Wang Shujuan, Associate Professor, Deputy Director, The Open University of China (OUC)
Overseas Based University: the University of Nottingham
Advisor: Simon McGrath
Study Area: Comparative Education Research
Exploration on University Scientific Research Management in UK
—A short-term study report of 2007- 2008
I joined China /UK Study Abroad Fund's project and studied the research management mechanism of UK and some my perspectives on that.
In turn, compared with OUC issues, paper gave advisements on China university research management mechanism improvement future.
Key word: Mechanism, Management, UK
In November 2007, fortunately I have been assigned as a visiting scholar by the Open University of China (OUC) to join China /UK Study Abroad Fund's project, which has studied for four months in International Education Research Central of United Notions Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Nottingham University Education College. Although it was only a short period, I did enjoying and benefited a lot.
First of all, I had a new perceptual knowledge of the mechanism, model and frame of British scientific research management. Secondly, I had opportunities to investigate study and participate in many academic discussions and exchange activities between British universities. Personal experienced British scholars' earnest, preciseness, practical, honest and friendly to their researches and conducts, as well as attaching importance to task programming and research planning, emphasizing intercommunication and improvement during the process. They focus on the credibility and efficiency of data collecting, and scientific implements, also value the practical detection and application of research results. For example, my advisers Professor W.John Morgan (UNESCO, Chair of the Political Economy of Education , Director UNESCO)、Professor Simon. McGrath (Professor of international Education and Development and Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Educational Development UNESCO Centre)、Professor Bernadette. Robinson and Dr.Chris Atkin、Dr.Anne Convery etc. are all such kind of scholars. During the time stay with them, I learned many theories, methods and knowledge about how to research. Meanwhile the colleagues of Nottingham University were concerned about our study and living especially about our researches. They always gave us some useful advices or offered some helps, after clearly listening our research assumptions and requirements. Professor Robinson not only sacrificed his own time and energy to give direction, deliberate our research, help us arranging visiting universities; but also personally droved and accompanied us to Open University and other pertinent distance learning, adult education colleges to exam and study. Let us touched and have deepened our cognition to British people.
Thirdly through read and analysis lots of original data, I had some perceptual knowledge of UK University scientific research management mechanism、investment mechanism and overall evaluation model. Therefore I obtained some enlightenments and benefits that could help me improving and completing my research field, which included scientific research management, future CCRTVU’s systematic management and incentive mechanism. This was also my main research subject. During the time, I try to through field survey, expertise interview and literature research etc. methods to understand both general universities such as Nottingham University, Oxford University and distance learning universities e.g. OU about how to establish their scientific research management and their implementations. I also try hard to explore relations between scientific research management and research teams and academic development, as well as research capabilities and their influence and restricting to universities' quality and status. In order to explore a proper management model for OUC and gradually completing the management criterion and incentive mechanism for multi-subjects scientific research under the distance learning condition, creating a good atmosphere for research and boosting our university's core competitiveness.
After four months of studying, I have done bigger modification to my diagram of UK university scientific research management mechanism. Among them, also had the comparatively clear cognition about duty, function, and effect of each part.
Diagram before come to UK. The first was:
The two months literature research indicates that British scientific research places emphasis on adapting national development strategy and economic goal, base on government and enterprises demands and future plans, rely on basic theory, scientific method and advanced technology, insist combining long-term plans with short-term objectives, integrates government support with enterprises devotion, theory study combines with practical research, scientific research combines with economic benefit, quality combines with commercialization of research findings, service combines administrative supervision, inside evaluation combines with outside appraisal. According research environment and self development needs to establish current research subject and future direction. Moreover, British research works emphasize research design, data research, academic discussion, effectiveness evaluation and application of research result. One of deepest impression I got about British scholars were their pragmatic attitude and effectiveness theory, most research topics were aimed at subject development and social life practicality, chose a small area but made it more comprehensive.
Several cognitions to British scientific research management mechanism
General speaking, research fields of UK higher education are similar to China, including subject theoretic study, development research for technology and product, application study and others. However, I found British universities scientific researches did not centre on advanced science and its theoretic study, contrarily concentrated more on marketplace application and exploration and innovation to the society. Such work style not only has advanced social status and influence of British academic research field, but also provided enough funds for the research, which caused it completed successfully. All these may benefit from the government's scientific development strategy and reformation of scientific research financial aid policy since nineties of the last century. This reform prompted the British academe to attach importance to theoretic study as well as practical application, finally maximized scientific research value. Meantime increased its national and international impacts on politics, economic, science, technology, social life and many other aspects. Since the beginning of the 21 century, this developing trend is more obvious.
- British government escalate their attentions to scientific research
After long period of exploration and practice, British government has more profound cognitions to the scientific research mechanism and its developing strategy. In July 2004 the government first time announced its middle-long term development plan, which involved with three main departments: trading and industry, education, and technique. These three departments together released a decade frame for UK science and innovation investment, British government has reformed the original de-concentration management mechanism, made further developing and completing of its new innovation strategy, also had a breakthrough on managing idea and model of science and technology. British government realizes that a country's international competitive power largely depend on the increasing scientific research strength, the advanced of science and its international academic status and influence. According to this view, in the decade frame, British government put forward a proposal to increase scientific research investment proportion, and clearly express that until 2014, government would increase the financial import of scientific Research and Development (R&D) from presently accounting 1.9% of GDP to 2.5%, in order to improve British scientific research and enhance knowledge.
