Research staff initiatives
- Concordat to support the career development of research staff (1996)
- Concordat for the career development of researchers (2008)
- Research Careers Initiative (RCI)
- Fixed-term Employees Regulations (2002)
- Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS)
- Athena SWAN awards
- Recruitment and retention of academic staff in Higher Education (July 2005)
- Contract Researchers Career Development Guidance (October 2002)
- Research Career Builder (2000)
In 1996 the higher education sector agreed a Concordat concerning the management of staff appointed on fixed term contracts to carry out research in UK universities and colleges. This initiative has played a key role in ensuring that the important contribution of research staff is more widely recognised and in identifying and encouraging good practice in researcher career management.
The new Concordat was formally launched by Iain Pearson MP, Minister of State, Science and Innovation on 25th June at an event in Westminster Hall, London. Dr Isi Saragossi, from the Directorate-General for Research at the European Commission formally recognised the Concordat as meeting the principles of the European Charter and Code of Practice for the recruitment of researchers.
The Concordat was revised during 2007 by a UK higher education sector working group, co-ordinated by UUK and Research Councils UK (RCUK). This group mapped the European Charter and Code against existing UK legislation, guidelines and good practice in order to provide a comprehensive UK gap analysis. The gap analysis demonstrated that in most cases the UK already meets the requirements of the European Charter and Code and no major conflicts with current practice in the UK were identified. Some aspects of the Charter and Code require further clarification and these are highlighted within the gap analysis.
In addition to the gap analysis, a sector-wide consultation on the overall framework of the draft Concordat, its principles and content was undertaken in 2007.
Following the publication of the Concordat, the Research Careers Initiative (RCI) was established, under the Chairmanship of Professor Sir Gareth Roberts. The RCI ran from 1997-2002 and monitored progress towards meeting the commitments of the Concordat and identified and encouraged good practice in the career management and development of contract research staff.
The final report of the Research Careers Initiative noted that ‘there has been a steady improvement in the conditions and terms of employment of contract research staff employment'.
- The monitoring process has encouraged higher education institutions (HEIs) actively to develop and to disseminate employment policies and codes of conduct relating to conditions of employment of contract staff.
- Institutions have expanded the flow of relevant information to staff employed on such term contracts and training provision has increased.
- The RCI has played a key role in raising awareness in the sector and in providing guidance in the means by which institutions have been able to take forward these improvements.
However, the report recognised that there is more work to be done, particularly in relation to:
- national funding arrangements
- the position of women and ethnic minorities on short term contracts.
The Research Careers Initiative also recommended that the need for a new Concordat should be considered and in 2007, the process of reviewing and updating the Concordat of the European Charter and Code for researchers began.
This European Directive, which has been adopted into UK law, sets conditions to protect fixed-term employees from being treated less favourably than full-time employees undertaking comparable roles.
The Roberts' Review concluded that the widespread use of fixed-term contracts within UK higher education was ‘a major barrier to the recruitment and development of researchers'.
Following the introduction of this directive, universities have had to review their employment policy for their fixed-term employees. Universities have responded to this directive in different ways.
See a list of FAQs relating to the fixed-term regulations.
Athena SWAN awards recognise good practice in recruiting and promoting women in universities. The awards process runs every year. Universities can only apply for recognition if they are already Athena SWAN Charter members.
In 2005, the DfES commisioned the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to undertake study to identify the factors which lead to individuals entering and leaving academic employment in the English higher education sector. Recruitment and retention of academic staff in Higher Education (July 2005) is available as a summary and the full version.
EPSRC have supported the development of a career guidance resources pack to help universities and other research establishments to offer career development training for its contract researchers. The main focus of the pack is on enabling contract researchers to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to consider a career move to employment outside the academic world.
Research Career Builder (2000)
The Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and Loughborough, working in partnership with a further 14 universities, were funded by HEFCE under their Good Management Practice fund, to research and develop career management processes to Contract Researchers, and their managers, in longer term career planning via the development of personal and professional skills.
The project, focussing on career planning and support, developed a number of career support mechanisms:
- Research Career Builder containing a skills matrix whereby Contract Researchers, with assistance if necessary, can measure the levels of their existing skills
- two Employment Skills Guidebooks with examples of how transferable skills are being acquired, can be built into projects and can transfer to other work contexts
- Staff Review Scheme to facilitate development and monitor progress
A number of training materials, case studies and checklists to enable career tracking have also been developed.
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