Vitae member updates - August policy update 2023

Welcome to the monthly Vitae policy focus for members.

All things research culture 

August might be a slow policy month, but discussions on research culture and the shape of the next Research Excellent Framework (REF) continue across the sector. These are illuminating how much is still to be done to understand research culture across the research ecosystem. The REF, with its emphasis on research culture, is understandably going to be a focal point of interest in the next few months and years, but the conversation should not become siloed or narrowed by it. As I write in my latest policy brief, Research culture enhancement and the REF this is an exciting opportunity for collaborative and coordinated action, but it will require multiple stakeholders to come together. 

Vitae support for Hidden REF 

Vitae is pleased to become a Supporter of Hidden REF, a volunteer-led campaign to recognise all research outputs and every role that makes research possible. Having started as a competition celebrating a diversity of research outputs in 2021, it is now focusing on the 5% Manifesto, encouraging institutions to submit at least 5% of their non-traditional research outputs to REF 2028. Hidden REF’s mission aligns with Vitae’s key aims around redefining what it means to be a successful researcher, as well as the work we are doing in research assessment reform through the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA). 

New Practice Pathway: Pathways to creating cultures in which researchers can flourish 

The latest edition of Practice Pathways has been launched since last month’s message. The latest topic is: Pathways to creating cultures in which researchers can flourish. With so much work in the sector currently being undertaken around research culture, we aim to regularly update this pathway. 

CoARA Boost and working groups 

The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC), which manages the Vitae programme, will be part of the consortium for CoARA Boost, a European Union-funded project to enhance CoARA’s operational capacity and provide means to investigate and implement new models for research assessment. CRAC’s role is the monitoring and evaluation of two working groups, along with broader input into management, development, and engagement. In addition to this, we are pleased to have a role in the formation of two other working groups. We look forward to sharing insights and learning with Vitae members, as well as to advocate for the recognition of diverse researcher skills and competencies. 

Jobs of the future report 

Universities UK (UUK) have published a report on Jobs of the future, exploring potential areas of high employment growth and the skills likely to be in high demand in the next 10-15 years. It highlights the ongoing demand of higher level skills, including at postgraduate level, and points to evidence that identifies ‘analytical thinking and creative thinking’ as ‘the most important skills needed by employers globally. It also points to five areas in need of graduates: technology, health, education (including higher education), digital, and creative skills.  

Diversity data in research funding 

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have both published analyses of diversity data in their research funding programmes. The CRUK data, spanning applicants and awardees from the last five years, identified a number of areas still requiring attention. For example, while the proportion of grant awards made to applicants from an ethnic minority background rose to 21% in 2022 (up from 13% in 2028), Black researchers remain underrepresented among lead applicants. The BHF, while less granular, indicates similar disparities. 

Reviews on researcher careers in Europe published 

The Sustainable Careers for Researcher Empowerment (SECURE) project, in which CRAC is a partner, has recently released two reviews of practices and policies that affect researcher careers in Europe. The first, a State of the Art on Research Career Frameworks highlights the need for new guidance on researcher careers across Europe, particularly around career pathways, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and professional development. The second, a State of the Art on Tenure Track-Life Models highlights a huge variance internationally around the understanding of pathways to open-ended and permanent contracts for postdoctoral researchers, as well as what is feasible, desirable, and acceptable at institutional and national levels. 

Kind regards, 

Dr Yolana Pringle
Vitae | Policy and Evidence Manager
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