At the same time, British government reformed the scientific research managing model to adapt the implementation of scientific innovation strategy. It shows in the frame, which see different organizations and departments as an entirety to devise a high-end project; set up the science and technology centre to provide theoretic principle and implementation strategy for the government policy; establishes a comprehensive, integrative, efficient scientific research performance management system, reinforces government administration. After establishing the general objective about science and innovation, set up six specific second-level objectives, twenty-nine third-level objectives and 40 measurable indicators. Based on these objectives and indicators, every two years British government assesses the science and innovation development process, releases the evaluation results, to improve and perfect its strategy, decision and implementation in time.
The government believes that from now to 2014, scientific research will centre in application and innovation of cross subjects and new subjects, UK need create a multi-subjects research environment. Emphasize that British academia should...
Build up a science, research and innovation system, making UK become the key pivot of global economy, become the leader of transforming knowledge into new product and new service; consolidates its advantage of existing research and predominance of English in international academic communication, plays effect in new and high technology application, and the effectiveness and quality of British service industry; innovates and completes the management, adjustment and usage of scientific technology. Ultimately, brings the British academic research achievement and advanced technology to the world; elevates the position of UK in international academia and the innovation field, which unceasingly expands its influence.
The degree of British government valuing scientific research displays as below: government as the main boy of policy making and implementing, base on society needs and development plan, through purchasing service or conditional subsidization etc. economic ways to conduct scientific research. Completely different with China, the macro science and technology managing do not in charge by Science and Technology (ST) department, Education department and National Nature, Social Science Funds, instead is responsible by the chairman of Trade Committee double the Minister of Trade and Industry (viz. Cabinet minister of science and technology). The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also specially appoints a Science and Technology minister to help TI minister managing its administration. Its subordination Office of Science and Technology (OST) as a macro managing organization, which is responsible for shaping national course and policy for ST research and application, to coordinate trans-department cooperation, meanwhile, it also has the duty for managing and allocating government's financial support. Other government branches are responsible for administrating ST in their respective fields, which under the OST coordination and guidance. Moreover in the ST assisting side, it has the chief government scientific advisor, The Select Committee on Science and Technology was According to the Royal Charter, British government set up seven special research councils. These research councils are autonomous but have some function those same departments of government which is responsible for driving high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research within the whole country, industrialization of research findings, and training high-caliber scientific research (SR) staffs. Every council has own research institution; also has collegiums managing specific affairs. Its members are from universities, professional organizations, industrial circles and related government branches.
Besides emphasizing the recognition of SR, British government and research councils also focus on building academic institution and scientific research team, and give most support of policy and funds to the organizational structure who always to do the research for public without funds.The most important sector of such research institution is directly under its relative government department, including every council’s subordinate research institution. The mission of this kind of institution is to put government objective in practice, which mostly is engaged in problem researches such as national strategic security, cooperation between Commonwealth of Nations and pioneering supporting technology, aerospace, health and medical community, energy sources, environment and so on, also in charge of submitting basic science development plan to government and successful commercialization of laboratory achievements. Additionally many significant public scientific research projects that studied by academic organizations such as the Royal Society, the Royal Engineering College and Institute for University Science and Technology Policy, are also responsible for revitalizing British science and technology. Furthermore, British government has High Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) responsible for various scientific researches within universities and other high education institutes, includes providing funds, staff payoff and device management etc. Besides reinforce building strong research teams, government give research organizations some tax preference in order to drive them to develop.
Above policies have encouraged enterprises to participate in scientific research investment, thereby research institution could gain sufficient research expenditure allowance and facilities support, ensure that the research is on the rails.
The British government and every council attaches importance to personal allocation, administration and evaluation of their subordinate university, academe and other institutes, using a "fair and open" competitive mechanism to contest mobility. Size of personal force of research institute is rely on the budget of scientific research expenditure allowance, all the employees belong to related research council or university. There are three main categories of employees; the most important one is scientific researchers and their managers (approximate 80% of total workforce); contract researchers (approximate 5% of total), according to project requirement to recruit temporary researchers from different universities until the work done; and workers of staffs (approximate 15%) mainly responsible for infrastructure maintenance and all technical and logistic supports. For all these people, different operating post and time has different salary, same post but with different level and duty also has different pay. In order to improve work efficiency, reinforce its management, every end of year all the research institutes have to assess their employee performances, which same as in China, but the evaluation criterion and indicator is quite difference. The evaluation result can be divided into five grades, and relevant to the rate of annual salary increasing. Although every year their salaries usually rise, different year-end evaluation grade can affect salary increase rate. And employee, who with the fifth grade (the lowest grade), his or her salary will not increase, conversely may be dismissed.
British government emphasize reinforcing its management to scientific research project, simultaneity with policy support, thus it try to be justice, open and efficiency in its examination and approval, financial support and many other aspects. In the ordinary course of evens, science and technology project adopts advertised biding, once confirms the invitation range, the competent department will announce a guide to encourage relative academic institutes, scientific research department, universities and enterprises to bid, which participates in competition.
About the scientific research judging, in 1989 the Cabinet Office released Research and Development Assessment: Guide for Customers and Managers of R&D that mentioned a "ROAME" statement as the standard of appraisal. "ROAME" stands for Rationale, Objectives, Appraisal, Monitoring and Evaluation. Any proposed department research program must have a well-supported rational for its research. The objectives must be clear and explicit, with the merit of those objectives being appraised before they are funded. Monitoring should be carried out while the research is in process. And there should be evaluation at the end of each program, with an independent assessment that involves industry and academics as well as policymakers.
