Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2013: Realising the Potential of Researchers

The established annual Vitae researcher development conference is the largest event that brings together all those with a strategic and practical role in developing researchers.

This year we particularly welcomed international colleagues for whom the conference included a range of dedicated sessions.

Research and innovation are key to economic growth, a productive economy, healthy society and a sustainable world. To build international competitiveness through research, innovation and knowledge exchange, we need to ensure the pipeline, employability and impact of researchers.

‘It is right that as we put research at the heart of our plans for future prosperity, we prioritise the development of excellent researchers able to capitalise on the impact of that research'

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science


The conference explored strategies and practice to enhance the professional development of doctoral researchers and research staff, focussing on:

  • the European Commission's flagship initiative ‘Innovation Union'
  • UK government and Research Council strategies, priorities and delivery plans, including the HE White Paper
  • the new UK Research Excellence Framework
  • the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the HR Excellence in Research award
  • the Researcher Development Framework and international validation.

Conference themes:

  The conference addressed the following themes:

  • building and sustaining institutional capacity for researchers' professional development
  • demonstrating the value of researcher development on research outputs, researcher careers, economic prosperity and society
  • policy developments relating to the doctoral education and employing researchers
  • sustainable practice to support researcher skills, professional and career development.

The workshop programme addressed the conference themes, and in particular it covered:

  • embedding training and development in the research environment
  • the impact of researcher development and researcher careers
  • implications of policy developments for higher education institutions
  • developing the ‘global researcher'
  • key transitions between academia and industry/other sectors, including employability and work experience and internships
  • developing researchers for knowledge exchange, enterprise, public engagement and research in policy making
  • developing researchers for leadership, multidisciplinary and collaborative working
  • developing a pipeline of research talent, addressing any equality and diversity issues
  • embedding the Researcher Development Framework.


  • explored the political context for researcher development
  • discussed strategic and practical ways of sustaining professional and career development for research staff and postgraduate researchers
  • had access to the latest policy, information and research related to this field
  • shared ideas and practice with a network of colleagues with a stake in developing the researchers.

Key activities that were launched at the Vitae conference included:

  • a review of the reports to Research Councils UK on the sustainability of researcher development provision in UK higher education institutions
  • outcomes from the first UK survey of the views of Principal Investigators and Research Leaders
  • outcomes from the 2011 UK Careers in Research Online Survey
  • latest publications in the ‘What do Researchers do?' series
  • update on European Commission's ‘HR Excellence in Research' Award and process to enable UK HEI's to meet the criteria to retain the badge.