Nourishing researcher development through the growth of CEDARS

Posted 10/03/2021 by Sarah Nalden

During Vitae Connections Week in September 2020, participants heard about working experiences of the pilot Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey (CEDARS) from three member institutions that undertook the pilot survey.

Dr Anna Seabourne, Head of Researcher Environment, University of Huddersfield, tells Vitae why at the University of Huddersfield they decided to adopt CEDARS and gave some useful tips on how they went about engaging respondents.

Dr Anna SeabourneThe launch of CEDARS has been a welcome addition at the University of Huddersfield, because it  combines the former Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and the Principal Investigators & Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS) in one single survey, whilst also complementing PRES. 

How did the University of Huddersfield engage respondents?

A dedicated campaign to disseminate CEDARS was devised and the survey was sent to 938 targeted staff with regular updates to follow-up with the pool of potential respondents. To gain that extra competitive edge, Associate Deans for Research were also sent weekly updates on how many people had responded by School.

There were 275 respondents and this was largely made of just under 40% established researchers (typically, Assistant Professors, Lecturers, Senior research Fellows). Just tipping over the 25% mark of participants were those in Senior Research Leader positions.

CEDARS

What is CEDARS data being used for?

The JISC online survey tool enables the data to be sliced in different ways, which makes CEDARS useful for a range of stakeholders. The data has been used widely at the University of Huddersfield including:

  • Support for key performance indicators at the University, such as in the HR Excellence in Research Award Action Plan
  • Reports to the University Research Careers Oversight Group
  • Dissemination to the University Careers service
  • Information for the HR Team and trainer developers around what improvements can be made
  • Inclusion in REF 2021 environment narratives
  • Evidence for the institutional environment statement
  • Helping Associate Deans to paint a useful picture of the research culture in their Schools
  • Inclusion in the institution’s annual research integrity report – there were welcoming comments from those responsible for research integrity around the addition of RI questions to CEDARS.

The variety of uses above illustrates the relevance of the data and it’s worth mentioning too that this list is not exhaustive. The Associate Deans at Huddersfield have welcomed the revised questions in CEDARS; combining the surveys has also made it easier to target people across the research spectrum.

CEDARS imagery from front cover of 2020 aggregate results

 Why does CEDARS work for the University of Huddersfield?

CEDARS reveals valuable researcher perspectives on research culture, employment and development within the institution which informs our thinking as researcher developers.

The qualitative data can help ascertain what’s working and what’s not within the institution and the evidence drawn from the data can be used as an effective lever for change. Conducting the survey in itself also increases awareness of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

CEDARS is definitely a way to help measure impact around researcher employment, recognition and the value of professional development to the researcher environment and culture. “Its versatility means it can be applied in multiple directions within Higher Education institutions – like the many strands of a CEDAR leaf”, remarks Anna.

More about CEDARS 

The CEDARS Steering Group has now been formed and will be working together over the next two-year period, including finalising the existing question set ready for circulation this spring.

View the aggregated UK results of the CEDARS 2020 pilot.