

Our Time to Write programme offers protected academic writing time, including Power Hours of Writing and longer writing retreats for colleagues struggling to prioritise time for writing tasks. The initiative supports diverse writing styles and capacities, actively including individuals facing barriers, such as parents, carers, disabled staff, and those with split roles like clinicians. The primary goal is to build local momentum within the University, ensuring every academic can, and feels able to, access protected writing time. Through building a healthy writing culture, we support the development of positive writing habits and promote institutional support for prioritising this key aspect of research activity and culture.

Creating routes for collaboration both within and beyond the university, through effective knowledge exchange, public and civic engagement, participatory research and interdisciplinary working.

Current projects include:

Supporting interdisciplinary research

Our longstanding tradition of interdisciplinary research aims to cultivate an environment which inspires innovative approaches between research disciplines and generates solutions to global challenges. Our interdisciplinary research programme stimulates and supports emerging ideas within our academic community. Interactive workshops facilitate the formation of new research teams and encourage novel and risk-accepting projects. ​​​Our interdisciplinary research pump-priming fund aids nascent interdisciplinary teams in advancing their research and developing full research applications. We have established four interdisciplinary Strategic Research Institutes, which bring together colleagues from across the university and experts from around the world to address the most challenging problems facing our society and planet.

Institute for Life Sciences

Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Sustainability and Resilience Institute

Web Science Institute

Communities of Practice

Our Communities of Practice (CoP) are groups with shared interests or goals who learn and improve together through regular interaction. The Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise CoP is a community-led space providing support, information and networking for staff involved in diverse KEE activities. Similarly, the Business and Industry CoP enhances collaboration within the University, bringing together individuals engaged in research, education, or enterprise with a focus on business and industry. Both communities foster an inclusive and collaborative environment that directly benefits the network. Members from varied disciplines and job roles feel heard and valued, and complex issues are discussed with mutual respect and interest, even where opinions differ.

Promoting rigorous research practice through openness and integrity by encouraging open, reproducible and responsible research and innovation practices which are delivered with high standards of ethics and integrity.

Current projects include:

Celebrating open research

We host regular events celebrating our commitment to open research, research integrity and research culture. Our annual Festival of Open Research, in collaboration with the UK Reproducibility Network, and our Open Research Symposium, hosted by the Library, engage staff and postgraduate researchers with key open research themes, showcasing exemplar practices. Expert talks cover the latest open access policy initiatives, innovative approaches to sharing research findings, and consideration of key challenges like scientific fraud. Led by Early Career Researchers, our ReproducibiliTEA fortnightly online journal reading and seminar club explores topics related to robust research practice, reproducibility, replication, open science, and transparency, fostering discussions across disciplines and career stages.

Ensuring fair recognition

Our Authorship, Contribution and Publishing Policy, published in 2021, was developed as part of our Concordat to Support Research Integrity. This policy also supports our Technician Commitment and works alongside our fair attribution guidance for technical staff. It promotes an equitable and inclusive culture for all staff who could be involved in the publishing process by creating a fair playing field and ensuring credit is given where it is due. Demonstrating the value given to a research culture which promotes integrity, honesty and transparency, this policy helps shape an environment where all staff and students clearly understand the rules and best practice regarding authorship and attribution.

Research Culture Group
Our research culture activity is guided by our Research Culture Group who connect the multiple strands of research culture. The group is chaired by the Associate Vice-President for Interdisciplinary Research and includes the institutional leads or co-leads for Research Strategy and Funding, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Open Research, UK Reproducibility Network, Interdisciplinary Research, the Doctoral College, and the Centre for Higher Education Practice (CHEP) which is responsible for researcher development.

Our commitments:

Race Equality Charter

Athena Swan

Disability Confident Leader

University Mental Health Charter

Technician Commitment

Researcher Development Concordat

Knowledge Exchange Concordat

Manifesto for Public Engagement

San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment


Concordat to Support Research Integrity

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