Vitae Conference 2014: reflections


Around 350 participants, including researcher development practitioners, trainers, career specialists, heads of graduate schools, pro-vice chancellors, funders, research managers and other professionals from the UK and abroad gathered last week for the seventh annual Vitae Researcher Development International Conference, which took place in Manchester. 

The Conference addressed the strategic and practical implications of policy developments, institutional capacity and best practice to support the careers of researchers. 

The first day looked closely at international comparisons in researcher development, including perspectives from Australia, the European Commission and an insight into academic collaboration with business.

We also announced the institutions who have regained their HR Excellence in Research Award, launched the first volume of the Occasional papers on the last year's conference and outlined Vitae membership plan for the next academic year.

Vitae activities 2014-2015

Day one of the Vitae conference also saw the release of two publications commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to inform its postgraduate policies and funding decisions. The first report, carried out by Vitae, analysed how English higher education institutions recruit postgraduate research students at home and overseas. You can read our response here. The second report made international comparisons in postgraduate education provision.

The findings of the reports were discussed at a half-plenary session entitled: Doctoral education: transitions, recruitment and international comparisons.

The other half of our audience focussed on the careers of research staff, where we explored the issues of employability and talent and discussed some initial findings from the What do research staff do next? project, run in collaboration with Naturejobs.    

Our audience gave a particularly warm welcome that day to the new addition to the Vitae conference programme: the UK final of the Three Minute Thesis Competition (®3MT) which took place in the evening of Day 1.

Six finalists, chosen at a semifinal hosted by the University of York, competed live in front of our conference participants for the title of the UK ®3MT champion. Chosen by our judges, the winner, Richard Middlemiss received £3K to spend on public engagement activity, sponsored by RCUK (more on the final here).

3MT finalist video screengrab

Day 2 was dedicated to Challenging Assumptions with presentations on the unconscious bias in career decisions, professional needs of introverts and finally the question about whether neuroscience should play a more significant role in career development, in the closing presentation.

We would like to thank our colleagues and all of those who have contributed to yet another successful Vitae Conference, including our media partner: Research Fortnight. We will soon publish slides from the conference on the Vitae website. In the meantime, you may want to check out our #vitae14 conference feed. We hope to see you next year!