Visit to Tagore’s Shantiniketan

By Geeny George Shaju, Communications and Programme Manager, RCUK India.

Team from IIT-M, explaining the project

Team from IIT-M, explaining the project

Soon after the RCUK Impact event in Kolkata, I along with Dr Nafees Meah, Director RCUK India travelled to Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan to attend the final review meeting for an UK-India research project – Biomass and Concentrating Photovoltaic System for Rural and Urban Energy Bridge. Read more

Beginning in 2011, this four year project is part of the UK-India Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide (BURD) programme, funded by the RCUK Energy and Digital Economy programmes, and by the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST).

University of Nottingham, University of Exeter and University of Leeds are the leading UK collaborators, and on the Indian side led by Visva-Bharati University and Indian Institute of Technology – Madras and Bombay.

The aim of the project was to develop new sustainable hybrid energy systems, integrating photovoltaic technology into biomass and waste power generations to create a low cost power system that could be managed and maintained by rural communities.

Group photo of researchers, students and funders

Group photo of researchers, students and funders

On arrival we were taken to the project site, which is a place close to the university campus and a Santhal (tribal village), with over 80 households. Researchers and students working on this project explained the functionality of the project and how the BioCPV was providing electricity to the village community.

After the site visit, research teams and funders congregated to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of this project. A key outcome of this joint project has been to provide reliable electricity to the rural households, school, community and even the local medical centre. This has enabled improved facilities for education and health, an improved lifestyle and a reduction in greenhouse emission, improving overall sustainability within the village.

MoU being handed over

MoU being handed over

The highlight of the meeting was handing over of the management of the BioCPV to the village community through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This agreement is very important as it gives the community ownership and empowers them for a better tomorrow. It also demonstrates that new sustainable technologies can be designed to be accessible and maintainable by local communities, something which is incredibly important for ‘off grid’ settlements.

Tagore’s Shantiniketan, (which means ‘abode of peace’) is known as a centre of knowledge and creativity. This visit was a perfect illustration of joint knowledge, creativity and more.

See more pictures from the visit here.

RCUK India ‘Impact’ event in the City of Joy – Kolkata

By Geeny George Shaju, RCUK India Communications and Programme Manager.

RCUK India hosted a series of research and innovation roadshows across several research intensive cities in India, one of them in Kolkata, West Bengal.

(L-R): Sukanya Kumar-Sinha; Geeny George Shaju; Dr Nafees Meah from RCUK India, Mr Scott Furssedonn-Wood, British Deputy High Commission; Ms Reena Venkatraman Additional Chief Secretary DST; Mr Aloke Mookherjea Chairman Innovation Taskforce CII (EA) and Prof Anuradha Lohia VC Presidency University

Attendees at the impact event.

Kolkata is one of the four metropolitan cities in India, and the only one that I had not visited, so I was all zest up for this. Coincidentally the entire city of Kolkata was also excited, oh not for the event (so I wish) but for a WT20 cricket match between India and Pakistan also in Kolkata.

The impact event was organised in partnership with the British Deputy High Commission, Kolkata, with an aim to showcase the UK-India research partnership and its impact. Kolkata has many top universities, research and engineering institutes, and there are five existing UK-India research projects running in West Bengal. This event was step forward to tell people about our research partnerships and build new networks at the state level.

There was an excellent attendance by academics, senior policy makers, industrial leads, local press. Key panel members at the event were Mr Scott Furssedonn-Wood, British Deputy High Commissioner, Kolkata; Ms Reena Venkatraman, Additional Chief Secretary DST; Mr Aloke Mookherjea, Chairman Innovation Taskforce CII (EA) and Prof Anuradha Lohia, Vice-Chancellor Presidency University.

Each of the panel members shared their views on international research, and how it is best delivered when in partnership. Prof Lohia, emphasised the need to incorporate multi-disciplinary approach and enhance funding to research in humanities and social sciences.

