Research Culture at the University of Oxford

Researchers come to Oxford from all over the world to enjoy, and contribute to, a stimulating research environment. Beyond resources and facilities, an environment that enables the highest quality research must also be sustained by a positive working culture. Here we describe a plan that has been initiated to advance a research culture that is supportive, inclusive, and equitable at Oxford.

Culture is experienced through the everyday behaviours, expectations, and norms that signal “the way we do things round here”. Oxford’s plan for strengthening its research culture will therefore be realised through actions that affect the everyday practice of doing research, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that those factors that are good for research — such as openness, collaboration, teamwork, and diversity — are aligned with what we value and reward in a research career.

With over 13,000 research staff and students spread across a large number of departments, Oxford has not one, but many research cultures. Oxford’s research culture will be united by a common set of values around conducting research to the highest standards of rigour, recognising the different skills and roles that contribute to research, and supporting the well-being and career aspirations of our colleagues.

Priority areas for research culture

Oxford's plans to support culture will be implemented through policies and projects that are relevant to local discipline and that fall under three interconnected priorities.

These priorities reflect and integrate the university’s commitments to national and international sector requirements and agreements, such as UK research concordats and the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).

We are working on the following projects:

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In April 2022, the University published a three-year action plan to fulfil its commitments as a signatory to The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. Highlights include regular Career Development Reviews, entitlement to 10 days/year for professional development, enhancing management and leadership skills among Principal Investigators and others with responsibilities for researchers, and progressing mechanisms towards greater contract stability wherever possible. 

Research advances through the contribution of different skills and backgrounds, and through activities and outputs of varying types. Academic assessment criteria do not always reflect these activities so we are exploring ways to reward broader range of contributions to excellence in research and innovation. To support this work we are involved in an international project to collate good practice in academic research assessment (Project TARA).

We are seeking interest from the leadership of around five organisational units (e.g. centres, institutes, departments, networks) to join a pilot project to develop a unit-level strategy for research culture. This project will be supported by the Enhancing Research Culture Fund (2021/22) from Research England.

To support researchers to follow best practice in planning, executing, and reporting research we are integrating activities across structures and initiatives at Oxford that are directly relevant to the practice of research and its improvement, such as open access, research data management, research integrity and ethics, reproducible and transparent research, responsible research and innovation, and research impact. The aim of this integration is to create greater efficiency at institutional level and a clearer journey for researchers.

Our plans for advancing research culture are still quite new. In HT 2022 and MT 2022 we will visit relevant groups and committees in divisions and UAS to discuss our priorities and plans, learn about local activities and needs, and consult on some of the substantial priorities.

To get involved or to find out more please contact the Research Strategy and Policy Unit.

Find out more about how we're supporting the career development of researchers

Activity to Support the Career Development of Researchers page

Read the Concordat Action Plan 

Concordat Action Plan