Employee Spotlight - Beverley Sherbon

August 4, 2016

How did you first learn about Researchfish and why did you decide to join the team?


Well, I was actually involved before Researchfish even existed, as I was partly responsible for commissioning and implementing MRC eVal in 2008/09, whilst I was working for the Medical Research Council. MRC eVal later evolved into the version used across funders, called Researchfish, so I’ve been in it from the beginning!

Back in January 2016, I decided to join the team at Researchfish as I fully support the need for funders, research managers and researchers to show what their research has achieved, and to be able to demonstrate the impact of what they do. I used to be a researcher a very long time ago so this is close to my heart; research is vital to life as we know it, and we all need to make sure that it continues to get fully funded (in the right way). I spent many years at MRC using this information for various evaluations and corporate reporting requirements, and helping other funders to do the same, and this is one of the skills that I bring to Researchfish.

What is your role at Researchfish? And what are you responsible for?

My job title is Impact and Evaluation Adviser, but that doesn’t really fully reflect what I do, and being a new role we knew that it would develop over time. Primarily I work closely with our members to help them get the most out of the Researchfish service, and fully utilise the information that they collect from their researchers. I have a small team who are responsible for helping funders get up and running with the system, run their submission periods and support the researchers.

I am also focused on ensuring that our services remains current  and fully fit for purpose for the needs of the funders. I, therefore, look at new functionality or review ways to improve old functionality, for example, I’m currently working with the funders to improve the information collected on Next Destinations of individuals funded from awards, and to think further about how Researchfish can be used for more in depth career tracking. I play an integral part in the governance of the question set, and could probably be described as our resident question set geek as I know it intimately!

Before working at Researchfish, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

I’ve got a whole list of random jobs that I’ve done - turkey plucking, a summer of packing Christmas decorations, slicing up lobster eyes to look at the pigment in them down a laser microscope, teaching developmental biology to undergraduates, teaching cell biology at adult education and being a cocktail ‘waitress’, so it depends on your definition of ‘unusual’. The turkey plucking was by far the worst job ever!


If you could switch your job with anyone else within Researchfish for a day, whose job would it be and why?

I know this isn’t quite answering the question but I’d swap with one of our users, and be a researcher for a day. I miss it, and it would be really interesting to see how much things have changed since I was a researcher. I did a lot of microscopy and actually had to take photos with a camera with film in it and then spend hours developing photos!! It’d be amazing to have a play with the latest electron and confocal microscopes.


What are three words you would use to describe Researchfish?


Friendly, enthusiastic and in the middle of a field - well, not quite in the middle of a field, but it is compared to my old office in Covent Garden.


What do you think will be the most challenging part of your role at Researchfish?


Adjusting to a completely different working environment and not having all of the ‘red tape’ and process that I was used to previously. Going from a big public sector organisation to a small private company is a bit of a culture shock, plus selling a house in London, moving 100 miles and buying a house in a tiny village with a horse at the bottom of my garden has all been a bit of a roller coaster and even more of a culture shock. I’ve really enjoyed meeting a completely new and very different set of people here, everyone is super friendly and always willing to help (or perhaps that’s because I bake a lot and bring them cake!).


What have you gained from working at Researchfish in your first 6 months?


It’s been really interesting to take off my ‘MRC’ hat (although I still constantly say ‘we’ when I refer to MRC!) and spent time trying to truly understand the needs and drivers of different types of funders. I’ve also spent a lot of time talking to funders from other countries, and learning more about how different the research environment is elsewhere and the differing, but often similar challenges faced by funders has been fascinating. For those of us who work in impact in the UK, I don’t think we realise what a huge difference the Research Excellent Framework has made with regard to our understanding of how to think about, how to track and how to talk about impact. So many other countries are just starting this journey.


What is on your wish list for the next year working with Researchfish?


I want to continue to build and develop the relationships that we have with our members, and for us to shape and steer the service together. I think it’s true to say that Researchfish is moving from being a data collection system to a more holistic service, and I want to make sure that we do this together in partnership, and that we collaborate with our members - all of them, big or small, whatever their focus.


We piloted some training workshops - we will continue to develop and run a programme of training courses for stakeholders, to enable them to fully understand and utilise their captured information.


Whilst our system generated reports will give many funders all the information they need, it has been recognised that assessment of this data and reporting on the findings, can prove challenging for some funders. I (and the team!) can support funders to best interpret, evaluate and apply their data to inform evaluation and strategy development and to enable them to make better research decisions.

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