Mette High speaks in Westminster on research in Scotland

28 October 2023

The Department's Director of Research Dr Mette High has given evidence to a cross-party Committee hearing in Westminster on the opportunities and challenges faced by researchers in Scotland.

In her capacity as Director of the Scottish Research Alliance for Energy, Homes and Livelihoods and representing all the Alliances for Research Challenges (ARCs) funded by the Scottish Funding Council, she explained the role of these Alliances as new and exciting engines for impactful interdisciplinary cross-sector collaborations. She described that they are much-needed breaks from the status quo - rather than working in traditional silos of expertise and knowledge, the Alliances build collaborative communities with diverse stakeholders. As she said in Westminster, "How do we address complex challenges? Complex challenges require complex teams, complex skillsets and complex methodologies." It is this complexity that the ARCs are so well-positioned to deal with as they bring together researchers across Scotland with industry, business, government, and community organisations on Scottish Government priority areas.

At a time when Scottish Higher Education is undergoing a funding squeeze from the Scottish Government, they also discussed how to best attract and retain the best and brightest. High made calls for a more diverse funding opportunity landscape that would be more accessible for Scotland's smaller research active institutions and a business sector heavily dominated by SMEs. She suggested an overhaul of the Research Excellence Framework (which is linked to funding allocation) so it better aligns with interdisciplinary forward-thinking approaches to research and moves away from today's hugely time-and money-intensive auditing exercise. They discussed salaries that are no longer internationally competitive, very high upfront visa costs for researchers, and other global talent recruitment barriers. To ensure that Scotland remains at the forefront of global research, she emphasised that it is extra important that we build and sustain attractive research communities in Scotland. As she put it to the Committee, "At the end of the day, we are a sector of people, and if we do not have the people, we do not have the sector".