Famous (Hindustan Ambassador taxis in its bright yellow

Famous (Hindustan Ambassador) taxis in its bright yellow

The city of Kolkata is well known for its quest for knowledge and passion for learning. Panel members and guests were overwhelmed by the areas of research covered by the UK-India partnership, how it is striving to INSPIRE CHANGE. I was delighted that the event was a success and my first visit wants me to come back soon to this amazing city. And joining my happiness was the entire city, celebrating India’s win in the cricket match!

RCUK India Roadshow: Dehradun, Uttarakhand

By Andrew Telford, Senior Programme Manager, RCUK India

Being located in India’s bustling capital of Delhi is extremely useful for our day to day working. However, it also means that we tend to have fewer interactions with colleagues from further afield, something we are looking forward to addressing through a series of roadshows across India.

It was with this in mind that I jumped at the opportunity to fly to Dehradun, interim capital of the state of Uttarakhand, to speak at an event introducing UK research funding and scholarship opportunities, hosted by the British Deputy High Commission of Chandigarh. Uttarakhand is a Himalayan state in Northern India with amazing natural beauty. It is famous for its lakes, forests, national parks and of course mountain ranges, including the Nanda Devi, a World Heritage site which at 7,821m is the highest mountain located entirely within the borders of India.

Illustration of the Research Council portfolio in Uttarakhand, noting approximate Principal and selected Co-Investigator locations

Illustration of the Research Council portfolio in Uttarakhand, noting approximate Principal and selected Co-Investigator locations

The Research Councils’ collaborative research portfolio in Uttarakhand consists of three projects, representing over £2 million investment from the UK Research Councils, with matched resources from partner organisations here in India. Particularly interesting is that these three projects, covering a wide range of sciences (smart energy, farmed animal health and changing water cycles), indicate the large potential there is to collaborate with Uttarakhand.

Speakers for the event included Mr. David Lelliott OBE, British Deputy High Commissioner Chandigarh, Dr Rajendra Dobhal, Director General Uttarakhand State Council for Science and Technology, and colleagues representing the UK’s Science & Innovation Network, British Council and Skills Anytime, all of whom received warm receptions from the audience. I was delighted to have the opportunity to introduce our diverse research portfolio, our Inspiring Change video and ongoing programmes to senior academics, local officials and policy makers.

UK Research funding and Scholarship Opportunities event, Hosted by the British Deputy High Commission of Chandigarh, in Dehradun, Uttarakhand 16 Feb 2016

UK Research funding and Scholarship Opportunities event, Hosted by the British Deputy High Commission of Chandigarh, in Dehradun, Uttarakhand 16 Feb 2016

The event also brought together colleagues from UK Universities including the University of Aberdeen, who signed an MoU with the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (Dehradun) to enable student and faculty exchanges between the two institutions. It was great to see that the enthusiasm for research collaboration between the UK and India is alive and well at the state level.

It was very interesting to hear from Dr Dobhal about Uttarakhand’s Vision for Growth and Development to 2022. A vision developed in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry which picks up on key issues that resonate strongly with the Research Councils’ Global Challenges, including water security, exploration of renewable energies and new agri-biotech techniques. Uttarakhand is experiencing significant growth in both Per Capita Income and GDP, which as noted in a recent lecture by Governor Krishnan Kant Paul will help with addressing both health and education challenges faced by the State. From Dr Dobhal’s presentation it was clear that cutting-edge research and high-quality education are considered vitally important for the continued development of Uttarakhand.

 

Catching the plane back to Delhi

Catching the plane back to Delhi

This was the first opportunity in 2016 to take the roadshow to somewhere new in India, and we are delighted with the interest that it generated. Follow our twitter handle @RCUK_India for updates from events happening across the country in the coming months!

Gateway to Research Pop-up survey

A new pop-up survey has been introduced into the Gateway to Research system. The main aim of the survey is to capture general information about the users of the portal to help us ensure it meets their needs.

The survey will ask a small number of questions, such as which sector the user works in and how frequently they visit the site.

The final page of the survey includes a link to a more detailed survey for users to participate in should they wish, which has been live on the Gateway to Research website since October 2015.