Research and Development Assessment: Guide for Customers and Managers of R&D, HMSO, London, 1989
The main impacts of the ROAME approach in its various manifestations have generally been positive in that it has; firstly focused activities more closely on defined objective. Secondly, it has given more impetus to an evaluation culture—especially ex post evaluation with resultant feedback into new policies and progeammes: that is systematic learning from experience. In a word, this guide has strong direction and applicability, which helps applicant to design, constitute and submit the program, also provides basis and data for the program appraiser.
Following the ROAME approach, the successful scientific research institute or relative personnel will organize to study the subject. When the subject has done, firstly the research institute would strictly examine and evaluate all related scientific research activities via the inner, from whether it could achieve the research goal that planned by the council, how the fund is assigned and used, any sustainable research for the subject and so on, to ensure the subject study has achieved its goal as government and research councils requested.
More scientific and effective of British higher education funding devotion mechanism and governance system
During the science and technology management, British government attaches importance to funding devotion and its running. The funding governance system has three different hierarchies: the initial management level composed by government department, the middle management level composed by each research council and HEFCE, and the executive level composed by each academic scientific research institute. The office of Science and Technology (OST) under the DTI is responsible for monitoring and checking government budget of science and technology. The role of OST is to maintain and develop excellence in UK science, engineering and technology and to maximize their contribution to sustainable wealth creation and quality of life in the UK.
The chief objects of government funding supporting are those research institutes and universities that named as "Foundation Stone of Science and Engineering". As the important component of UK scientific research, their funding mainly comes from government, especially from Department of Trade and Industry, Education as well as Technology. DTI through OST to distribute the funding to each research council, then the council will support as a research plan or project; department of education and technology through HEFCE to manage the work, for example funding support for university's infrastructure, laboratory and labour cost to create and keep the excellent ˎ efficient environment. The HEFCE will devote the funding based on the rank of university research, which unlike the research council need explicit details of research plan.
The UK government provides two streams of funding to support university research infrastructure and specific projects, known as the binary support system, so as to maintain and promote the research capacity of universities. The increased diversity of sources of research funding in recent years have changed the balance of research income structure and threatens the sustainability of university research. In order to change the situation, the UK government has greatly increased the research funding to universities, and updated and improved the funding methods to ensure equity and appropriateness.
The binary support system has been effectively reformed as transformation and development of British science and technology policy. Recent years, government has transformed the scientific research funding allocation, broke the branch boundary, in order to increase availability of the funding. For instance, government prescribes when research council that in charge of fundamental research and strategic research was assigning the funding, other special research councils and government scientific research institutes allowed participating open competition; similar for the National defence research funding, which permitted civil scientific research institutes to join.
Take higher education institute as an example, most universities research funding come from HEFCE. In the past the council took 40% of budget to support the institutions of higher learning and divided it equally by the amount of students. Now the HEFCE not merely increased the scientific research funding, but also continually establish, improve and perfect the assessment mechanism, system and criterion, formulated a series of specific evaluation indicators, ranked the university and the academic institutions on their research levels, moreover in accordance with their rankings lean to those preponderant academies and institutions, as the main basis of 95 percent of the funding budget allocation, to ensure the research quality and enhance the level of scientific research. I went to Nottingham University to study, because of the academic standards and scientific research strength its famous Queen's Medical College gained many financial supports, to make it a seat of learning that congregated global elite including Nobel Prize winner, thereby the scientific research development entered a virtuous cycle. Another example, the Loughborough University near Nottingham used to be unknown, but as raising the research level and intensification teachers' team of its engineering, architecture, and media subjects, making Loughborough University a figure in the UK academic research, had a increasing number of supports and concerns. From 1995 to 2006, in the assessment of colleges and universities in UK, the outstanding subject of Loughborough University is as high as 94.4, the quality of higher education ranked second just after the University of Cambridge (Source: UK Higher Education Funding Council website). With the new assessment mechanism and standard, even the world well-known Oxford and Cambridge University has to deal with the fierce competition and challenges.
During the studying, through the literature research and interview with scholars, I felt that British government's research funds supporting to institutions of higher learning were more and more emphasis to economic benefit, and encouraged them to cooperate with enterprises. Provided the relevant preferential policies, meantime to conduct them in empirical research and applied research, in order to attract business concerns and investment, gave them opportunity for higher level Research and Development (R&D) activities. At the same time, the government has taken every opportunity to promote their achievements in scientific research to enter international markets and application areas, such as in January, Brown the Prime Minister visited China, and one of the important aims was that introduced British high-end scientific and technological achievements to China's vast market. Of course, the government attached great importance to protect intellectual property and the interests of research personnel as well. In the white paper Investing in Innovation define sever principia of using the core research funding to support scientific research projects, the main principle is the usage of core research funding should certainly improve the foundation of UK science and engineering, or as other ways to provide support for public interest. The key indicator of public interests is that the final scientific research result need publish in academic journals or literature. The intellectual property only for scientific research purpose belongs to the university (or the research institution and researcher) rather than commercial backer.
