2023 has been a productive and busy year in the department. Every research group I have visited is working at full tilt, each doing exciting and important work. The Oxford Health BRC is also at full speed, having celebrated its one year anniversary and the UK Mental Health Mission has launched.
There have been several spectacular showcase events this year, including the Oxford Neuroscience Symposium, BRC stakeholder event and our away day at St Catherine’s College. I have been blown away by the breadth and quality of the neuroscience research that we do. I really enjoyed hearing from early career researchers and students as well as more senior staff and making new connections.
We continue to work hard to make the Department a place people want to come to work in and stay. We have celebrated the diversity of our team through our focussed theme months. We have been busy delivering on the key actions and recommendations from the anti-bullying and harassment reports that we commissioned last year. For instance we have started monthly PI lunches, which provide an important forum for discussing workplace culture and sharing good practice. We have introduced lab handbooks to make our ways of working less opaque.
We are continuing to analyse the results of this year’s staff survey but early indications suggest improvement on 2021 for the department, and that we are doing much better than the divisional and university averages in key areas. As we get more data, we will continue to make change to make the department as inclusive and welcoming as possible and are committed to addressing any areas identified for improvement.
We will continue to make change to make the department as inclusive and welcoming as possible and are committed to addressing any areas identified for improvement.
Celebrating our work and raising our profile has been a further area of focus this year. The Brain & Mental Health campaign saw the University spotlight the work of the department and we distributed our first ever alumni mailing, money raised from which enabled us to support early career researchers to develop their careers by attending and showcasing their work at major academic conferences.
We have had substantial donations to support the brilliant Brainwaves project, improving mental health in schools, and a single large philanthropic donation that enabled us to appoint two new Brain Science Fellowships to Sana Suri and Andrea Reinecke. They were selected from an incredibly competitive field of applicants, which highlights the substantial need for mid-career support.
This year we said goodbye to the amazing Moira Westwood, as she moved to our sister Department Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences after eight years in Psychiatry. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude for the way that she helped shape the Department of Psychiatry into the place it is today and the competent and enabling way she led the team of professional support staff – I know I’m biased but I do think they are the best in the business; they are fundamental to the success of the Department, they quite simply make everything work. We have then been doubly lucky, firstly to have persuaded Lynn Clee to come out of peaceful retirement to return to the turmoil of University administration as our interim HAF for the last few months, and then to have appointed David Hyland to the substantive post. He brings a wealth of experience with him, and I know he is just as passionate about supporting a positive, inclusive culture as I am, and that we are in safe hands.
All that remains for me to say, is that I wish you a peaceful and happy festive break and look forward to seeing you all again in 2024.
Professor Belinda Lennox is the Head of the Department of Psychiatry.