Gateway to Research (GtR) – Studentship information

We are pleased to announce that Studentship information is finally being published on RCUK Gateway to Research. This comprises of data from AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, MRC, NC3Rs, NERC and STFC.

In keeping with the communication that was sent out to Research Organisations in September 2015, the data being published is restricted to Training grants and Studentships that started on or after 1 February 2015.

Studentship data will be refreshed on a monthly basis in line with project information. So any information submitted via the Je-S student data portal in between refreshes will be published after the next refresh.

There are no ESRC studentship records on GtR at this time because the last cohort of ESRC training grants were awarded before 1 February 2015

We are now working on publishing historic studentship data on GtR with the aim to complete this in March 2016.

Living with Air Pollution in a Chinese Megacity

By Cerian Foulkes, Communications and Programme Manager, RCUK China.

AQI, PM2.5, 3M N93. For Beijing residents, these are the everyday terms we use to navigate the smog that engulfs our city. Early last week, as Beijing’s pollution reached ‘Beyond Index’ levels not seen since early 2013, daily chatter moved away from Christmas holiday plans to comparing the effectiveness of our air purifiers.

Putting AQI into context, Beijing US Embassy Air Quality and Pollution Measurement website.

Putting AQI into context, Beijing US Embassy Air Quality and Pollution Measurement website.

Understanding Air Quality Index (AQI) tables is a relatively new challenge for both Chinese and foreigners living in this megacity, as is forecasting which weather changes will bring us blue skies again. The 1st December this year was one of the most polluted to date with official figures measuring the AQI as more than 600 PM2.5 (Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometers in size) and office rumours had it at over 1000, both figures well into the ‘Hazardous’ range. For 24 hours it felt like we were living in a dystopia rather than the political centre of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Anticipation grew as our working day came to an end and someone announced that the evening would bring north westerly winds to finally chase the choking air away. As forecast, on 2nd December we awoke to a mere 25 AQI, which according to the Beijing US Embassy is ‘Good’, and we knew that for at least a few days we could put our 3M N93 masks aside and breathe easy.

Maggie from RCUK China team stands outside the British Embassy in Beijing, taken at 2pm on 1st and 2nd December.

Maggie from RCUK China team stands outside the British Embassy in Beijing, taken at 2pm on 1st and 2nd December.

Over the same two days, in another major capital some 8,000km away, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with world leaders for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, ‘to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate’. As one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas, China plays a pivotal role in climate change mitigation. However as President Xi states “Addressing climate change should not deny the legitimate needs of developing countries to reduce poverty and improve living standards” it is clear that further research is required to ensure development is not at the expense of urban environments and population health.

While the average Beijing citizen is focused on adapting our everyday habits to life under a blanket of PM2.5, working in the RCUK China office we are able to celebrate the progress being made to find long-term solutions. Just last week it was announced that five projects are being funded by the UK-China joint programme Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health in a Chinese Megacity (see link for full list of projects). With support from our team, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (NSFC) have come together to support these four-year bilateral, interdisciplinary projects that will provide insight into the sources, processes and impacts of urban air pollution. Part of the NERC funds and all of the MRC funds for this programme is from the Newton Fund, part of the UK Government’s official development assistance.

Beijing, along with Dehli and others, are often described as some the most polluted cities in the world and these new research partnerships are a major step to providing new knowledge to solve this challenge. In addition to this call in China, NERC and MRC have also recently launched a separate call into Atmospheric Pollution & Human Health in an Indian Megacity to continue understanding this global development problem. As the population continues to rapidly urbanise in China, India and across the rest of the world, efforts made to understand and solve severe air pollution will no doubt benefit millions of lives.

We’re now a member of ORCID

By Sarah Townsend, Senior Research Funding Analyst, Research Councils UK (RCUK)

The Research Councils can today announce that we have become members of the Jisc UK ORCID consortium and our grants system will be ready to start capturing ORCID identifiers (ORCID iDs) early next year.

