UK and European contexts

Principal investigators (PIs) need to be familiar with the expectations of their employers, research funding bodies and governments.

Background - policy and funding

Innovation Union is a key part of the EU's strategy to 2020 and aims to turn research into new and better services and products to help Europe remain globally competitive and improve the quality of life in Europe. Within this context, nearly €80 billion to support funding is being offered to support research and innovation over 7 years through Horizon 2020. One of the themes is delivering a European Research Area (ERA). Since 2000, the aim of the ERA has been to create an open labour market for researchers where researchers can move and interact freely, benefit from world-class infrastructures and work with excellent networks of research institutions.

In the UK, the Department of Buisiness, Innovation and Skills has primary responsibility for UK research policy and funding. For an overview of bodies involved in setting and influencing policy, see this introduction to government and research policy in the UK produced by the Research Information Network. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for expert review of research in UK higher education institutions. Each assessment, based on institutional submissions, will inform allocation of research funding. REF results also provide accountability for public investment in research and benchmarking information.

Recruitment and management of researchers

The European Commission has adopted a Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. These two documents, addressed to researchers as well as to employers and funders in both the public and private sectors, are key elements in the European Union's policy to make research an attractive career, which is a vital feature of its strategy to stimulate economic and employment growth.

The European Charter for Researchers
addresses the roles, responsibilities and entitlements of researchers and their employers or funding organisations. It aims at ensuring that the relationship between these parties contributes to successful performance in the generation, transfer and sharing of knowledge, and to the career development of researchers. The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers aims to improve recruitment, to make selection procedures fairer and more transparent, and proposes different means of judging merit. Merit should not just be measured on the number of publications but on a wider range of evaluation criteria, such as teaching, supervision, teamwork, knowledge transfer, management and public awareness activities.

The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers is the UK equivalent to the European Charter and Code. It is an agreement between the funders and employers of researchers in the UK which aims to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers as well as to improve the quantity, quality and impact of research. The agreement sets out the expectations and responsibilities of researchers, their managers, employers and funders.

For managers of researchers, including PIs, The Concordat establishes expectations of funders of research in relation to the:

  • recruitment and selection of research staff in line with institutional policies
  • constructive use of appraisal and developmental reviews in supporting the development of research staff
  • active support for the professional and career development of research staff
  • supporting research staff to widen their experience, develop their professional profile and career opportunities
  • provision of appropriate tailored support and management to research staff
  • engagement with institutional processes to evaluate research staff support.

For more detailed information on the Concordat for managers of research, have a look at Vitae's Concordat briefing.

The EC's HR Excellence in Research Award is given to institutions which can demonstrate commitment to implementing the principles of the European Charter and Code or, in the case of UK institutions, the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers plus the requirements of the QAA Quality Code for research degrees.

Your institution and research funders are likely also to be influenced by additional policy drivers such as public engagement.