How do we prepare researchers for the challenges ahead at a time when the future seems particularly uncertain? part 1

Posted 14/06/2023 by Sarah Nalden

Dr Kate Jones

Dr Kate Jones, Professional Development Manager at Vitae attended Vitae's Preparing Researchers for an Unknown Future event on 25 January and this was the question that framed the discussions 

'A tentative answer is that researcher developers and senior researchers need to effectively communicate to junior researchers the changes occurring in the current higher education landscape and the level of change still to come. The competences that researchers need above all else are adaptability and flexibility. Researchers must be ready for an unknown future. After all, as well as shaping their own futures, early career researchers are reshaping the future of all researchers.'

Intersectoral Mobility

Career options even smaller

David Fox, Founder of Vulpine Science & Learning started the day, speaking about researcher mobility and outlining the competencies researchers need to succeed in careers beyond academia. These include: having a mindset energised by change and open to challenge, and the ability and desire to work across boundaries and in unfamiliar contexts.

Dr Sharon Maguire, AGCAS Research Staff, outlined the approach taken by AGCAS to providing careers advice to researchers. What’s important, she suggested, is supporting individuals to make well-informed career decisions that are right for them.

Dr Janet Metcalfe, Head of Vitae, considered the lessons learned about improving the intersectoral mobility of researchers from the EURAXIND project, which aims to strengthen relationships between industry and academia, promoting the recruitment of highly skilled researchers into all employment sectors.

Open Research

Open Access newest

After the break, thoughts turned to what the future might be like for researchers, with a presentation on Open Research from Dr Emma A. Harris, Project Manager and Training Developer for the ORION EU H2020 project, and a talk on Academic Apprenticeships from Alison Mitchell, Director of Development at Vitae.

Emma outlined the ways in which Open Science is changing behaviours and habits in order to make research more accessible and encourage academic collaboration.

Alison’s talk emphasised that employers’ expectations of early career researchers include subject knowledge, professional competences, and a willingness to commit to continuing professional development, and thus acknowledge that change is the only constant in an academic career where new experiences, skills, and knowledge equal a researcher who changes from one appraisal to the next. 

Read part 2 on mental health & wellbeing.

To find out more about the breadth of careers beyond academia, read ‘What do Research Staff do Next?’