Employee Spotlight: Manya Buchan, Senior Product Manager

18th April 2023

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration year, we will be spotlighting a number of Symplectic employees to find out more about their background and the expertise they bring to the community, as well as asking them what they think makes Symplectic (and Digital Science) a great place to work.

Manya BuchanManya Buchan joined the Symplectic team in 2019 from Elsevier, where she was Senior Product Manager for Pure. Prior to that, Manya worked at the University of Edinburgh for 8 years in Research Policy and Planning Services and managed the University’s REF2014 and RAE2008 research assessment submissions. As Senior Product Manager at Symplectic, Manya acts as REF specialist, working with the community to adjust to the changing requirements of the assessment process. Manya has a BA (Hons) in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University and a MBA from the University of Edinburgh.



How long have you worked at Symplectic and what brought you here? 

I’ve been with Symplectic for 4 years now. I joined the team after 5 years on the Pure team at Elsevier. I was seeking to move away from the ‘corporate’ environment inherent in a large company, hoping to join a team with dedicated, inspirational, and knowledgeable management (and I found that!)


Tell us a bit about your background 

I moved to the UK after finishing my degree in Archaeology at Simon Fraser University (Canada) back in 1999. I worked at the University of Edinburgh for 14 years, supporting both teaching and research activities, latterly as the Head of Research Policy & Planning Services within the University’s Governance and Strategic Planning unit (GaSP).  While in GaSP, I managed the University’s RAE2008 and REF2014 assessment submissions, and oversaw the procurement and implementation of the University’s first Research Information Management System. In 2006, I completed a part-time MBA at the University of Edinburgh. Recently I was elected a member of the University of Edinburgh General Council’s Business Committee – I start in August!


What would you say sets Symplectic Elements apart from other research information management systems? 

The structured flexibility it offers to clients – this enables us to support many use cases, but in a structured fashion that then still enables reporting. Elements’ Assessment Module is really at the leading edge of functionality in this area.


What’s the most rewarding project you’ve worked on during your time here?

Definitely delivering REF2021 functionality! I joined in February 2019 and pretty much hit the ground running, working with our dedicated REF team to deliver REF2021 functionality. It was quite challenging as I was new to the Elements product, but had a great team for support and we delivered really valuable functionality for our clients, well within the timescales required.


How do you see the role of research impact and research excellence continuing to evolve? 

I think on research impact, capturing impact data in a coherent, reportable way will continue to be a challenge as the area matures – case studies still feel quite resource intensive to produce and evidence (but perhaps that will always be the nature of the beast). On research assessment, there will continue to be drives to reduce the burden of completing and evaluating these submissions – all while ensuring the rigour of assessment. This has been a theme since at least just prior to RAE2008, and it just feels like the burden has increased with each exercise – while useful metrics that could potentially replace resource-intensive peer review, and that can be applied across all disciplines, continue to be elusive.


How have you seen the day-to-day expectations on researchers & faculty change during your career? 

Increased reporting and accountability requirements from funding bodies have definitely increased the requirement for researchers to capture relevant data relating to their project outcomes, pathways to impact, etc.

The desire to have curated public profiles for the research being undertaken (by researchers, by research groups, by organisational units, by institutions) – and its impact on the wider community

The need to re-use data across a number of platforms and use cases. Previously, a researcher might have had a CV they maintained on their own, and maybe a web page – but a lot of that information is required now in a number of other places.


What do you think makes Symplectic’s team culture unique? 

Colleagues who are in it for the ‘right’ reasons and a really vibrant social scene (which sadly I miss most of being remote!) – but is really great when I’m down in the office. There’s a very flat hierarchy – everyone’s opinion is as valid as everyone else’s.