This news is the culmination of several years of engagement between the Research Councils and Jisc to understand how we can improve the flow of information across the higher education sector. In a joint RCUK and JISC report published earlier this year, we identified the ORCID iD as the leading standard for a researcher identifier. By becoming a member of ORCID through the Jisc UK ORCID Consortium, the Research Councils have benefited from reduced membership as well as access to enhanced technical resource. As a UK university, you can also take advantage of these benefits by joining the UK ORCID consortium today. By becoming a member of ORCID, you can integrate the ORCID iDs of your researchers into your institution’s research information system which in the longer term will make the flow of information to RCUK and other funders quick and easy.

As a researcher the ORCID iD is a bit like a fingerprint. It gives you a unique digital identity which can be kept throughout your career. This allows you to keep an on-going record of your scholarly activities even if you change research organisation or leave academia. Registration for an ORCID iD is fast and free. You only need to enter your name and email address and create a password. And there is no need to wait until the New Year. You can sign up for an ORCID iD instantly by clicking here – it only takes about 30 seconds to register and you will be joining the 1.8 million researchers worldwide who have already done it.

And that’s all that needs doing in the short term. In time, you can populate your ORCID record with your publications and other works, funding and employment history. This is made easy with tools to easily search and select stuff that is relevant to you. This is where the real benefits start to come as this is information that in future you will be able to use again and again in different systems.

And there are other more immediate benefits. We know that name ambiguity can be a real problem for a researcher, especially in making sure that your publications are properly attributed to you. An ORCID iD solves this helping to improve the chances that your work is discoverable.

These benefits will only be fully realised if we see widespread uptake of ORCID iDs across the research community and for ORCID iDs to be integrated within HEIs, funders and publishers systems. So if you are a researcher take the first step and register for an ORCID iD now. If you are a UK University become a member of the UK ORCID consortium.
RCUK has reviewed ORCIDs privacy policy and are assured that their principles are based on respect for the privacy of individual researchers. You have complete control! You can find out more by reading these FAQs.

What is the Connected Nation?

By John Baird, Lead for the RCUK Digital Economy Theme.

With the stage set for Connected Nation: Thriving in the Digital Economy, a major cross-council event taking place at the British Library this Tuesday, 8 December, John Baird, Lead for the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Digital Economy Theme provides a background to the event, and explains how research funded by the UK Research Councils is helping make the UK a safer, more trustworthy and more enjoyable place to live.

The world is changing. Our economy and society are becoming increasingly dependent on digital and data technologies, which are presenting us with new challenges and opportunities almost every day.

The UK is ideally placed to tackle these challenges – it’s in our DNA. From Charles Babbage’s 1822 concept for a Difference Engine, a landmark in the prehistory of the computer, to the work of Alan Turing, the father of theoretical computer science, and to modern data analytics, which can make sense of the digital world around us, the UK has an incredibly strong foundation in the science that has supported digital technologies over the last centuries.

Today, our skill at connecting people, things and data together, in safe, smart, secure, trustworthy, productive and efficient ways is more important than ever, as we design and build digital technologies for future generations (some as yet unimagined) that will rely on discovery and innovation stemming from fundamental research.

The Research Councils are at the heart of this and have currently invested more than £170 million in cutting-edge research in the digital economy and information & communications technologies.

Connected Nation: Thriving in a Digital World will bring together influential policymakers, businesses and third sector leaders on 8 December at the British Library to discuss the key issues affecting the future of our digital economy. The event will also showcase how long-term Research Council investments are already benefitting the UK and how they can continue to help our economy and society not just to survive, but thrive as a future connected nation.

You can find out about this research on the Connected Nation blog, which has been launched to coincide with the event, and gives Research Council-supported researchers a chance to describe their ground-breaking work in their own words.

As the Connected Nation is about you and the contributions we can make together, we will be covering the event live at #ConnectedNationUK for you to engage and ask questions even if you are not there in person – our speakers are looking forward to answering your questions. So please note the date – 8 December. Log in, follow the hashtag #ConnectedNationUK hashtag, have your say and help us take the discussion forward into our connected future.

 

Indian Prime Minister visit to the UK: Highlights strong UK-India research partnership

By Sukanya Kumar-Sinha Deputy Director, RCUK India

The euphoria around Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to the UK started months before the actual visit, and continues to remain high a week later! We, in the research arena, are particularly ecstatic about how science, research and innovation came through with flying colours.

