Securing the research talent of tomorrow

Posted 07/05/2019 by Sarah Nalden

Clare VineyClare Viney, CEO of CRAC and Vitae 

 This morning the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore set out how he believes the UK can best achieve our ambition to invest 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027.

Only a few days after the publication of the Concordat Strategy Group’s (CSG) consultation report, the Minister not only warmly welcomed the recent activities relating to the Concordat review but also proposed a high-level meeting with Professor Julia Buckingham, Chair of the CSG and othConcordat logoer key sector leaders, to further discuss improving research careers in the UK. The Concordat is owned by the sector and Vitae looks forward to supporting the next phase through our secretariat role.

The Minister pledged to make the case for continued research and development investment in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and acknowledged the need for increased support for researchers in order to achieve national ambitions. This in financial terms amounts to more than doubling spending in the next eight years and equates to 400,000 additional people, 260,000 of whom will be working in research and development across universities, business & industry.

It is ambitious and will only be achieved through changing the culture and perceptions from within and beyond academia. The need to focus on culture is welcome and is a definitive thread running through the Minister’s speech and one which is echoed by the Vitae community. The perception that moving beyond academia is somehow a failure or ‘option B’ needs to be addressed. Academia isn’t the only place where talented researchers can have long and meaningful careers. It is important that expectations are re-aligned, and researchers are aware of the incredibly varied, challenging and rewarding careers beyond academia. Similarly, industry should seize the opportunity to employ researchers with their wealth of knowledge, skills and capabilities. 

Chris Skidmore

The Minister acknowledged the challenges around the wellbeing and mental health of the early career researcher community.  The burden of high expectations placed on researchers in a climate of uncertainty can take its toll on researchers’ wellbeing in a high-pressured competitive environment. A healthy environment where all researchers can flourish is essential to nurturing the future pipeline of talent.

We look forward to working with the Minister and the community in the coming weeks and months and will keep you updated on developments. A full transcript of the speech can be found here 

More useful reading:

What do research staff do next? 

Five Steps Forward

Enterprising Researcher booklet

Wellbeing and mental health resources