Recognising and celebrating the researcher development profession

Posted 14/06/2023 by Sarah Nalden

Vitae ICE Awards banner -Pale blue banner with Vitae ICE Award hexagonal logo on it

With recognition being a key strand in improving research culture, we’ve been searching for a way to show our gratitude to the researcher development community and showcase the great work that you do.

The Vitae Impact, Culture and Engagement (ICE) Awards aim to do just this. The inaugural awards will celebrate and amplify the impactful and innovative work being done by the researcher development community.   

We know how much work the multifaceted researcher developer role entails, and how much of that work can go unrecognised. In 2021, the Vitae conference session Valuing the impact of Researcher Developers’, revealed the large extent of work that often goes unseen, using an iceberg to depict the activities that take place ‘under the water line’.  ‘The Icebergers’ also known as Dr Heather MacKenzie, Rosie Wadman, Catherine Howe of the University of Southampton, Lisa Thompson of Ulster University and Dr Emma Compton-Daw from the University of Strathclyde, held the session to reveal the impressive and evolving remit of researcher development. Activities ‘under the water line’ included eLearning, managing a team, managing websites and digital platforms, advocacy, contributing to research activity and scholarly work, to name a fewAs Dr Heather Mackenzie, Doctoral College Professional Development Programme Manager at the University of Southampton quoted: 

 "This project has helped to describe the sheer breadth of valuable work undertaken by researcher developers, including not only the visible activities many within their institutions know they undertake, but a wide variety of equally impactful activities under the water line".  

In 2022, nearly 300 professionals responded to the Vitae researcher development strategy, provision, and profession survey, which shed light on the breadth of the contemporary researcher developer role and the current researcher development landscape. The positive impact of researcher development within institutions was clear. The wide remit of the researcher developer role was once again highlighted, with the most common activities and responsibilities equally focused on learning and development and research culture (69%). Post-covid, the role of supporting researchers has evolved further, for example through the increased demand for online delivery, as well as a greater focus on community building and knowledge around mental health and wellbeing.  

From the survey we have demonstrated that those who work in the researcher development community are experienced, multi-skilled professionals. Some will have made specific marked impacts in helping improve research culture; making an outstanding contribution to researcher development; or in progressing developments around innovative and inclusive practice. 

The Vitae ICE Awards give researcher developers a platform for wider recognition, of themselves, the teams they work with and the great initiatives they are involved in. We hope that the Awards will further foster commitment to the profession and provide inspiration in the researcher development arena. In highlighting the work of Award winners, we hope to enable practice sharing that will lead to future collaboration for the benefit of the whole community.  

For impactful and sustainable positive research culture to permeate through an institution, and the sector more broadly, we must consider that research culture is a collective endeavour and positive change will only come if there is collaborative and coordinated effort. This is our opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the researcher development community as an important part of that endeavour to create an environment in which researchers can thrive. 

Nominate a colleague or team by 16 June 2023 for one of the following Vitae ICE Awards: 

  • Newcomer of the Year – for those early in their researcher development career who have made a significant contribution in their role in a short space of time. 

  • Outstanding Contribution – for those established in the Researcher Development profession who have delivered lasting and exceptional impact for their institution and/or the sector as a whole. 

  • Research Culture Impact through Researcher Development – to highlight the work of teams or groups and showcase their activities within researcher development that have had a positive impact on improving research culture. 

  • Innovative and Inclusive Practice - to highlight the work of teams or groups which take inventive approaches to complex challenges, and contribute towards achieving equity of access to researcher development opportunities and support. 

The awards ceremony will take place on Monday 25 September during the Vitae International Researcher Development Conference Gala dinner at the Science and Industry Museum Manchester.