In a research-focused university like Trinity, few roles are as central to the college’s success as the Dean of Research, a role most recently filled by Professor of Engineering and the Arts Linda Doyle.
Doyle’s path to becoming Trinity’s Dean of Research began with a love of research in her own field, fusing telecommunications research with a passion for the arts. A prolific researcher with published articles spanning areas of computer science, telecommunications and networking, her earlier work included leading a spectrum research group in Ireland’s Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Research.
Established in 2004 and headquartered in Trinity, Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Research was an extremely successful research centre aimed at redefining key parts of telecommunications and networks in Ireland. Doyle’s research on spectrum management examined how to use the range of frequencies available for wireless communication more efficiently. When Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Research was renewed in 2009, Doyle succeeded Prof Donal O’Mahony as the centre’s director.
“She brought the programme up by leaps and bounds”, said Dr Jeff Punch, a University of Limerick professor who worked with Doyle for many years at Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Research. Punch praised her internal leadership of the centre, noting her ability to foster relationships with industry partners and between universities. “But more strongly”, he said, “I think she really established it internationally and laid the groundwork for what has become CONNECT and what has only been growing since then”.
Doyle’s path to becoming Trinity’s Dean of Research began with a love of research in her own field, fusing telecommunications research with a passion for the arts
In 2015, Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Research formally evolved into Ireland’s current telecommunications research centre, CONNECT, funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) with Doyle as its founding Director. CONNECT has been remarkably successful, developing over 35 industry partnerships, collaborations between 10 colleges and universities and encompassing some 300 researchers.
Doyle’s colleagues attribute CONNECT’s success to Doyle’s ability to inspire people from different universities and research areas to collaborate effectively.
Dr Brendan Jennings, the current interim director of CONNECT, said that a common downfall of these large, multi-institution projects can be “jockeying for position” by members of different universities who see the other researchers as competitors instead of collaborators. “I think CONNECT has been pretty unique from the start, in that when it was kind of put together by Linda, she managed to construct it in a way that that has not become an issue,” said Jennings.
Jennings added that although CONNECT has been successful in “the traditional terms of an engineering-type research centre,” a hidden success story of the centre was Doyle’s ability to motivate administrative and other non-academic officials to perform at very high levels.
“I think that’s something that probably comes from her treating those people exactly the same way as she treated a professor in UCD or UCC,” said Jennings.
Lassane Ouedraogo, an Academic Executive Director at CONNECT, agreed that Doyle has been a force for good in terms of fostering an inclusive work environment, an issue close to his heart as an African Diaspora leader in Ireland. “I see somebody who does not see you different than her because of your background, your color, your race”, he said. “She has the ability to give you the confidence and the ability to work independently.”
I think CONNECT has been pretty unique from the start, in that when it was kind of put together by Linda, she managed to construct it in a way that that has not become an issue
“I’ve seen her interact with everybody across the center be it PhD students, or be it more junior administrative people, in the same way”, added Jennings.
It came as a surprise and a disappointment then when Doyle informed her colleagues at CONNECT that she would be stepping down as the centre’s director to take on the role of Trinity’s Dean of Research.
“It was unexpected. And it was quick,” said Jennings. He recalled Doyle explaining to the team that she had been tapped for Dean of Research and it was an opportunity she wanted to take. He described her handling of the transition as “very open”.
“It certainly wasn’t something that was pre-planned, so she had to make a quick decision”, said Jennings, but he said that the team at CONNECT understood her reasoning. “There was no sense of ill feeling,” he added.
Doyle carried her commitment to excellent research and an inclusive work environment with her into her new role as Dean of Research, beginning in 2018. Those who worked with her during her time as Dean of Research cite the creation of Trinity’s research charter as a key achievement.
“Her vision, really, I would say, was to put research back at the heart of Trinity”, said Prof Andrew Bowie, an immunologist and Associate Dean of Research. He said that the development of the research charter was a “declaration of action for Trinity” to that effect, determining the structure under which the university would support its researchers.
Her vision, really, I would say, was to put research back at the heart of Trinity
What made the development of the charter unique was Doyle’s approach. “The highly inclusive and collaborative approach she took meant huge momentum was generated and people bought into it right across the university”, said Shane Collins, a researcher at Trinity who worked with Doyle as a personal assistant to the Dean of Research office, in a written statement sent to The University Times.
“People saw the issues they cared about were being recognised and because of Linda’s approach this made it possible,” Collins added.
“She was so collaborative and really managed to engage and consult with a huge number of researchers within TCD on various issues and matters,” remarked Bowie.
“My view would be that she’s been one of the best Deans of Research that we’ve had,” he said.
Shortly after Doyle assumed her position as Dean of Research, Trinity experienced a drop of 44 places in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings in 2019. Bowie describes the focus on rankings as “unfortunate,” but acknowledged that, “she and also the office have been working hard to improve the rankings. It was an important aspect of the role, I think.”
Trinity rose nine places to 155th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2020. Though the metrics for university rankings aren’t completely clear-cut according to Bowie, many metrics of a university’s success are linked to research output and impact, something that may continue to improve in Trinity over the coming years.
In addition to these larger roles, Doyle served in the postgraduate advisory service. In an email to The University Times, a member of the Postgraduate Advisory Service Martin McAndrew said: “As in many cases throughout College, really good work on behalf of students goes unsung to protect the privacy of the students being supported. Linda was at all times an effective, sympathetic and cheerful advocate for postgraduates.”
“Above all, I think she’s a terrific leader,” commented Punch. “And I sort of choose that word carefully, in a sense that it’s thrown around a lot. But I would say definitively, she has terrific. leadership qualities.”