University of York Statement on Research Performance Expectations

November 2015

Introduction

1. The University of York is one of the UK’s leading universities, a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive institutions and consistently ranked highly in league tables. It has an excellent research reputation established by our community of creative scholars. Many of our Departments and Centres are known internationally for their research activity. Research excellence defines York, and further strengthening and improving our research to be dynamic, inspirational and life-changing in its impact, is an absolute priority. Our vision is that York should provide a home for some of the best research in the world, and be regarded as one of the best places worldwide to do research. The University recognises that excellent research is firmly rooted within core intellectual disciplines and the abilities of individual researchers to contribute at the highest level.


2. The University is committed to ensuring that our teaching is inspired by excellent research. Achieving that aim requires an internationally excellent research environment. This statement sets out the University’s expectations about the research undertaken by its members in order to provide a clear framework for the management of research activity. It should be read in conjunction with the University of York Statement on Teaching Performance Expectations.

Scope

3. This Statement covers the following groups of staff, irrespective of the source of funding for their posts.

  • Academic staff employed to undertake both teaching and research (ie Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers and Professors);
  • Senior Research Staff (currently Grade 8 and above);
  • Independent Research Staff (ie those named as the PI on a grant or equivalent).

The performance of staff employed to undertake research (ie research staff on or below Grade 7 but not deemed independent) who do not fall within the scope of this policy will have performance expectations set as part of their performance review process, and will be expected to abide by the research and other relevant policies of the University.

Environment

4. The University aims to create an environment in which research of the highest quality can be undertaken. This includes: 

  • appropriate physical facilities (eg laboratories, libraries, archives, offices, equipment, IT systems, galleries, performance spaces) and professional support for research activity;
  • an intellectual environment conducive to unfettered enquiry which allows collegial interactions between researchers and development of best practice;
  • a balance of types of work which makes time available to researchers in useful blocks;
  • appropriate policies and strategies that are conducive to supporting staff, such as HR policies, research strategies and publication strategies;
  • high quality opportunities for professional development that will support staff in meeting expected levels of performance;
  • levels of resourcing to Departments that will allow them to balance the workload of individual staff to ensure that the quality and consistency of education is maintained alongside achievement of the highest levels of performance in research and service.

5. Equally, the University regards Departments as having responsibility for creating an environment in which research is supported. This includes:

  • implementing robust recruitment processes for roles that will involve research, so that only staff who are able or have the capacity to research to the expected high standards are employed;
  • operating a workload model that is fair and representative of the time required to undertake allocated teaching, whilst ensuring teaching requirements do not jeopardise an individual’s opportunity to progress in research and the other areas of academic practice, including citizenship, encompassed by their role;
  • providing appropriate support (eg through mentoring and peer support) to enable staff to develop/improve in their roles and/or to access support outside their Department as appropriate
  • cultivating a collegial environment in which high quality research is acknowledged and identified.

Expected level of performance

6. The University expects academic staff to aspire to the highest levels of achievement in research, aligning with their current grade. This means undertaking research that is judged to be excellent in an international context, is influential within or across disciplines, and has the potential for wider impact. Such recognition will be apparent through indicators including regular publication in international peer reviewed journals or with leading publishing houses; contribution to policy making at a high level; success in raising research funds; and invitations to give keynote presentations at international conferences. The University expects all academic staff referred to in section (3) to be research active, regularly producing research outputs eligible for inclusion in external research assessment processes and/or relevant in an industrial or commercial context.

7. The University expects that research undertaken will be effectively disseminated via channels and publication routes that are appropriate for the relevant research discipline or particular type of research project. Wherever possible, this should include ensuring that the research is disseminated beyond the academy so that it has the greatest impact. The University expects staff to be proactive in ensuring that the cultural, societal and economic benefits of their research are fully realised. Effective dissemination also includes providing up to date information on research activities and research outputs via the University’s research information system, PURE, so that the University can report to its stakeholders on its total research endeavour.

8. In order to support research activity, the University expects all academic staff referred to in section (3) to engage creatively, continuously and proactively in seeking funding and making grant applications to support their research. This includes seeking funding for research studentships and research infrastructure.

9. The University expects academic staff to engage with the wider research activities of their Department and the University, within a national and/or international context as appropriate and to act in in a collegial manner. This includes attracting and supervising research students and, wherever possible, developing links with other disciplines so as to sustain a vibrant and exciting interdisciplinary research culture.

10. Where members of staff as defined in section (3) supervise junior members of staff within larger research groups, they should provide advice and support in their role to ensure that supervisees’ research activities can yield outputs of high quality that will enhance their reputation and contribute to their career development. In addition, there will be an expectation of mentoring of new or more junior members of staff by more senior colleagues.

Issues affecting performance

11. The University recognises that the quantity and the nature of the research endeavour will vary across disciplines. As a result, Departments will produce written statements, made available to all staff, on the expected performance norms within that discipline and differentiated by staff grade.

