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- Report, Vitae research staff conference 3.11.11
Report, Vitae research staff conference 3.11.11
09 November 2011
By Sue Hacking
Vitae’s Research Staff Conference 3rd November, 2011. Sue Hacking.
The conference was very well attended with a high level of interest and involvement from research staff who were not only PGRs but at different levels. It opened with an overview of the national picture for research staff associations and there were lots of opportunities throughout the day to share tips and expertise on RSAs and other research related issues. Generally RSAs offer different benefits to researchers from union representation in that they aim to represent researchers’ interests in more research related issues nationally as well as locally, such as career development, community, support from peers and exchange of information, than simply pay and conditions. They have a different relationship with the university or institution.
Particularly interesting and relevant for new and old researchers was a report from Dr Robin Mellors-Bourne - Director, Research and Intelligence, CRAC about the recent surveys of research staff in UK universities. There are two publications available from Vitae that detail results.
Dr Jennifer Rohn - Postdoctoral Researcher and Founder, Science is Vital, gave us a lively presentation on how to engage with political issues, and how strong researchers voices can be when heard as a group.
There were a number of workshops and reports back were disseminated to the group. I went to: Every researcher counts - equality and diversity, by Cheryl Allsop - Cardiff University and Perihan Cihan – Vitae. The workshop made it clear that diversity was more inclusive than fair play for minorities and introduced a helpful set of scenarios developed by Vitae to assist training on equity in managing teams and research issues soon to be available through the Vitae site.
The Professional Researcher, presented by Rhiannon Pursall, University of Birmingham and Tony Bromley, Vitae Yorkshire and University of Leeds raised a hot debate on whether a professional framework for research training was necessary, given the existing PhD training or professionalization of research even desirable.
Unfortunately, the policy discussion wasn’t able to go ahead, but there was a workshop on the Research Excellence Framework - what does it mean to you? By Simon Smith - University of Leeds and Robert Hardwick - University of Leicester. The REF is sometimes hard to penetrate for research staff as often contract staff are not able to be included even if they would technically be returnable. It is however, vital to understand the new issues of impact and environment forcing universities to provide a more inclusive research context to support early career staff.
Generally a well planned, well delivered conference with spaces that enabled networking to take place, a range of issues that were of interest to research staff and introducing a new element of RSAs that will help to support all research staff and improve their working environment.
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