On the one hand, the British government provides maximum support for policies and funds to higher education, at one time, emphasizes on the establishment and improvement of scientific research management, and ensures that the limited funds are applied effectively. Generally speaking, scientific research activities need hardware support such as capital equipment, raw materials and other experiment needs. Also includes full-time research staffs and graduate students' salary, subsidies, meetings and travel expenses, as well as publishing and printing costs, such R & D expenditures called Direct Cost. Besides these, universities and academic institutions need provide research laboratories, libraries, and public services such as scientific research management, as part of the Indirect Cost for research projects. Its public and long consumption nature, make it difficult to measure. Within all nations' scientific research managements and expenditures, the positioning, pricing and loss measurement of indirect costs are difficult, thus became a vital constraint factor of scientific research funds using.
In order to reduce the negative impact of indirect cost, the British government in 2002 Spending Review, mentioned that from 2005 onwards, every year the government provide support for more than 50 billion pounds, undertake direct costs in government-owned academic institutions, including payment of full-time professional academic research staff (originally undertake by universities or academic institutions themselves), meanwhile increase the government (through the Research Council) on the share of indirect costs from 46% to 60%, now the government undertake about 80% of total economic cost. Because the UK higher education research institutions have many channels of funding rising sources and with different investment objectives. In order to rationalize scientific research management mechanism, improve the management efficiency and ensure effective use of funds, the government makes the relevant policies and measures. Based on checking all economic cost accounting and in accordance with the investment objectives and needs, universities and other academic institutions can price differently.
Under the guidance and monitoring of government policy, in accordance with the above principles, British universities classify their financial sponsors, price their research projects; various types of scientific research institutions are financial autonomy, define relevant responsibility, and also implement the precise and reasonable commercial cost accounting and property appreciation management mechanism.
Government requests scientific research institutes every year to have a serious budget, strictly plan the income and expenditure. According to research features and demands annually purchase, allow the materials and equipment expenditure raise or reducing; the wages allow adding under the relatively stable premise. For example, various types of government subsidy funds, in addition to lump-sum approach subsidy or allowance system units, the government-funded academic institutions received the amount that must be spent according to plan, or due to the management error of scientific research or budget can not be finished, the government will reduce the amount of funds support in the next year.
The British government's new research funds input, use and management policies, for enhancing British universities scientific research capabilities and the academic level, for promoting and applying scientific research achievement, will have a positive impact.
British scientific research assessment mechanism, organization, implementation and feedback system has effect on research establishment, funding and outcome
In addition to policy support and funding guarantees, the British Government attaches great importance to the integrity of scientific assessment mechanism, the building of the scientific assessment and effective operation, in order to ensure the quality of research and implementation of research objectives.
In British assessment institutions, assessment activities for national scientific research plan, and science and technology policies, as well as local policies on science and technology research projects, mainly completed by the government's technical evaluation organization. Including the British Government, Parliament, the Parliament Council and the National Audit Office, as well as local government's assessment institutions, which is an integrated system. Among of them, the UK central government's scientific and technological assessment mainly undertook by the Science and Technology Council, Department of Trade and Industry and the Science and its Technology Office, as well as National Patent Office; the parliamentary level of science and technology assessment mainly completed by the Office of Science and Technology Council, the House of Lords Science and Technology Special Committee, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Parliament and the Scientific Committee and the National Audit Office
Generally speaking, British public research institutions, universities and non-profit research institutions, and non-governmental fund organizations all have certain evaluation functions, but their assessments mainly concentrated about the relevant basic research areas. For example, the British Research Council under the leadership of OST of DTI, stand for the government responsible for assessing the specific research funding allocation, implementation and management; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Higher Education Foundation as well as Ireland higher education training and career department together organize the evaluation system RAE (Research Assessment Exercise), which is responsible for the quality ranking of all British universities research grade according to the relevant standards. The entire assessment is operated by the Office of the RAE under the Higher Education Foundation in England; a detailed assessment work will handle by professional assessment team formed by various specialists and adopts a Peer Review method.
The purpose of the assessment undertook by British government and academic science and technology institution is to ensure the quality of scientific research and promote high-quality application of the results. Mainly to examine and evaluate the plan, method, process and result of science and technology projects, particularly on major national plans, important academic institutions and accented term that involved the people's livelihood. Pay attention to evaluate effectiveness and influence of the research project rather than the so-called achievement, which we should learn from.
Research planning approval mechanism contributes to establish research projects and has a open, fair and effective scientific research funds allocation
British research council adopts an open project application mechanism, research institutions and researchers can apply the project in accordance with their own research plan and specific circumstances. After received the project application Research Council will make a two-stage assessment.
The first stage, through individual judge to carry on an independent assessment, the council will hire some well-known scientists in this field as the independent judge (usually more than 4 persons) to preliminarily evaluate the project. Every judge gives his /her academic opinion to the submitted project and direct anonymous feedback to the applicant. The applicant may give the written response or explanation to the evaluating experts about their questions. And it will be given full attention of independent judge's view and applicant's response during the project examination. Second stage is the Discipline Committee analyzing and judging. Discipline Committee held a quarterly meeting, to make a final assessment about all projects submitted for examination on the previous stage. While the Committee can make the final decision of whether approve the request project but will respect and consider relevant experts' opinions.
Based on the early independent judge's academic evaluation, the Discipline Committee eventually will give a score (a maximum of 9 points, a minimum of 0 points) to every application, in terms of six evaluation indicators including advanced nature of the project, the relativity with Research Council on the priority development field, associated with government's science and technology policies and priority development field, impact of economic prosperity and raising people's living standards, long-term effectiveness of project and its sustainable development, and service efficiency of funds. Only those applicants with high score in all indicators can receive the subsidization. The number of subsidized project will depend on the funds limitation each Research Council can control.
