Collegiality is what differentiates a functional community from a collection of individuals. In a policy and funding environment in which research increasingly requires teamwork — and where effective teamwork supports both wellbeing and methodological rigour — collegiality is an ethos that few would not support. From a management perspective too, Universities should embrace collegiality as it is central to the collaborations required to engage with the challenge-led, interdisciplinary research landscape and associated funding streams.
But the word ‘collegiality’ alone means nothing without practical implementation. Unfortunately, the incentive and recognition structures operating within too many Universities, funders and prize-giving committees still focus on rewarding individuals for the grants they lead on and the papers they write, with little attention paid to the positive role that individuals have in the wider academic community.
At the University of Glasgow, we define collegiality more specifically as ‘supporting each other to succeed’. This principle is central to our research culture, alongside valuing varied contributions to a research endeavour, and prioritising quality over quantity. Culture carries with it some ‘soft’ connotations: instead, we emphatically promote the notion that culture is not a side show to excellence but rather it is what enables successful research to happen. Collegiality also lies at the centre of our 2020–2025 research strategy, based on support for collaboration, creativity, and careers.
Demonstrating collegiality as criteria for promotion
To drive change within a complex system one needs to identify leverage points on which to act. At the University of Glasgow we see our promotion criteria as one such leverage point. In 2019, we introduced the requirement for anyone being promoted to professor or wishing to advance across professorial grades to demonstrate collegiality in at least four of the seven dimensions by which research performance is assessed.
The promotions guidance notes contains practical, but non-exclusive, examples of what collegiality might look like. Examples range from supporting earlier-career researchers in their own applications for funding, passing on the opportunity to give conference talks, or supporting the careers, both academic and post-academic, of others in the community. Changing promotion criteria is tantamount to playing with fire so we did not make these changes lightly: we consulted on the concepts and developed the details through an extensive discussion with every department and various committees.
Flagship projects to drive change can be undermined by factors pulling in other directions. Consequently, we ensured that related policies supported the direction of travel. Alongside collegiality, we therefore introduced a suite of updates to our promotion criteria, including parity of credit to research outputs and research impact, and a requirement to evidence support for open research practices. These changes complement existing initiatives, such as our fellowship programme, and our network of local embedded integrity advisors.
Academic Promotion Criteria at the University of Glasgow:
Lab for academic culture
To consolidate and build upon our work, in December 2020, the university launched a Lab for Academic Culture. This structure will bring expertise together to devise, implement and monitor our projects to advance culture — not only for research but for the wider academic community — and create a forum through which to shape new projects with the wider sector. Most recently the Lab has managed a £1M scheme to mitigate the differential impact of the pandemic on research careers.
We're looking forward to learning from best practice, stimulating debate, and working together - in the spirit of collegiality - to cultivate an academic culture that brings out the best in people.