The division welcomes new staff and helps them participate in our research culture. For example new researchers are allocated a senior colleague who acts as a mentor giving day to day advice on research and personal development. New lecturing staff are given a probationary period with less teaching. To aid personal development new staff are required to form a research plan and set goals for their publications and research grant applications. More generally all staff undergo supportive review through our annual Achieving Success process of reflection and planning. Beyond the probationary period all academic staff can apply for a one semester period of research leave after completing six semesters. Typically activities include the development of new research proposals, extended collaborative research visits and research paper writing.
The University has a network of contacts to promote equality and diversity for researchers. Flexible working is available to those with caring responsibilities, and there are clear policies on promotion, for career breaks and part time working. There are also guidelines on equality within appointing committees. Locally the School of Natural Sciences has agreed flexible working arrangements. The Athena SWAN bronze level institutional award for women in science was awarded in 2013 and the division is now actively pursuing the Athena SWAN silver award.
The University was an early signatory of the RCUK Researchers Concordat in 2009, with its implementation earning Stirling the EU HR Excellence in Research Award in 2011.
PhD students are welcomed into a stimulating research environment which delivers timely high quality theses. Guidance is provided by the principal and second supervisors who are complemented by a more general research-training programme at the Stirling Graduate Research School. PhD students in the CHORDS group attend the PhD training courses provided by the EPSRC National Taught Course Centre in Operational Research. Supportive yet formal progress monitoring is made through meetings and regular reports which are reviewed by both the School and University. PhD students are active attendees in the Division's research seminar programme, and they participate in the annual PhD student conference. Students are encouraged to publish from the second year of their programme.
The Division operates its own computing service with two computing staff and one non-computing technician, to give all researchers strong technical support. Two computer clusters are used purely for research, providing a total of 104 cores. In addition, the Division uses any idle teaching laboratories to offer a total of 350 cores. Further capability is provided through access to the ArchieWest system (Strathclyde). The Division has three special-purpose laboratories specifically for research projects. The first houses an audio lab,with robotics equipment and includes a communications systems lab. The second provides a realistic small residential environment for Home Care and Healthcare projects. The CHORDS laboratory provides high performance equipment for pursuing computationally intensive heuristics research. Library and IT support include a dedicated Science-librarian on information-seeking tools.
The division is strongly engaged with a wider research community. Close collaborations with universities, industry, commerce, and the public sector are important to us. Indeed our research portfolio is almost entirely interdisciplinary, involving strong collaborations with other subjects. The division has a wide and diverse network of collaborations across the UK, Europe and the World.