D4 - Building institutional capacity for supporting research staff in their transition to research independence: learning from the insights of principal investigators

Day 2 at 13:45 - Achieving research independence by becoming a principal investigator (PI) is a key aspiration for research staff and can be characterised as a critical career transition point. Understanding how existing PIs prepare for and manage this significant leadership transition is the focus of a current evaluation study led by Dr Sharon Saunders at the University of Cambridge. This study seeks to further our understanding of the development needs of research staff/postdocs by investigating how 50 PIs in two UK and one European research intensive institutions prepare for and deal with the transition to PI on an everyday basis.
This workshop will focus on presenting preliminary findings from PIs in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM disciplines) in relation to their advice for aspiring PIs.
The workshop will also present a framework showing how to utilise the findings to conduct an institutional gap analysis. There will also be an opportunity to discuss how these findings can be used to develop new approaches to enable researchers to reach their potential and make powerful career choices

Presentation from Workshop D4


Day Day 2
Session D
Start time 13:45
Strand Research Staff
Code D4

Dr Sharon Saunders - Research Staff Development Consultant, University of Cambridge

Natacha Wilson - Independent Research and Innovation Consultant, University of Cambridge


This session will cover:

  • a summary of the preliminary findings on the advice given to aspiring PIs by successful PIs
  • the presentation of a framework to conduct an institutional gap analysis based upon the findings
  • how the research findings are being used to inform the leadership development agenda for research staff at the University of Cambridge

Participants will:

  • have a greater awareness of the advice successful PIs are suggesting to aspiring PIs
  • have access to a practical framework that can be used to conduct an institutional gap analysis for research staff provision
  • have the opportunity to explore how  researcher developers can work with PIs and researchers to embed learning and development in the research environment


The 80 minute workshop will comprise 2 sections:

  • A short presentation with key findings
  • An interactive session encouraging participant’s feedback and input