The Discipline Committee assesses the project application specially emphasize on scientificalness of the project and applicant's ability, experience etc. (through their application to judge). The committee also considers other factors to determine whether to provide financial support, such as the innovation of project, or the existence of the same study. The Research Council generally does not support the project that already existed or similar in the field. However, whether establish the project do not affect by applicants have accepted the support from other agencies. If the application has already obtained subsidization from companies, charity foundations and non-governmental organizations, and still could have government funding supporting. Similarly, if the applicant obtained funding from the Research Council did not affect it to continue applying funds from other institutions. In assessing the project application, if the applicant has been received from enterprises, more than 15 percent of the project research funding, the Committee will give priority to this project.
In order to ensure the quality of research, each UK Research Council had strict requirements to the evaluation experts have been employed. Engineering and Physics Science Research Council (EPSRC) as an example, all participate in the EPSRC project research scientists will be invited to recommend three candidates (not from the same work unit). As EPSRC candidates for the foundation, well-known scientists in the field as the major, also taking into account gender, region, ethnic minorities and other factors, to establish a more than 4, 000 evaluation experts’ database and publish on the EPSRC website. At the final will select more than 600 from them as the core evaluation experts, every three-year a term. During the term, above experts will assess all project applications of EPSRC, evaluation experts randomly selected from the database according to their professional background, each new judge will be trained by the EPSRC for the evaluation standards and implementation. According to the rules, every year EPSRC allocated the number of projects to evaluation experts may not be over 12 items, and required experts to notify the EPSRC within 15 working days after received the material. Generally in preliminary evaluation of the project EPSRC will choose at least three independent judges, when the project was completed chose three evaluation experts to inspect and accept. It is worth mentioning that, although the two examinations may not have the same group of evaluation experts, but in inspecting and accepting, a preliminary judge at the same project will be retained.
The project appraisal by British Research Council is generally taken communication evaluation way, which judges back-to-back, no communications and no discuss. Research Council will not provided the experts assessment fee (for example, return for the evaluation experts is that to inform the units their status and qualifications as experts), but will subsidize them appropriate transportation and accommodation costs for the evaluation activities. In fact, almost all British scholars regard elected to be the Research Council's academic judge as a high honor and important mission.
In the ordinary course of events, within three months times, the research council will complete the two-stage assessment work after receiving applications, and inform the applicant the final result. Unsuccessful applicants can directly ask the research council the reasons for their defeat, and the council will give the Discipline Committee feedback to them.
Scientific research agencies play important role in projects application, the input of funds, management and evaluation of process
I discovered that in UK higher education and scientific research management and execution mechanism, an important element and link is the involvement of science and technology agency. British science and technology agencies usually seen as an independent legal entity, does not belong to any specific units, but compose by enterprises, universities, researchers, government department’s deputy, as well as financial, legal, and other experts. For example, the Social Policy Research Unit, the Energy Technology Support Unite and the British Assessment System Ltd., and so on. British science technology assessment agencies generally classified into profit and nonprofit organizations, but most of them are profit.
In UK research management system, science technology agencies play an important role. Science technology agencies have better operating systems such as University researchers, business, financial, legal experts and deputies of relevant government departments. In technical assessments various representatives can be invited directly involved in the assessment, but also through network to make communicating assessment.
Because of its independence, science technology agencies can make their assessment through a fair and objective view, as a neutral standpoint to make a realistic evaluation of the project, as well as providing accurate data and information to funding supporters, helping improve the efficiency of the use of funds. In a detailed assessment, most agencies are using contract commission approach, hired relevant research field experts and scholars to compose an assessment team to carry out the evaluation.
Commonly the clients are government institutions, institutes and universities etc. they will decider whether to grant funding and the amounts to the applicant according to the assessment results of agencies. As agencies provide a more efficient, scientific, impartial and professional assessment services for government and universities, academic institutions, to save them a lot of manpower, material resources and energy, therefore, clients are willing to pay a reasonable fee to obtain more impartial and comprehensive assessment report.
Science technology agencies plays a major part in scientific and innovative activities, it is a "catalyst" to promote the rapid scientific and technological knowledge generation and transfer; at the same time it is a kind of "agglutinant, " can closely link the source of knowledge created and clients, so that they can interact and mutually combine, to optimize the allocation of resources, and maximize the value of scientific and technological knowledge. Science and technology agencies themselves are sometimes the source of scientific and technological innovation, serving as a "catalyst" and the "agglutinant", at the same time may capture the new economic opportunities, create a new industry, and open up new points of economic growth.
University science and technology agencies have technology assessments, market development, research assistance, patents and licensing services, and other departments. Functions include: evaluating the commercial prospects, recommending college and university's technology and research results to the enterprise, managing and protecting intellectual property, implementing the technology transfer, helping college and university researchers to create derivative companies, accepting and organizing the implementation of research project of enterprise, managing and allocating operating cost of patent, and transacting college-owned enterprise shares.
British science and technology agencies not only to conduct a technical assessment of various research projects (mostly invite relevant field representatives to participate the assessment through direct meetings, but also through network communications or telecommunications system assessment), and is the core organizations connected with the university and enterprise, actively play role as the bridges, ties and the role of coordinator in order to get trust, support, and commission from the government and scientific research institutions and better achieves its economic and social value.