12. Although all staff should aspire towards the highest level of research quality, the University recognises that factors may arise which impact upon research performance. For example

  • sickness, leave or other career breaks, which may affect the capacity of some staff to maintain the research performance of which they are capable;
  • recent entry to the profession, which may result in staff not yet achieving their full potential in research.

13. However, the University does not expect members of staff covered by this policy to be undertaking research that predominantly and consistently falls below the quality described in section (6). Where underperformance is identified as ongoing or pervasive, Departments will take appropriate action (Appendix 1).

14. It is the responsibility of individual staff to keep their Department fully informed of issues that impact on their ability to undertake research at the expected level.

Support for staff

15. It is recognised that the nature of research endeavour and the volume of activity that is expected varies by discipline. As such, Departments will produce a statement on the research expectations for their staff, which will be used in conjunction with this policy and will give specific expectations relating to the performance of staff within the discipline.

16. Members of the academic and senior research staff should expect their Heads of Department and Departmental Research Committee to give clear feedback on the research quality of their work in relation to external measures. They should also expect clear and supportive guidance on the expected standard and level of outputs to be published within the relevant discipline(s), and on income generation.

17. Staff should expect to receive advice and support in relation to their research through the management mechanisms established by the University (mentoring, performance review, etc) as well as through processes reflecting academic norms that are set up within Departments. These mechanisms are intended to ensure that staff understand best practice in developing a research programme, are receiving appropriate support from colleagues, and have access to training and other career development opportunities.

18. Staff should expect their Department to articulate, through a research strategy, the departmental context for research, research priorities, and policies for the allocation of resources such as workloads, research leave and other forms of research support. These policies and procedures should follow the principles of fairness, transparency, supportiveness and collegiality.

19. Where staff believe that they are not achieving their full research potential through lack of such support, it is their responsibility to raise this with their Head of Department.

Managing of Individual Staff Performance 

20. Departments, in being clear and transparent with their staff on expectations with regard to research, will have robust mechanisms for monitoring individual performance and for identifying potential issues in a timely manner. Where genuine performance problems are confirmed, the Department will be proactive in addressing those problems and should have a clear strategy for action. This should begin with the implementation of an informal framework to support staff to raise their level of achievement, with eventual recourse to formal procedures for managing performance in collaboration with the Department or Human Resources as necessary. Appendix 1 to this statement provides a framework of triggers and responses that Departments are expected to adapt and use for this purpose.

Framework for Triggers and Responses in Regard Research Underperformance

All academics on T & R contracts or in G8 research roles should be capable of being Principal Investigators (note – lecturers are appointed on Grade 7 usually, and expected to be capable of acting as PIs). All Departments are expected to have a written document on research expectations, taking into account subject norms, and differentiate between different grades where appropriate (ie the expectations for Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor). 

The following table provides a template of Departmental actions in response to issues that may arise associated with individual research performance. It is expected that the Triggers are broadly applicable (although not necessarily exhaustive), and it is also expected that all Departments will adopt the principle of Performance Management escalation that structures the Framework. However, Heads of Department should adapt the precise content of the response columns to reflect the allocation of responsibility, lines of communication, feedback and reporting mechanisms within their Department.

Trigger

Interventions and Responsibilities
Escalate from left to right if results of monitoring show insufficient improvement

  First Response Second Response Third Response
 

Review mitigating
contextual factors
(eg lack of funding
in specific area,
significant change in
research environment for
specific discipline,
factors affecting the
individual, etc).
Inform researcher as appropriate
given the preceding check,
collect and reflect
response.

Responsibilities:
Researcher
concerned, Head of
Research Group (if
applicable), Chair of
DRC, HoD as
appropriate.

Informal
management
resolution with
researcher.
Managementimposed
actions,
development
and monitoring.
(See Section 3 of
the University’s
Capability
Procedure1 or
Section 3 of the
University’s
Disciplinary
Procedure2 as
appropriate)3.


Responsibilities:
Researcher
concerned, Chair
of DRC, HoD.
At discretion of
Chair of DRC,
also RSPO and
Dean.

Formal
management of
unacceptable
performance.
(See Section 4 of
the University’s
Capability
Procedure or
Section 4 of the
University’s
Disciplinary
Procedures
appropriate).


Responsibilities:
Researcher
concerned, HoD,
HR.


Overall Research
Expectations

     

Has not met departmental
research expectations across a
range of research and
research management
activities, including
administrative processes and
deadlines.

Issue to be raised in
Performance
Review, explore
underlying reasons
and agree plan.
Offer of mentoring
where appropriate.

If issue continues
with failure to
meet plan, Chair
of DRC to
discuss what
specific support
measures need
to be put in
place.

Chair of DRC to
raise issue with
HoD to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met.

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR.

Outputs      

Has not published at a rate
expected in x period – defined
by departmental expectations.


