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- Vitae researcher development international conference 2011: realising the potential of researchers
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- The value of Research Staff Associations (RSAs)
The value of Research Staff Associations (RSAs)
11 November 2011
By Emma Parry
Based on the UKRSA report “Understanding RSAs and their Impact”, the purpose of this workshop (A1) was to help people understand what RSAs can and cannot achieve; identify how and where they can best use their resources and to promote RSAs to a range of stakeholders. The audience was made up of a mixture of those who did and did not currently have RSAs and who had a variety of reasons for attending: from wanting build a sustainable RSA, revive a flagging group or to discover how to engage researchers with a new or existing RSA. RSAs were seen as useful to a range of stakeholders, including research staff, other academic staff, research staff developers and the university or department as a whole through their capacity to improve research staff networks and collaborations, provide support and develop researcher skills. In fact, the benefits of RSAs were so readily agreed on that it seems surprising that so many of the individuals’ present (myself included) had such difficulties in encouraging research staff to become involved. Perhaps the barriers to researcher engagement with RSAs should be a future topic for a UKRSA/Vitae research project?
Much of the session was taken up in discussing the potential role of UKRSAs in developing researcher skills. Some survey evidence for the role of RSAs in developing those skills named in the Researcher Development Framework was presented. In particular RSAs seem useful in developing skills around professional development and working with others. It seems however that the development of skills really depends on the nature of the RSA and the reasons behind its creation. Of course, some RSAs might be set up with skills development as a key objective, while others will have different aims. I wonder if an outcome of this work might be some advice on how to set up an RSA in such a way so that different objectives – increased collaboration; the representation of researchers’ interests, skills development, for instance – can be effectively achieved. Should it really be the responsibility of RSAs to address researcher skills or is the development of some skills (such as team working) merely a by product of an association that is actually created for other means?