Meet the Research Planning Team – Who are we and what are we here to do?

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The University’s Research Planning Team developed from the process to prepare the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) submission, which for the first time put emphasis on the impact of academic research.

To enable the institution to build on Birmingham’s 2014 performance, the team has more than doubled in size, to 11, over the last two years, as preparations get under way for REF2021. The team’s remit also includes helping to meet the growing demands for ‘open research’ and public engagement with research.

Headed by Dr Elizabeth Westlake, the Aston Webb-based staff work closely with academic and Professional Services colleagues across campus to identify, showcase and evaluate the best of Birmingham’s world-leading research.

Dr Elizabeth Westlake (Deputy Director – Research Planning) is responsible for managing the Research Planning Team, overseeing REF preparation, and especially support for Impact.  She also co-ordinates support for Open Access and Open Data working closely with colleagues from across Professional Services, but especially ITS, Library Services and Research Support Services,  and is business owner for the institution’s CRIS system, Pure.  She is secretary to the University’s Research Committee and works closely with the PVC (Research and Knowledge Transfer) to support delivery of the University’s Research and especially REF objectives.

Elizabeth Goodyear (Research Planning Project Officer) predominantly supports the Deputy Director Research Planning, the co-ordination of the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, events management, including the University-wide Research Conference and project management.  She also produces and delivers the team’s communications plans, taking responsibility for the teams social media accounts and organising and managing support to several University Committees and Working Groups.

Research Planning Partners/Officers

The Research Planning Partners/Officers work close with College Directors of Research and Knowledge Transfer and College Impact Leads, and with Professional Services across the University to:

  • Support their College in delivery of the next REF, including advising on the annual review process
  • Provide dedicated support for embedding and enhancing research impact (including advice, support and training on research impact strategy)
  • Implement effective systems for management information and data capture with respect to REF and Impact

Katharina Freise (Research Planning Partner – College of Social Sciences) leads the research planning support for the Colleges of Social Sciences. Katharina also manages the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account for the University – overseeing both individual project development and the strategic direction of the Account.

Ronni Littlewood (Research Planning Partner – Life and Environmental Sciences) leads the research planning support for the Colleges of Life and Environmental Sciences and Medical and Dental Sciences.. She is also currently working on developing guidance for research impact evaluation.

Beckie Hings (Research Planning Officer– Medical and Dental Sciences) leads support for the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.   (maternity cover for Dr Joanne Croudace (Research Planning Partner))

Dr Lorna Hards (Research Planning Officer – College of Arts and Law) leads research planning support for the College of Arts and Law with a focus on impact

Dr Gavin McNee (Research Planning Officer – College of Engineering and Physical Sciences) leads the research planning support for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.  Gavin also works with Karen and other colleagues in the Planning Office to provide SciVal reports analysing the University’s research performance.

Research Information

Karen Clews (Deputy Head of Research Planning and Research Information Manager) leads the management of activities relating to research information across the institution and is responsible for Pure, Researchfish and SciVal. As well as managing these systems her remit extends to the support and coordination of activities around research information, including open access and open data programmes and the research metrics working group. She acts as secretary for the University’s REF Board.

Sam King (Research Information Systems Administrator) is responsible for the day-to-day support of Pure and Researchfish, delivering training to staff and further developing resources. He works closely with the Research Information Manager to support the collection and reuse of quality research information and the implementation of new functionality.

Public Engagement with Research

Dr Caroline Gillett (Research Engagement Officer) works to support activities related to PER with the aim of moving towards greater understanding and delivery of research quality, impact and visibility (for REF but also more broadly). The focus of her work is specifically on creating momentum for culture change around public engagement with research to ensure such activity is better embedded and recognized within the University’s policies, procedures and practices. She is also a key member of the Public Engagement with Research Committee (PERC) and the module leader for PGCARMS Public Engagement for Postgraduates Graduate School course.

Dr Leah Fitzsimmons (Public Engagement with Research Officer)commencing January 2018

Leah will be working with researchers and academics throughout the University to help them to bring their work to the public. Leah can help with engagement project and event planning and can advise on training, funding and support for PER activities.

If you wish to speak to anyone in the Research Planning Team we can be contacted by email at

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