Such as agencies regularly or irregularly sent to the colleges and universities' the latest research information and available technologies and materials to enterprises; simultaneously through a variety of networks and other channels, to search and find out enterprise's intention of the technology development, product development, and other demand information and inform these to universities and academic research institutions in time. Even hold some large-scale seminars for enterprise, government and relevant academic institutions personnel, sat together to explore the concerns of all research areas and specific items, as well as its support and cooperation.
Regardless of whether its purpose is profitable, the market operation, system integrity, operating norms and specialization of science and technology agencies play a significant role in research planning, research assessment, scientific research result transformation and application, and promotion of British scientific and technological development etc., which should be learn by us.
For example, British technology development center as an independent non-governmental organization. The main task of committee is that provides various relevant information for different types of science and technology institutions; builds a communicating bridge and understanding in the "blank area" with each other, mutual support and collaboration , completed research projects and tasks that difficultly for the individual. The Committee has also organized various forms of regular or irregular discussions, reports and academic exchange activities, which get together those interested government departments, academic institutions, enterprises and experts to explore a hot topic with various potential and market value, search for and develop a new technology, and business opportunities, reached consensus within the organization, also explore the possibility of achieving. Once has a clear theme, then has the direction and opportunity of future research, the Committee has to complete its mission, the next goal will be to go open up a new theme and search for new participants. The life cycle of such conjoint theme will not be more than three years. Through this unique way to keep up with the technology trend in the world, seize the new high-tech economic growth, thereby serving the public. Determining the theme of colla- boration is significance for the development of agency.
The experience and practice of British Technology Group (BTG) in the process of developing business is also worth learning, BTG through the market forecast and analysis, focusing on long-term technology transfer, in no hurry to develop or market upgrading technology, but invest on the relevant patent application or further development of technology already has the patent, in order to gain the greatest advantage.
At the same time, subsidizes research and patents that current non-mainstream but with future potential. Explores the valuable patent is one of the strengths of BTG. The detail is that search for large-scale enterprises with the current main business is not closely linked patented technology (called non-core patents), via the experts analyzing, assessing, select the patents with potential market prospects, patent authorized approach to help achieve market value. BTG continuously help generate new patents to expand or supplement the original main patents, a variety of other patent derived from a key patent, extend the relevant patent's economic income, BTG and the inventor is able to share the rising market interests from key patent.
Understanding and experience of British academic research activities and their organizing mode
About Seminar, Lecture, Group, Team and so on
Over the past four months, through nine times participated in academic exchanges and research activities, organized by The Education College of Nottingham University, the Contemporary Chinese Academy as well as the Open University, I had some cognitions and understandings about technicality, interactive, participatory and interesting research of British universities (no matter seminar or lecture). In fact, such activities in China, has also been recognized by the academe and many institutions of higher learning. Before came to UK, I also participated and even organized such academic activities in China many times, but the feeling is that only similar in form. Due to lack of understanding of deep meaning, organizers often inadequately prepared, lack of interaction in participants, and ultimately easily became a mere formality and procedures, but the results were not satisfactory. The reason, afraid is that the organizers and participants have insufficient recognition and inadequate preparations. During the studying, I did amount of research focused on the British university seminars, and recognized that British academic activities are very active and effective. Apart from basic education in UK attaches importance to research teaching, and also benefit from organizer's high degree of attention, careful preparation and participant’s positive interaction. Based on the research planning of various research institutions and progress of scholar's research, the content, theme, time, location, and presenter of an important seminar, has identified and released in the every beginning of the year (through the networks and other means). Provisional seminar will be informed at least two weeks in advance. All seminar topics are very clear and specific, but not inane. The content of discuss is pointed, and practical to participants. Every institutions of higher learning in UK will have a number of seminar room or lecture classroom. University also will specifically made different size of the rooms in the center building (such as the University of Nottingham, Trent Building) for people using, their management and technical support services are in charged by specialized agencies and personnel, which have high frequency of using and management efficiency. Individuals (regardless of whether students in this university or not) according to his/her own specialty, research direction, learning process or even individual interest, to determine whether or not to participate in (under normal circumstances no limitation of number and do not need report before). But generally speaking, teachers and students in colleges and universities will take an active part in seminars, which related to their specialty, or their research direction or their interest. Besides earnestly and amply preparing the seminar, also will do a lot of literature research about the subject and speaker before the seminar, particularly on their own interest or confused issues and difficulty, so with understanding in the process of listening report, and be able to put forward their own questions, views or opinions in the discussion. People pay attention to whether a person has his own view, and can express it well. Independent thinking and skillful expression plays an important role in British education evaluation. British basic education and higher education has paid great attention in this aspect, believed education should teach learners adept in discovering, always willing to thinking, encouraged asking questions, being diligent in summing up and expressing. Perhaps because of this concept, culture and accumulation make people seriously thinking, actively speaking, and bringing their views, understandings and doubts to the seminar, in order to consul and comprehend. Moreover, the harvest of a seminar is not one-way, to organizers, can create a research atmosphere, and expand academic influence.
Organizer prepared some simple foods (most of them are sandwiches, fruit, biscuits or snacks) and beverages (tea bags, water, coffee and mineral water) for people in the seminar. All seminars are opening and sharing resources. I attended several seminars that found from online notice board or friends, and I am always welcome, and never been refused by the organizers. Another point worthy of our study is that in order to participate conveniently, almost all the seminars and lectures are arranged after school hours, usually from 12:00pm to 14:30pm, or 17:00 pm to 19:30pm. It is interesting that British people who valued their spare time are also satisfied with the arrangements.
