Reflections from conference

Posted 14/06/2023 by Sarah Nalden

 Katie at conference

Dr Katie Wheat, Head of Higher Education Engagement at Vitae has blogged a summary of her closing plenary thoughts from the conference

Almost three weeks on, the pace of life has just about returned to normal in the Vitae office, so I’d like to reflect on this year’s conference and what we learnt together over a jam-packed two days in Birmingham.

The Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2019 brought together almost 400 participants from around the globe and we were delighted to welcome participants from Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. There was a lively and rewarding buzz throughout the venue and rippling across social media (check out Sarah’s handy #vitae19 Twitter summary.

There were some interesting, and sometimes unexpected, threads running through the plenary and workshop discussions this year; a definite sense that we are at an intense moment of change, but change is ongoing and inevitable, so what is it about the way we are currently perceiving and talking about change that is different? For those of us working in the UK, one of those key changes is the publication of the new Researcher Development Concordat as a catalyst for change and the opportunities for collective working it will bring.

Concordat cover

As we heard from EuroScience, Mind and Wellcome during the opening plenary, the responsibility for culture change, wellbeing and mental health has to be embedded at all levels, and we all have the potential to be role models for the changes we would like to be part of. Further, drawing together the discussions of professionalism, accountability, and the importance of interdisciplinary community, I was prompted to reflect on our professional identity. What is the profession that we want to be, and who, as the field of researcher development, should we be collaborating with to effect change?

The closing of the conference also gave the opportunity to look forward to the Vitae 2019/20 programme of activities for the year ahead, designed to help institutions, researcher developers and researchers prepare for the changing world of research to help to tackle these challenges. This includes policy informing activities, practical and useful events and resources to improve researcher development as well as many practice-sharing and networking opportunities within the international Vitae member arena. We will be progressing our four themes iteratively throughout the year, looking at research culture, particularly the opportunities presented by the Concordat, and connected topics of wellbeing and mental health, research integrity, and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Themed postcards

Through ‘Research in a connected world’ we will explore the increasingly collaborative, connected, international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral environment of research, the competences needed to thrive within this, and how the researcher development framework can both adapt to and drive change in this area of skills and knowledge. Linking also to our ‘Researcher careers’ theme, where we will put a spotlight on the idea of ‘once a researcher, always a researcher’, including working with UKRSA and other researcher networks and alumni.

Over the past few years, we have been supporting the emergence of the profession of researcher development, through the development of a Careers Framework for Researcher Developers (CFRD), and more recently by piloting a professional recognition scheme for researcher developers. And we look forward to collaborating with you to shape and support this community of practice. By informing policy at institutional level, enhancing researcher development provision and ultimately, enabling researchers, at Vitae we hope to engage in solutions and support you all to seize the opportunities the future holds for researcher development.

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Further summaries from attendees and contributors to the Vitae conference: