As I mentioned in a previous blog, Faculty Executive Board met for a second of our away-days in late April. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the ‘values’ that characterise SAgE. You might recall that we held an away-day in January where we focussed on the meaning of the various strategic objectives and goals in vision 2021. These can be thought of as the ‘formal controls’ that affect our workplace behaviour, such as striving for excellence in research by publishing 4* outputs, or by providing an outstanding student experience by continuously  improving our teaching and assessment. There is however an ‘informal’ underlying process that is equally important in achieving our goals, namely our organisational culture. If this is not aligned to our goals, then any number of objectives will fail to take us to where we need to be, because we will only be paying lip service to them. Our organisational culture is in turn fashioned by our values, i.e. what we hold dear to our hearts, and determines our response to questions such as ‘what is really important to the organisation?’, ‘what is at the top of the agenda and what gets forgotten?’, ‘which activities get rewarded’, ‘what happens if I don’t do x, y or z?’ or  ‘what does it take to enhance my career’, and so on. Based on questions such as these, we set ourselves the task of defining no more than six ‘values’ that we believe describe the type of organisation we need to be if we are to succeed. The result of our efforts is as follows:

  • Excellence – we share an intrinsic desire to be the best
  • Innovation – we reward individual and collective creativity 
  • Collaboration – we support synergic teams built on trust
  • Respect – we value the diversity of contributions of our students & staff
  • Accountability – we require responsibility for action and conduct
  • Efficiency – we optimise resources to sustain the activities that depend on them

Thoughts anyone? Is this the kind of organisation you recognise?


About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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4 Responses to Values

  1. Not sure if this should replace or become part of Accountability – but what about Transparency? I would imagine that this could be achieved through more information (much is already available I know), for example, on sources and directions of research funding, as well as more openness of research outputs.
    There are some confusing messages for example, prevalent across many universities, whereby researchers are encouraged and supported to publish publicly funded research in open access journals, yet performance and assessment is often measured via ‘high impact’ publications which are rarely accessible to the public. My feeling is that this is something close to the hearts of many individual academics, yet the organisation (not necessarily Newcastle, but the RAE) promotes behaviour and success that is in contradiction to the values of the individuals.

    In fact transparency is part of the University’s values, and we have vision to become a ‘civic university’, however it would appear that the way that our research success is measured in the wider world is in direct conflict with our values and ambitions for contributing to wider society. Can SAgE lead this change?

    • steve homans says:

      Good point Edward. As I mentioned in a recent blog, there does seem to be a conflict between the behaviour required to optimise REF submission on the one hand, and the messages we are receiving regarding other expected behaviours, such as the sharing of facilities, on the other. You have highlighted another difficulty with the current system. In SAgE we recognise this tension, but we also view our strategy in the longer term. That’s not to say that REF is unimportant to us, but we can’t allow our overall strategy to be determined solely by it.

  2. Pingback: Open Access | Steve's Blog

  3. Pingback: Academic Freedom and Values | Steve's Blog

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