Director of Finance and Administration
Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH)
Tell us a bit about your role
My job encompasses all aspects of HR, finance, facilities, information governance, and IT operations within a large research and teaching department (Population Health).
I came from a research background with a PhD in inorganic chemistry and then worked for a research council. I began working here over 30 years ago at the Radcliffe Infirmary in a unit of less than 50 people. We were based in what was known as the ‘Regius Professor of Medicine (RPM) corridor’ and I was the only administrator. I am still here because the role grew, which was personally fulfilling and because I find the research undertaken interesting and worthwhile (at the expense of sounding corny, ‘life saving’). I also took opportunities to build a team and take on any proposed increase in activity (always enthusiastic!).
In 2013 several units came together to form Population Health which now has over 700 staff and students and is based in two large buildings. Seems a long way from the RPM corridor!
After 30 years I still believe effective administration is vital for research and teaching across all areas of medical sciences as well as within departments. Flexible administration also allows the development of new scientific groups and areas of collaboration, which is also essential. Although it is important for women to become scientists and researchers, it is also important to recognise that other skills, including management and communication skills, are of equal importance in the medical sciences.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
I am interested in supporting something worthwhile, so the most meaningful aspect of my work is to enable medical research, which will ultimately saves lives. Making the department a great place to work for everyone is also very important for me (and keeping excellent staff underpins the research effort). Being involved with supporting almost 100 postgraduate students is also fantastic.
Research can take many years to complete. For example, when I started in 1988 we were already seeking funding for the Heart Protection Study. This randomised study involving over 20,000 participants eventually began six years later in 1994. The results (showing that lowering cholesterol saves lives) were eventually reported in 2001. This study took 13 years and many hours of departmental administration, however it does highlight the need for persistence and perseverance if you believe your research is important. Understanding this as an administrator can be very helpful in maintaining motivation and in making daily tasks appear meaningful!
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
I do think that I have contributed to making the department a great place to work. We have spent time ensuring everyone is treated equally and as result, for example, we have excellent staff retention rates, equal pay and equal numbers of men and women Professors. If staff are happy to work in the department this is hugely beneficial to the research and teaching activities.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
I have definitely noticed that the level of bureaucracy around science funding has hugely increased particularly over the past 15 years. Not only is obtaining funding incredibly competitive, once it is awarded there is now a great deal of (costly) reporting, checking, monitoring and auditing, all of which takes time and effort away from the actual research. I would therefore like to see the development of funding systems which allow researchers more freedom and time to actually do research. Not sure that takes us to 100 years from now, but perhaps it could be achieved before I retire!