Key outcomes from the 2015 Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and Principal Investigators and Research Leaders surveys (PIRLS)


Today at its conference on 8 September 2015, Vitae has launched Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS): 2015 UK aggregate results and Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS): 2015 UK aggregate results.

These present the views and experiences of research staff and research leaders, respectively, employed in higher education.

Comparison of these survey results with those obtained from the surveys in 2011 and 2013 provide an indication of the extent of implementation of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

A record total of 72 UK higher education institutions participated in CROS 2015, with 8964 research staff responding (a response rate of 28%). CROS is well established as an important evaluation and enhancement tool for UK institutions reviewing their own progress in implementing the Concordat’s principles and providing evidence for the HR Excellence in Research Award, Athena Swan and (in 2014) the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

55 institutions and 4316 research leaders participated in PIRLS 2015.

The results show that further progress has been made with respect to implementing many of the Concordat’s principles, particularly in relation to open recruitment, appraisal and support, and research staff widening their responsibilities as part of their career development.

Key findings

  • Most research staff respondents are positive about their work-life balance, integration and recognition by their institution for their research activity.
  • Research staff who have had multiple, short-term contracts over a long period with their institution tend to feel less valued and have less positive feelings about their employer, job and career.
  • Participation in staff appraisal continues to increase (now 67% amongst research staff, and nearly 90% amongst research leaders), and the perceived usefulness of appraisals has also risen slightly.
  • The proportion of research staff employed on fixed-term contracts has fallen slightly compared with 2013.
  • The overwhelming majority of research staff respondents report that they take ownership of their career development, and just over half have a career plan.
  • A high proportion of research staff continue to aspire to a career in higher education and around two thirds expect to achieve this (which is probably higher than is possible in the UK).
  • Increasing proportions of research staff respondents have taken part in public engagement and report that their institution recognises this contribution.
  • Higher proportions of research staff respondents have taken part in training or professional development activity on equality and diversity, and there is some evidence in both surveys for greater awareness in this area.
  • A significant minority of female respondents perceive some unfairness of treatment in relation to gender, especially around reward and progression/promotion, and many female research leaders struggle with their work-life balance.
  • While confidence levels amongst research leaders are high in relation to most primary research activities, many would appreciate development support around managing finances and budgets, managing the performance of research staff and giving them career advice

 Dr Robin Mellors-Bourne, one of the reports’ authors said

CROS continues to be invaluable in providing robust insights into the attitudes of research staff about their careers and also the wide range of contributions they make in higher education. PIRLS 2015 indicates some key areas where research leaders could improve how they manage their research group and research staff within it”.

 Both reports are now available for users from Vitae member institutions. Register with your institutional email address to access. 

Other materials launched today include: