Researchers' Concordat rights

The 2008 Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (Concordat) sets out clear standards that researchers in the UK can expect from the institution that is employing them. The Concordat is specific to UK-based institutions; there is a separate page outlining the European Commission’s 'European Charter for Researchers' and 'Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers'.

Signatories to the Concordat include Universities UK (the universities umbrella body) and major research funders.

Through Universities UK all UK universities have effectively signed up to the Concordat principles. Vitae works directly with universities to support its implementation.   

The principles of the Concordat

The Concordat sets out seven basic principles which should underpin the employment of research staff:

  1. the importance of recruiting and retaining researchers with the potential for excellence
  2. recognising the value of researchers as employees
  3. the importance of equipping researchers with the skills to be effective and adaptable workers, not just in their current post, but also in their ongoing careers
  4. the importance of supporting researchers’ personal and professional development
  5. the need for researchers to engage pro-actively with opportunities to develop themselves
  6. the promotion of equality and diversity
  7. the need for regular review of progress in achieving the principles of the Concordat.

What these principles mean for researchers

The Concordat principles state that recruitment should be open and transparent. If you have the experience and competencies to apply for a post, you should have the opportunity to apply. There should be no favouritism or discrimination in the recruitment and selection process.

Researchers should get appropriate support to settle into an institution. There should be an induction process and probationary periods should be used to give you a time of ‘protected development’. You should be able to get support from a mentor in your institution and take part in a regular professional development review process.

Research staff should be represented on relevant departmental and institutional committees and be encouraged to form Research Staff Associations. You should not be excluded from discussions that concern academic staff and you should have opportunities to voice your concerns.

The researchers’ contribution to the intellectual life of the institution should be properly recognised. This means that, where appropriate, you should be able to take part in bids for new research funding. Your intellectual property should be safeguarded and not automatically assigned to the institution or your Principal Investigator. You are entitled to due recognition on publications, grant applications and in efforts to commercialise your research.

Researchers should also be recognised for their contribution to the wider life of their institution beyond the reach of their research topic. This may include, for example, teaching and supervision duties, public engagement and knowledge exchange activities. Results of the Careers in Research Online Survey indicate how valued UK researchers feel for these additional contributions.

Institutions must support the long-term careers of research staff. Universities and research institutes “should ensure that the development of researchers is not undermined by the instability of employment contracts.”

Specific recommendations include:

  • giving timely end of contract notice
  • actively seeking to redeploy researchers once contracts end
  • providing bridging funding to enable researchers to continue in their post between periods of grant funding
  • providing open and transparent mechanisms for promotion of research staff
  • providing training to enable experienced researchers to move into research leadership roles.

Universities and research institutes vary widely in how they implement the recommendations of the Concordat. However, to gain and progress in the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Award, institutions must acknowledge their alignment with the principles of both the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for their Recruitment and the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

Sources of support

Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework (RDF) can help institutions meet their Concordat obligations. The RDF can also be used by individual researchers to review their career to date and plan for the future.

The UK Research Staff Association, an association of local (institution-based) and discipline-specific Research Staff Associations (RSAs), provides a UK-wide forum for issues of concern to researchers. It engages with institutions and research funders to promote best practice and encourage wider adoption of Concordat principles, and has input into research policy development at a national level. The UKRSA collaborates with national RSAs in other countries

The University and College Union (UCU) is a trade union with negotiating rights for researchers in UK universities. It lobbies for improvements in opportunities for staff on fixed-term contracts, and produces a ‘Researchers’ Survival Guide’ summarising what you can expect from your institution.