Prof Jane Elliott and Prof VijayRaghavan signing the letter of intent

Prof Jane Elliott and Prof VijayRaghavan signing the letter of intent

During this visit, RCUK announced that investment in UK-India research from RCUK, the Government of India, and third parties now exceeds £200 million, following a joint £72 million boost to the portfolio during 2015. This boost comes in the form of new initiatives across a range of research activities. For instance, we have UK and Indian researchers working together to develop affordable clean-energy solutions, to generate new knowledge on air pollution and its impacts on health in a rapidly urbanising society, and to develop models for sustainable water resources for food, energy and ecosystems services.

On the other hand, there are also multinational programmes (in partnership with the UK’s Department for International Development) where UK and Indian researchers are working with researchers from low-income countries to help address major challenges in maternal and childhood health, and food-security needs in low-resource settings.

A full list of new RCUK programmes is available on the RCUK website here.

Team RCUK India

Team RCUK India

As Prime Minister Modi pointed out in his address to the UK Parliament, “We are working together in the most advanced areas of science and technology. We are finding solutions to the enduring human problems of food and health security, and seeking answers to emerging challenges like climate change”.  To say that this has been a busy year will be an understatement! And it is only going to get busier, what with the two Prime Ministers announcing 2016 as the UK-India Year of Education, Research and Innovation.

So, what will the year 2016 bring with it? From RCUK’s perspective, we look forward to making our partnership with India deeper, more robust and more interdisciplinary. We hope to work with a range of Indian partners acting as one team to address mutual, even global, challenges by bringing together experts from various disciplines of sciences. One such imminent programme will be the setting up of the India-UK Strategic Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Led by RCUK in the UK, and DBT in India, the aim of this strategic group will be to lead the way in developing international norms for the control of AMR.

To this effect, on 19th November, RCUK and DBT signed a letter of intent to work together in Climate Change, Agriculture, Antimicrobial Resistance and Vaccine Development.

Another highlight will be the launch of the Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA) campaign in India as part of India’s Monsoon Mission to improve prediction of the monsoon from short range to seasonal timescales.

In May 2016, RCUK will co-host with India the next Global Research Councils meet bringing together approximately 60 heads of research councils from around the world, as well as high-ranking observers from global science agencies, university associations and research policy organisations. Furthermore, the UK will also partner with India for the 2016 Technology Summit in Delhi.

So, as we celebrate the success of the historic ‘Modi visit’ as we have fondly referred to it over the past many months of preparation; we, at RCUK India, look forward to taking forward the commitment that our two Prime Ministers have made towards a stronger and more sustainable research partnership.

Grant giving: Global funders to focus on interdisciplinarity

By Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Chair of Research Councils UK.

Three arguments are often made in favour of interdisciplinary research. First, complex modern problems such as climate change and resource security are not amenable to single-discipline investigation; they often require many types of expertise across the biological, physical and social disciplines. Second, discoveries are said to be more likely on the boundaries between fields, where the latest techniques, perspectives and insights can reorient or increase knowledge. The influence of big-data science on many disciplines is a good example. Third, these encounters with others benefit single disciplines, extending their horizons.

The arguments against interdisciplinary work are also familiar. Devotees of normalized citation measures often contend that interdisciplinary research is inferior. Some fear that it drains funds, time and energy from ‘core’ disciplines. Research funders often hear complaints that schemes targeted at interdisciplinarity distract researchers. There is a persistent argument that ‘you can’t have inter-disciplines without disciplines’.

One striking aspect of this debate is how poor the consolidated data are on which to base judgements. This is why the Global Research Council (GRC) has selected interdisciplinarity as one of its two annual themes for an in-depth report, debate and statement between now and mid-2016. (The other is the position of women in science and research.) The GRC is a federation of more than 50 national research funders, with representatives from countries including Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Participants include the US National Science Foundation, Research Councils UK (RCUK), Science Europe and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This blog post is extracted, with permission, from an article on nature.com