Has never been lead or
corresponding author, where
this would be an expectation.


Research outputs are at a
standard significantly below
Departmental expectations.

Issue to be raised in
Performance
Review, explore
underlying reasons
and agree
publishing plan.
Offer of mentoring
where appropriate.

If issue continues
with failure to
meet publishing
plan, Chair of
DRC to discuss
what specific
support
measures need
to be put in
place.
Chair of DRC to
raise issue with
HoD to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met.

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR.

Research Students      

Has not supervised a student
in x period – defined by
departmental expectations.


Has never supervised a
student, where this is a
departmental expectation.


Has no student currently
registered, where this is a
departmental expectation.


Low completion rates, which
are not related to student
performance issue

Issue to be raised in
Performance
Review, explore
underlying reasons
and either (i) agree
plan to recruit a
student or (ii) agree
that supervision will
not be part of
expectations (with
clear and written
rationale) and adjust
workload to
compensate.
If (i), ensure member
of staff has been on
student supervision
training.

If issue
continues, Chair
of DRC to
discuss what
specific support
measures need
to be put in
place.
Chair of DRC to
raise issue with
HoD to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met.

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR.

Professional Conduct      

Breach of confidentiality or
other breach of contract.


Failure to meet terms and
conditions, including
deadlines.


Failure to deliver agreed
activities related to grants,
eg final or other reports.


External review (eg audit)
identifies specific deficiencies.


Paper retraction.

Chair of DRC to
explore underlying
reasons with staff
member and agree
plan to resolve issue
identified. Training
to be provided
where appropriate.
If this issue is a
significant breach of
conduct, follow
research misconduct
investigation policy.

Chair of DRC to
raise issue with
HoD to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met and to
discuss what
specific support
measures need
to be put in
place.
If this issue is a
significant
breach of
conduct, follow
research
misconduct
investigation
policy.

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR
if not a research
misconduct
issue.

Research Funding      

Has not submitted grant in
timescale of x period – as
defined by Department.

Not currently holding a grant,
where this is departmental
expectation.


Never submitted a research
grant as PI in x period.


Application success rates
significantly below
departmental expectations
over x period as defined by
Department.


Internal grant peer review –
failure to address feedback.

Issue to be raised in
Performance Review
and agree funding
plan. Offer of
mentoring where
appropriate.

Chair of DRC to
raise issue with
HoD to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met and to
discuss any
specific support
measures that
need to be put in
place.

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR.

Internal Research
management

     

Failure to recognise that
research project has potential
ethical issues.


Evidence of failure to comply
with integrity/ethics policies,
Research Data Management
or other research-related
policies.


Repeated failure of
compliance with internal
application submission policy
and procedures.

Where there is
evidence that the
issue is due to
deliberate failure to
follow procedure,
refer to Research
Misconduct Policy
and Procedure.
Chair of DRC to
explore underlying
reasons with staff
member and agree
plan to resolve issue
identified. Training
to be provided
where appropriate.

If issues
continue, Chair
of DRC and HoD
to consider
whether specific
support
measures need
to be put in place
and to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met.
Where there is
evidence that the
issue is due to
deliberate failure
to follow
procedure, refer
to Research
Misconduct
Policy and
Procedure.

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR.
Where there is
evidence that the
issue is due to
deliberate failure
to follow
procedure, refer
to Research
Misconduct
Policy and
Procedure.

Financial management

     

Evidence of financial
mismanagement.


Consistent over-spending on
research projects.

Chair of DRC to
explore underlying
reasons with staff
member and agree
plan to resolve issue
identified. Training
to be provided
where appropriate.


If the issue is
financial
irregularity, refer to
Procedure for
Suspected Financial
Misconduct.

If issues
continue, Chair
of DRC and HoD
to consider
whether specific
support
measures need
to be put in place
and to identify
whether other
areas of
academic
delivery are not
being met.


Where there is
evidence that the
issue is due to
deliberate failure
to follow
procedure, refer
to Procedure for
Suspected Financial
Misconduct .

HoD to raise as
competency
matter with HR.


Where there is
evidence that the
issue is due to
deliberate failure
to follow
procedure, refer
to Procedure for
Suspected
Financial
Misconduct.

 Misconduct      

Evidence of financial
mismanagement.


Deliberate failure to disclose
conflict of interest.


Complaint from student,
funder, collaborating
organisation or whistleblower.


Failure to ensure research
project has received ethical
approval, where this is
required.


Paper retracted as a result of
concerns regarding quality.

If the issue is
financial
irregularity, refer to
Procedure for
Suspected Financial
Misconduct.


Follow Research
Misconduct Policy
and Procedure.

    

 

1 http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/resources/policy/capability/#tab-1
2 http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/resources/policy/disciplinary/
3 Note: where a member of staff is on probation, then issues of underperformance should be dealt with within the framework of the
University’s Probation Policy and Procedure: http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/resources/policy/probation/#tab-1