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Duncan Andrew Thomas

PhD, Senior Researcher

Duncan Andrew Thomas


I study how research excellence, quality and societal impacts of research are influenced by policy, funding, evaluation and organisational conditions. I have studied many scientific fields and contexts, from small scale, to national studies, to supranational cooperation at European level, to funding from the European Research Council (ERC), to joint and open multilateral funding schemes like ERA-NETs, up to some of humanity's most expensive global science, like CERN-LHC. My work has been published in journals such as Research Evaluation, Minerva, PLoS ONE, Scientometrics and Studies in Higher Education.

My current primary project is PROSECON (2019-22), funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. Here we frame researcher funding portfolios as 'configurations', and explore how different funders and funding affect societal aspects of research. We explore two interdisciplinary fields (renewable energy research, food science) with transdisciplinary features (industry collaboration, societal partners) across Denmark, Netherlands and Norway. 

I also collaborate in two long-term international research centres. The first is on research quality and impact, R-QUEST (2016-24) led by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) and funded by The Research Council of Norway. Here I helped develop a framework to study co-existing notions of research quality. We are now using this framework to extend study of research governance effects to scientific fields overall, in how local quality decisions may trickle through to influence an entire research field. This, and related studies, involve cutting edge particle physics (at CERN-LHC), ultracold atom/quantum physics (in labs across the world) and string theory. We are also studying quality notions in economics around Europe. 

The second centre is KNOWSCIENCE (2016-21, final conference June 2022), hosted at Lund University, Sweden. It addresses technologies of research governance - like funding instruments and affordances - for the future of universities. This centre was funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. Here I have developed tools to better understand research evaluation, and explored how university governance can be affected by symbiotic dependency on private sector EdTech platorms. This involved study of USA universities and global online teaching (MOOCs, fully online degrees). We have also contrasted Swedish and UK funding for university knowledge transfer, aiming - rather like PROSECON - to understand how funding may affect societal aspects of research. 

Related to KNOWSCIENCE, I am involved in a 2020-22 workshop series funded by The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS). This brings together scholars on 'understanding digital transformation of teaching and learning in Nordic higher education'. It also connects to my practical experience since 2014 from co-developing two massive open online courses (MOOCs) on global water policy, with Professor Dale Whittington at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA) and University of Manchester (UK). These MOOCs have been taken by over 40,000 students globally. My contribution to these MOOCs builds on my previous research on water innovation, published in Water Economics & Policy, Water & Wastewater Treatment, Utility Week and shared through expert reviews and multipe independent advisory appointments in the UK, around Europe and with the World Resource Institute (USA). 

I joined CFA in 2019 after being based at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR, formerly PREST), Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS), University of Manchester. I remain an Honorary Research Fellow there. Earlier I was a physics-trained, electronic engineer in a Nobel Prize-winning private sector R&D facility. I co-developed novel, efficient lighting technologies for government and industry partners.  

Beyond research I have taught and supervised PhD, Masters and undergraduate students. I also make YouTube videos about electric cars and bicycles, and my channel recently passed 1 million lifetime views.  

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