Inaugural professorial lecture by Professor Michael Rayner

Swimming Against the Tide – The Journey from Interested Spectator to Active Researcher

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In this lecture, Professor Rayner will aim to present a story of a personal journey that has led from an initial interest in Economics, through to degree studies in Theology and History, and into a broad range of roles and occupations both outwith and within Higher Education.  In doing so, this will show how it is possible to take various routes through life that can lead eventually to engagement with Higher Education research and scholarship and, in his case, inclusion in the University’s 2021 REF submission in Education and even to UK REF Panel membership.

The journey will explore his keen interest in 2 main things: 1) the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (and its predecessor, the Research Assessment Exercise) – with which Professor Rayner has been heavily involved for over 25 years and is a recognised expert; and 2) the encouragement of, and support for, academic (research) talent wherever it exists, which includes support and development of research degree students, Early Career Researchers, and an often neglected group: established and senior grade research active staff in institutions.

This will not be a standard academic lecture but instead will draw on his personal and professional experience, his keen support for Higher Education and the development of research talent within it, and the culmination of all these interests in his role as the University’s first Dean of Research and Graduate School lead.  The lecture will also explore the Research Excellence process and seek to draw some lessons from this for the future, not least as the UK embarks on its new journey towards REF 2027/28, and what this might mean for an institution like UHI.

Professor Rayner will also present some aspects of his own current research activity and interests, which cover Research/Teaching Linkage, Research staff development and support, and, importantly, ‘the Journey form Interested Spectator to Active Researcher.’

It is hoped that this lecture will serve to encourage those who are interested in undertaking some research of their own, no matter where they are starting from in their journey, and also to inspire those who have already taken the plunge to continue their own research journeys in the future.


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