In total, although catch up with the Christmas and New Year holidays, I still participated in five times seminar and lecture in Education College, University of Nottingham and four times in Contemporary Chinese Academy. The content of discussion itself is significant, one is about a South Korean scholar talk about the private enterprise in water resources management in China, one is about Chinese women in politics spoken by a visiting scholar from Zhejiang University, a British professor of University of Edinburgh talked about Chinese Government on the non-assistance, a professor from the University of Nottingham, talked about the formal and in-formal education. But my biggest acquisition is that understanding the importance of preparation before the seminar or lecture, as well as how to select topic, determine the speaker and interaction.
There are not too many differences between lecture and seminar in the organizing forms, which both are open academic exchanges and research activities. But lecture is more similar to expert lectures in Chinese colleges and universities. Basically the presenter is a senior expert (professors) in the academic field; therefore, the content of lecture and participants are more professional, and has greater academic influence. For example, I participated a lecture, which spoken by Professor Simon McGrath about "EFA (Education for All)-international cooperation projects of UNESCO." Most participants are experienced experts and scholars for adult education and public education, relevant major PhD students from Education College, or short-term visiting scholars like me did practical jobs in this field. Professor used the limited time, concisely introduced background, aims, objectives, status of the project, as well as its achievements within different parts of the world (Africa, South America and Asia-Pacific, etc.). Finally, through data analysis and comparison, pointed out the prospects of the project, the problems and solutions. One and a half hours lecture, a lot of information, but because the participants are professionals, therefore had good reaction, especially the associative discussion after the lecture had continued for two hours. As the peers, participants had some in-depth exchanges and discussions on their concerned and interested topics and subjects. This lecture is significant, because I learned from an international perspective to understand public education and issues such as education equity.
To sum up, I felt seminar etc. open academic exchanges and research activities brought us, not a further understanding and cognition of the specific discussion contents; What is more important is that people should actively participate and improve themselves; through participating in, thinking, and asking questions and communicating, to learn and master scientific and effective research perspective, methods, think and design, as well as the way to actualize research goal from the experts and other participants; finally to enhance their research capabilities and academic standard. Currently, OUC is building and improving its academic research system and mechanism, I hope that my knowledge can provide a useful and effective enlightenment and help for the future research training and academic exchange activities of OUC, even all the OUs.
About team work
Before came to UK, I am already interested in its team work research. In the past, when I participated in international academic exchanges and research activities about distance learning, often heard British scholars had mentioned in their report the team work or research team, and how through the collaboration based on division of labor and multi-approach exchanges to obtain scientific research achievements with high academic value and practical effect. During the studying, through literature research and interviews, and personally participate in the relevant activities, I had more profound knowing about mutual support between researchers, sharing information and resources from each other, drawing the strong points of others to offset their own weakness, and improving the practical significance and important function of collaborative research. UK is very strict and normative for science and technology projects establishing, and attaches importance to scientific research result evaluation, therefore, has very high requirement of research personnel. Most of British scholars due to undertake a variety of teaching and research tasks, energy, time is limited, and everyone's research area and specialty is different, thus subject research rarely is completed by individual, almost all subjects will build research teams, members may come from different departments, different universities, different research areas even different countries.
The size of team and member composing is determined by the name known of organizers (subject director), scientific research ability, academic level and subject scope, as well as whether it can continued propulsion and so on. Because every Research Council has strict and normative evaluation indicators and specific requirements, the project leader (the applicant) must be an academic leaders in such field, as well as the profound theoretical knowledge, research experience and concrete results. According to project needs and availability of funds, project leader will buildup a research teams. Team members may be full-time personnel or collaborators (Part-time) from the same university and college, and may be from other institutions but same research area; if it is an international cooperation project or has international significance, members also includes the relevant personnel from other countries. Of course, there are some relevant discipline and specialty doctors and postgraduates who can not be lacked in research team, participating in scientific research project, in practice to deeply understand theoretical knowledge and book learning, which is their compulsory course. These collaborative teams have strict plan, closely organizing, a reasonable division of labor, and sharing resources and complementary advantages. Not only help to better complete research projects, achieve research objectives, promote outstanding achievements in scientific research, but also exercise, train and select excellent young research workers as a new force. From the long-term development perspective, their contributions made more significant and far-reaching impact.
From the practical effect, Professor Morgan, Professor Simon and Professor Robinson in Nottingham University and Professor Taylor from Open University are all academic leaders in adult education, distance learning and public education and other aspects. Not only in Britain have strong research team and leading authoritative field, and have been maintained close collaboration with relevant research academics from Africa, South Asia and East Asia, in the long-term research practice, established a high-quality international research team. In recent years, with China's economic rise and the process of higher education popularization, many British scholars see Chinese social and economic development and education policy as their research objects; also have more and more academic discussions and collaborative research activities with Chinese scholars. Based on the established goals, cooperation and exchange, collaborative research, both countries' scholars not only obtained academic achievements, but also help to understand, trust and collaborate with each other. Nottingham University also created a specialized Contemporary Chinese Academy. As far as I know, Professors Morgan work together with scholars in Beijing University, study Chinese higher education and problem of employment; Professor Simon cooperate with University of Hong Kong to study training of lifelong education practitioners; Professor Robinson as a expert of UNESCO, has engaged in teacher training projects in west region of China (such as Gansu, Guangxi and other provinces) for a long time, became a "China hand" in the relevant field. Their theoretical level, accumulation of experience, method utilization and advanced concept and outstanding personal character and so on, provide example, reference and teaching material for Chinese scholars.
