A fresh faced Rachel Beaton excited for the start of her career in Research Management at Stirling

It is a bit of a shock to realise that you have worked in the same office at almost the same seat with the same view for 10 years. There have been the occasional breaks for children but as of June 2017 I will have worked at Stirling for 10 years. Having been a student at the University before that Stirling has been part of my day-to-day life for shy of twenty years. I joined Stirling in 2007, when Alan Hansen was awarded his Honorary Doctorate at the June Graduation ceremony and Professor Ian Simpson was taking over from Professor John Field as Deputy Principal for Research.

I have seen the University go through a variety of changes, new Principals, new Chancellors, new management and not forgetting new structures. There have been departments, divisions, schools and now faculties. I was reassured when meeting other research administrators that Stirling is not unique in this rolling restructure – we’ve even changed the name of our directorate recently from Research & Enterprise to Research & Innovation Services. I’m looking forward to what future changes are ahead.

While completing my undergraduate degree at Stirling I was unaware that the research led focus of the teaching here was unique. The fact that I attended research labs and undertook independent research was unusual and something that not all students have the opportunity to do. I didn’t appreciate the opportunity until I came to work at the University and understood what it meant to be part of a research-led institution where the staff teaching students are at the forefront of research in their discipline. That the teaching delivered isn’t the same-old-same-old messages as they are updated as the research moves forward.

Within the Research and Enterprise Office I have done a wide variety of roles starting with post award finance, becoming a research policy officer and a short dalliance as a research development manager to cover maternity leave. While I have no desire to carry out research myself I am endlessly fascinated by the research that is carried out at Stirling, amazed at its relevance to the day-to-day lives of me and you. The research in aquaculture that supports the food I eat of an evening. The ground-breaking research in sport that will protect my children in their games lessons at school. The ageing research that may support my parents or even myself in later life to navigate a fast pace ever changing digital world.

As a research policy officer with responsibility for governance and integrity it is my role to put the policies and procedures in place to ensure that the research we’re carrying out is carried out to the highest ethical standards, that no participants are put at risk and we’re obliging all responsibilities from our funders.

A new part of my role in recent years is the communicating of research through the application of open access policies that make research publications accessible to all – not simply those affiliated with a University that has a large library subscription grant. Also the move away from traditional communication of research through formal journal articles that follow a set pattern of introduction, method, results and conclusion which are possibly inaccessible to Joe/Jane Bloggs member of the public.

I’ve seen the growth of The Conversation which provides expert analysis of science but presents it in a digestible and readable way – being aware that research is picked up by the mass media and often reported in a less than straight forward or accurate manner. The Conversation gives academics a platform to accurately report their research findings.

The rise of social media has broken down the barriers between academics and their students. It allows students (and support staff) to realise that the academics are humans and like cute cat videos too.

The best thing about working in a research office is that things do not stay the same so I’m excited to see what the future of research at Stirling looks like.