Co(l)laboratory: Linking Research to Our Place

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Rebekah Smith-McGloin, Director of NTU’s Doctoral School and Research Operations and Lead Officer on the Co(l)laboratory Project, summarises why this project is so ground-breaking.

Research is what moves humanity forward. We are curious, we ask questions, and we work together to discover something new. Research has the potential to change the way we do things, to improve and to enrich lives.

In Nottingham, we have a large, talented research community across two universities where people – from PhD students to Professors – are already working together to explore issues and find solutions to the challenges that local people face. But we could do more to ensure that the skills and knowledge of our researchers are brought to bear on making the city and county a better place to live and work. We could do more to ensure our research communities are as diverse as our local populations. And we could do more to develop and support our PhD students to be the civic leaders that Nottingham needs for post-pandemic recovery and sustainable futures.

That’s why the news that NTU and UoN have recently received funding to support a brand-new doctoral training partnership, designed to push the boundaries in terms of collaboration, training and inclusion at doctoral level, is so important and so well-timed.

Funded by the Research England Development fund, the Co(l)laboratory Doctoral Training Partnership will be the first flagship project in the Universities for Nottingham initiative. Co(l)lab. will connect our world-leading research with the challenges our local communities face, and, over the next eight years, it will train 50 PhDs, deliver 30 community events, provide 25 paid ‘Citizen Scientist’ research placements, support 15 community projects, and produce a national blueprint for how to support PhD candidates to develop as future civic leaders.

Co(l)lab. begins this September with a series of events and a virtual crowdsourcing campaign to find out from local people and partner organisations the most pressing issues facing communities where research can really make a difference. These ideas will then be shaped by a team of researchers across both universities into PhD projects, Citizen Scientist eight-week paid placements or team-challenge community projects. Co(l)lab. will also pilot a new way to recruit PhD candidates, with a competency framework – designed by national consultation – that will measure suitability for research through skills and attributes rather than the educational opportunities that have shaped their career to date and the type of degree candidates have achieved therefore at undergraduate level.

Opportunities for local people to become part of the Co(l)laboratory Doctoral Training Partnership will be advertised from mid-October with Citizen Scientist placements taking place from January onwards and funded PhD projects beginning in April. This is a cycle of recruitment which will happen every year until 2028.

Building on the enthusiasm and engagement already shown by Universities for Nottingham ten civic partners, we are confident that Co(l)lab. will be a successful pilot for an experimental approach to public dialogue and community-led research and innovation which contributes effectively to the region’s levelling-up ambitions.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project please contact our project team by emailing