UKRI’s State of the Nation: Research culture


The UK government’s People & Culture Strategy seeks to create a more inclusive, dynamic, productive and sustainable research and development sector in the UK, in which a diversity of people and ideas thrive.

UKRI is developing an ambitious programme of work to support the delivery of the strategy. This includes the creation of a good practice exchange, which will develop, test and evaluate ideas to improve research culture.

To support this UKRI have commissioned Shift Learning, CRAC-Vitae and the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) to do undertake a State of The Nation research project, to map and better understand existing initiatives to improve research culture.


The core aim of this project is to map and better understand current and past activity to improve the UK culture and environment across the R&I sector. Insights will be published following completion.

We use the definition of culture developed by the Royal Society: “Research culture encompasses the behaviours, values, expectations, attitudes and norms of our research communities.”


Map the R&I system. We are:

  • developing an understanding of what projects there are across the UK aimed at improving research culture across the Research and Innovation Sector.
  • identifying where projects involve co-creation, evaluation elements or are built on the assumption that all findings will be shared with the wider R&I community.
  • ensuring we reach diverse voices through reaching out to varied groups, sectors and communities, as well as adapting our communication strategy regularly and responding agilely when we receive feedback.  

Understand the content of the research culture initiatives. We are:

  • developing a nomenclature and framework to describe the programmes.
  • identifying thematic areas of activity to help cluster and map similar activities.
  • developing an understanding of what the weaknesses in this space are.
  • involving key stakeholders, the research community and other voices in testing and validating our work


The scope of this work is wide, with the main sectors to be covered identified broadly as:

  • Academic (universities, research institutes, funders, networks);
  • Industry / private (research institutes, IROs, R&D departments, networks, HR);
  • The public sector including public sector research establishments (PSREs)
  • Third sector including research-oriented charities and volunteering organisations.


We want to have a comprehensive understanding of R&I culture across a diverse range of sectors, industries and voices. This means our approach has been designed with this at the forefront and we are using a variety of methods, communication strategies and safeguarding practises, in line with UK government guidelines around inclusive social research. 

Our methods include:

  • Developing a framework to describe research culture initiatives. It has been developed using an iterative approach, evolving in conjunction with the literature review, desk research and call for evidence. It continues to be informed by these and is refined as we gather feedback from key stakeholders.
  • Writing a literature review to gather information about activities, initiatives and networks. The strategy for this review was conducted by research experts UKRN and informed by UKRI and used databases which covered an extensive range of disciplines, research types, and groups of researchers.
  • Putting out a call for evidence across the R&I sector. Techniques such as snowballing are used in this process, cited as being a valuable method for recruitment from under-represented groups.The call for evidence was designed by Shift Insight’s research team, who have expertise in designing diverse and inclusive research, and have worked on many similarly sensitive and complex projects such as the Reimagine Research campaign for Wellcome. They are therefore adept at using in-depth mixed method approaches to examine research culture, in line with UK Statistics Authority recommendations on inclusive data. Please see Shift’s values for more information.
  • Producing and running co-creation workshops with varied research communities, focusing on overcoming challenges within the system. The workshops are designed to gain a variety of perspectives from people across the research spectrum, and participants are selected to involve under-represented communities and diverse opinions. This is done through oversampling, as well as listening to advice from people from those communities on who to contact. The research team have post-graduate experience employing user-led and action research, the principles of which are used in this design to ensure the workshops are co-produced, rather than top-down (see Nind’s research on inclusive approaches in the UK for more information).
  • Identifying gaps in representation. During data collection, we use agile processes to identify and address gaps in representation in responses. Samples are considered in terms of data robustness (in terms of representativeness and statistical validity) and relevance and depth, in line with advice from the UK Statistics Authority Inclusive Data Taskforce. Iteratively assessing our data in this way means we can continue to adapt and improve our data collection tactics and directly target groups, sectors and communities which have been less present in the data thus far (as suggested by the UK Statistics Authority at the link above).
  • Analysing and reporting key findings outlining recommendations and considerations to inform how healthy R&I culture can be championed. Data has been produced to ensure sufficient granularity to enable meaningful disaggregation and collected in a way which targets underrepresented communities; therefore, analysis can emphasise specific voices.
  • Continually assessing and adapting our processes and systems to engage people from a wide range of backgrounds, industries and communities. We consistently review our strategies and welcome feedback from others on good practice.

Our approach includes using various communication and recruitment techniques. Explicit attention will be given to involving under-represented groups through a focus on specific networks and attention to the accessibility of our research tools and approaches.

The project will be published in an open-access synthesis report, ensuring the results and recommendations are accessible to all.

Project team expertise

Shift Insight

Since 2002, Shift Insight are a full-service research agency with experience conducting primary and secondary research, using qualitative, quantitative and desk research methods. Their sub-brand Shift Learning specialises in the education, scientific and publishing sectors. They understand these sectors well, including the structures of the sector and the vocabulary used, as well as current challenges and sensitivities. Shift’s clients include leading not-for-profit organisations, funders, HEIs, professional bodies, scholarly societies, academic publishers and awarding organisations. This year, their clients gave them a rating of 4.7 out of 5 for quality and 4.8 out of 5 for communication. Their qualifications include: Office for National Statistics (ONS) Accredited Safe Researcher, Government Statistical Service (GSS) Badged Statistician and certified with the Market Research Society (MRS).


Vitae is a non-profit programme, part of Careers Research Advisory Centre (CRAC) a UK registered charity. With over 50 years’ experience of enhancing the skills and careers of researchers, Vitae is the global leader in supporting the professional development of researchers, experienced in working with higher education institutions to identify, establish and share good practice in employing and developing research talent.


The UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) is a national peer-led consortium that aims to ensure the UK retains its place as a centre for world-leading research. It does this by investigating the factors that contribute to robust research, promoting training activities, and disseminating best practice. It also works collaboratively with various external stakeholders to ensure coordination of efforts across the sector. UKRN comprises nearly 70 local networks of researchers, typically ECRs, 30 diverse institutions with senior representatives, and over 50 external stakeholders including major commercial companies (e.g., GSK), societies (e.g., Royal Society of Chemistry), associations (e.g., ARMA) and university groupings (e.g., UUK, N8).

Data protection

Shift Insight are members of the Market Research Society (MRS) and European Society for Opinion and Market Research. We are also registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and inform the ICO of any lists created and held with personal information. Our researchers fully abide by: the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR; the ICC/ESOMAR International Code on Market and Social Research; and the MRS Code of Conduct.

This means that, amongst other things, we do not mislead respondents as to the nature of our research. We also ensure all transfers of data occur securely. For more information on how we use personal information, please see our UKRI privacy policy.  

How can you get involved?

We want to gather knowledge and expertise from a wide range of contributors, including all specialisms across academia, the private sector, the public sector and the third sector. We are doing this via our call for evidence, which you can add to here:

We are also looking for R&I professionals to take part in our co-creation workshops. To express your interest, please fill in the following form:

Please share our social media communications: our most recent Twitter post is here; our LinkedIn post is here.

If you know of anyone else in the sector who could also make relevant contributions to this evidence base, please do let them know about the project too!

Contact details

Please contact  the Research Manager for this project, Emily, at for more information or to ask any questions you might have.