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UCL Change Builders: Profiles: Making UCL staff and doctoral researchers visble to the world

Meet the UCL Change Builders helping to drive progress for our community of staff, students and partners.

Profiles: Making UCL staff and doctoral researchers visble to the world

29 February 2024

Introducing UCL Change Builders

As part of our shared efforts to deliver on our Strategic Plan and respond to insights raised, teams across UCL have been working hard to drive progress for our expansive community.

It's often the combined efforts of many small steps of improvement, which build together to create immense impact, that make up much of our progress.

Recognising and celebrating the teams behind these efforts, UCL Change Builders spotlights these stories of change.

Know a Change Builder? Get in touch!


A cause for change

In today’s digital age, a researcher's online presence can significantly impact collaboration, engagement and visibility. 

Compelling digital profiles that accurately represent current achievements are therefore a key element in making a positive first impression to external audiences – among them, peers, industry leaders and policymakers. It’s also a reflection of a university's high standards. 

With this in mind, a number of teams from across UCL joined forces to make improvements to the university’s platform for capturing staff members’ professional profiles, introducing a new tool – Symplectic's Discovery module, rebranded as Profiles – which captures the dynamic spirit of UCL's academic, technical and professional services community. 

The team that worked on UCL Profiles
Pictured: Sailendra Ramanna, Ross Edlin, Andrew Gray, Andrew Cooper, Karen Wishart and Adam Cresswell

“There were problems with the old system”, remembers Dr Rob Hynds, who leads the Epithelial Cell Biology in ENT Research Group; “pictures were a classic – if you uploaded your photo, it would always be grainy”.

The previous platform – IRIS – had been fit for purpose in its initial stages. 

Over time, however, its interface had become outdated and shortfalls in user-friendliness led a significant number of staff to forgo updating their profiles. Given the role that profile discovery has in facilitating research partnerships and outreach, the outdated pages pointed to a key issue that needed addressing. This feedback fed into the search for a fresh new system for UCL staff and researchers.

Crucially, the new platform would need to reflect the university’s ethos of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Ting Sun
Pictured: end user Dr Ting Sun, who was part of the testing team

Idea to implementation

Spring 2023 saw the assembly of a dedicated core team from RIGE, LCCOS, and ISD to oversee the project. Following thorough consultations with various stakeholders, they collectively set to work on implementing Profiles across UCL – a considerable task given that over 20,000 people were eligible to join!

Consultation was a core part of Profiles' implementation from the onset. A user group tested Profiles and advised on its configuration, while Vice-Deans and a number of staff helped with key decisions. "This was truly a team effort”, reflects Professor Lauren Andres, Director of Research at the Bartlett School of Planning. “[Profiles] is a collective step towards engaging and elevating our community". 

The team that worked on UCL Profiles
Pictured: Sailendra Ramanna, Ross Edlin, Andrew Gray, Andrew Cooper, Karen Wishart and Dr Ting Sun

Profiles was to become the public layer of UCL's existing RPS system, where users would edit their profiles.

Keen to take advantage of new features, and working closely with Profiles' supplier Symplectic, the team incorporated filters, labels and opportunities for making teaching activities more prominent. "A lot of effort was put into the system”, remembers Climate and Meteorological Hazard Risks Lecturer Dr Ting Sun, who was part of the testing team. 

"I think a key element of UCL is the interdisciplinarity one. UCL Profiles’ keyword searching feature is [therefore] important as it can be utilised in a way that enables you to discover the linkages between users and what kind of areas different people are really working on”. 

“This new system has great potential to synergise people and research interests”.

After significant contributions from the teams involved, Profiles was officially launched in September 2023. 

UCL Profiles
Pictured: UCL Profiles

The new platform’s intuitiveness has contributed to the enthusiasm with which it's been met by users, departments and faculties. "Profiles is a significant leap forward from the previous system”, reflects Professor Courtenay Norbury, Vice-Dean (Research) for the Faculty of Brain Sciences: “[The platform] has streamlined the process of showcasing our faculty's talent, research activities, and industry interactions – all in one place”. “[The new system] perfectly aligns with our goal to highlight the research being conducted at our School”, agrees Marko Rupcic, who has been supporting its rollout as Research and Enterprise Manager at the Bartlett School of Planning. 

Reflecting on Profiles' functionality, Professor Jacqui Glass, Vice-Dean Research for the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, notes that the new platform enables more streamlined activity: “As a user of the system and I found it pretty straightforward. The usability, clarity, layout – I'm really happy with it as a whole”.

Karen Wishart
 Pictured: Karen Wishart

Future plans

With Profiles now launched, what’s next on the horizon for the system? 

The Research Outputs Product Team – now responsible for the ongoing development of Profiles, RPS and UCL's other research outputs systems – has plans for new Profiles features in the works.

This includes incorporating grants, research degree supervision, and group and department pages – as well as additional filters and reporting. "We're at the start of a long and exciting journey," say Product Managers Andrew Cooper (RIGE) and June Hedges (LCCOS), "and we'll be consulting the UCL community throughout". 

With Profiles continuing to expand and evolve with staff feedback, the platform promises a means of showcasing cutting-edge work and research in increasingly novel ways.