Opened relevant courses on research methods and research capabilities (combine with course and training), based on the practice case taught by experts and scholars, is significant for cultivating new generation of scientific and technological personnel.
During the studying period, I spent one month (due to time constraint) to participate in a course that "About the Scientific Methods" and "Life-long Education and Education Reform", opened by the International Comparative Education Research Centre in Education College of Nottingham University. Through personal participation, gained first-hand experience how to do the research learning on Higher education and the case study teaching style.
British postgraduate courses are taught by professors in the relevant field. They will in accordance with the actual situation of learners, rely on their own research experience and theoretical level, from basic theory, practice and application case etc. various aspects, through visualized, heuristic, participating and case-based teaching, to help learner how to study, be good at studies and thinking, pay attention to basic theory and research design, master the basic skills, and cultivating future researcher's quality and research capability.
All British universities at the beginning of each semester, professors will teach postgraduates especially doctoral courses face-to-face during a period of time. Undergraduate or long-term visiting scholars (one year) must attend. Courses are mostly in the form of teaching in small classes (all my two courses only have about 10 people in each classroom).
Although there are not too many learner in each course, structure is complex(Learners in my classroom come from Germany, France, Serbia, Poland, Nigeria, Botswana and China), perhaps because the reason course is about international comparative education, therefore UK local students rare to see. These learners under the guidance of professor in the group of the research study almost construct an international comparative research subject.
Professor in the classroom pays more attention on guiding the views,
ideas and Methods of learners, not just instills knowledge. Knowledge learning based on student's self-learning after the class through providing those relevant academic papers and reference books about the course. In the first class, professor will bring a number of related reference books to students; introduce the latest or the highest academic achievements in the field, tell students how to deeply study relevant knowledge. On these basis learners according to on their own specific situations to build their study plan and make learning schedule.
British postgraduate course is focused on reality, so that learners can combine their work experience and research objectives within the learning process. For example, courses on research methods, students will divide into groups after professor teach every major research method, and then use it (or other methods) to make specific operational research topics and implementation program. Different learners can based on their own specialty, as well as learn, exchange and discuss with each other. I joined in a group activity, which used quantitative research methods to design subject. There were four students who came from different countries with different research fields (higher education, basic education and adult education), through communication we brought forward a international collaborative project that named "Survey about relations between educational level of workers and their employment, health and revenue", and preliminarily designed the framework of the subject. Professor confirmed what we planed, and gave us some advices from theory, standard and feasibility and other aspects. This lesson was very useful for all of us, not only students, but also professor obtained some practical information and case.
Future Prospect of UK and China Higher Education Academic Exchange and Cooperation
No matter they are fruitful European, American and British countries, or booming developing countries like China, still a long and tortuous way for higher education, also need a lot of or even many generations of researchers to strive and explore. Therefore, cultivating and bringing up young scientific researchers, is a common subject facing in the higher education field. China, with national policy and funding support, which solved whether or not had higher education question (integrate and upgrade a number of higher education institutions, star higher education expansion), to 2007, higher education net enrolment rate was approximately more than 20%. It can be regarded as a miracle for China that has over 1.3 billion population. But any miracle has dual nature, the rapid growth in the net enrollment rate of higher education, and will have the scale and efficiency, management and services, quantity and quality of such contradictions. A new proposition for Chinese higher education is to provide effective and high quality higher education to meet different groups of people, different regions, different fields, and different stages of the needs. In order to achieve this goal, the construction of higher education teachers' procession is crucial. At present, objectives and specifications of higher education personnel training in China are still relatively simple, the capacity of higher education employees and evaluation indicator system are still not perfect, these areas are necessary to learn from UK on mature theoretical system, practical experience and research results; the resources of Chinese higher education need to be improved more open, advanced and applied. All these, under the reform and open policy with guidance of scientific concept of development, China need to learn and collaborate with others. At the same time, UK also needs Chinese market for vast of research achievements. Therefore, the prospects of China-UK higher education academic exchanges and cooperation should be very bright. Both of governments and education administrative departments fully understand this point, and from the policy and operational aspects to support and promote. Similarly, the institutions of higher education in both countries also attach importance to cooperate, thus research topics and application projects are more and bigger and bigger, as well as more rational and workable.
This is a good momentum of development. I believe that in the next decade, collaboration between education sector in both countries will continually expand in basic theoretical research, the application of research results, sharing high quality resources, demand of adult learners, and how to keep the difference adult learners have much interest for them learning life, curriculum setting and service supporting and many aspects. As a Chinese distance learning, adult and public education worker and I am looking forward and will try all my best to strive for this magnificent future.
Due to time constraints and personal level, what I see and learn is still very shallow, a lot of knowledge and ideas also too late to unscramble, review and extraction. But I feel that this training not only broaden my horizons, made friends with many experts and learn some knowledge, which can be regarded as a small milestone for my research projects and the management of scientific research work. I hope that after returned China, I can apply what I saw and learned in here to my work, and I introduce these to more my colleagues who working in distance education (public education) field, to make our works more conducive to disadvantaged groups in higher education, and more contribute to building up a harmonious society in China. A beautiful wish of the Open Universityof China is "Education for Learning", to be "the ladder for the progress of civilization, weights for fair education, and power stations for learner's promotion". As UNESCO advocating and striving for, our aim is "Education for All".