Examples of practice

Below you will find examples of how organisations and individuals can meet their responsibilities under the Concordat Principles in practice.

These examples come from the Independent Review and have been categorised by the Principles, and the obligations for stakeholders which they relate to. Where possible links have been included should you like to find out more.

This page will be populated over time as examples are collected. If you have examples of practice which you'd like to share, please get in touch and they will be considered for addition.

Environment and culture

Excellent research requires a supportive and inclusive research culture

Healthy working environments attract and develop a more diverse workforce, impact positively on individual and institutional performance, and enhance staff engagement.

This Principle recognises that a proactive and collaborative approach is required between all stakeholders, to create and develop positive environments and cultures in which all researchers can flourish and achieve their full potential.

Examples for institutions

Ensure that relevant policies and practices are inclusive, equitable and transparent:

  • University of Leeds use the experience of recently appointed female staff to revise the wording of job descriptions and create template documents to minimise unintentionally gender biased adverts. 
  • Explicitly consider the gender/diversity balance during interviews, including both the interview panel and the informal tours, lunch, meetings with faculty members, etc.
  • Record the gender balance of roles that are offered, where candidates have declined following interview.

Examples for funders

Consider how funding opportunities and policies can facilitate different patterns and ways of working, and promote the wellbeing and mental health of researchers:

  • The Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust commissioned RAND Europeto undertake a survey of mental health in the research environment. The research examines understandings of mental health and wellbeing, how the mental health and wellbeing of researchers compares with other populations, interventions to support researchers and their effectiveness, and recommendations for further evidence-gathering in this area.

Ensure that funding call requirements and selection processes offer equality of opportunity between different groups of researchers, recognise personal contexts, and promote positive research cultures and working conditions:

  • EPSRC-UKRI Innovation Fellowships call welcomed proposals from academics who want to work part-time, need flexible working arrangements, or have a job share.

Examples for managers of researchers

Promote a healthy working environment that supports researchers’ wellbeing and mental health, including reporting and addressing incidents of discrimination, bullying and harassment, and poor research integrity:

  • University of Liverpool runs an annual “Candid Q&A” meeting for female researchers in the Faculty with established female academics. This acts as both a networking and feedback mechanism, allowing PDRAs to gain contacts and advice as well as bring out any issues and concerns they have in the Faculty or about their own development.

 

Employment

Researchers are recruited, employed and managed under conditions that recognise and value their contributions

Provision of good employment conditions for researchers has positive impacts on researcher wellbeing, the attractiveness of research careers, and research excellence.

This Principle recognises the importance of fair, transparent and merit-based recruitment, progression and promotion, effective performance management, and a good work-life balance. All stakeholders need to address long-standing challenges around insecurity of employment and career progression, ensuring equality of experience and opportunity for all, irrespective of background, contract type and personal circumstances.

Examples for institutions

Ensure open, transparent and merit-based recruitment, which attracts excellent researchers, using fair and inclusive selection and appointment practices:

  • Most Universities now have made publicly available a good and transparent standard practice for recruitment and selection that covers legal and Athena Swan directives. A good example is University of Sussex School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences which neatly summarises the principles. Source: University of Sussex staff recruitment webpages http://www.sussex.ac.uk/mps/internal/staff/mpsrecruit.

Provide clear and transparent merit-based recognition, reward and promotion pathways that recognise the full range of researchers’ contributions, and the diversity of personal circumstances:

  • Royal Holloway, University of London, has in place a promotions system where everyone’s CV is considered by the departmental review panel each year, so that full applications can be encouraged where merit suggests rather than relying on self-promotion. All panels must have representation from both genders. Promotion requirements are fully transparent through a matrix system which outlines the expectations at each level. 
  • University of West of England also operates a dedicated Research Review and Progression Panel which meets four times a year to consider promotion applications for staff on research grades (two rounds per year). There are clear role profiles and criteria that are considered. All unsuccessful candidates are given the opportunity to have feedback on their application and interview performance. Research grades on the UWE salary scale are in line with the national Framework Agreement. Applications for progression to Research Fellow or Senior Research Fellow are considered by the Research Review & Progression Panel, which is chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor. Unsuccessful applicants receive feedback which includes advice on areas for further development. Source: UWE, HEEIR Action Plan 2016
  • The University of Manchester has an annual promotion round open to all Research Staff irrespective of their contractual status and external funding stream. Clear promotion criteria are available for all grades of Research Staff and promotion committees openly invite and encourage applications providing evidence of working at a higher level.
  • Coventry University piloted, reviewed and published a new Academic Role Profile Framework (built on elements of the Vitae Researcher Development and the HEA frameworks) in 2016-17 which consolidates, standardises and clarifies roles, expectations and progression criteria for all academic roles. It ensures clear progression routes for academics along pathways of research, learning and teaching, and enterprise. Performance review, training and development for all researchers is mapped to the framework. Review conversations must now take place quarterly (as a minimum) and are strongly encouraged on a monthly basis, using an online tool. Development needs can be reviewed at a research group, unit or institutional level and this information is fed into the development, training and funding programmes for researchers at all levels.

Provide effective line and project management training opportunities for managers of researchers, heads of department and equivalent:

  • University of York has a dedicated Research Excellence Training Team (RETT), which plans and delivers support and development opportunities for research students, staff and graduate teaching assistants. This includes Leadership in Action and Management in Action, for experienced and inexperienced line managers, and Research Leaders for PIs and those with line management of postdocs.

Seek to improve job security for researchers, for example through more effective redeployment processes and greater use of open-ended contracts, and report on progress:

  • University College London introduced a policy that all research staff should be appointed on open ended contracts. UCL HR policy is as follows: “The majority of staff appointed on research grant and contracts are likely to be appointed on a grant, or series of grants and contracts, lasting longer than nine months. Accordingly, these individuals will be appointed on “Open-ended contracts with grant/project end dates”. However, there will be a minority of research grants and contracts where the project involves the employment of persons for a limited duration of less than nine months.  In these circumstances a fixed term contract should be used.
  • University of Sussex introduced a review of researchers on fixed-term contracts (FTCs), which led to an initial cohort of 56 individuals (35 f, 21 m) being transferred from FTCs to indefinite contracts. The review of researcher FTCs has subsequently been embedded as an annual process; in 2015, 8 individuals were transferred and in 2016 50 individuals (25 f, 25 m) were transferred (the scope of the 2016 review expanded).
  • To support Research Staff at the end of contract (FTC or open ended linked to external funding) The University of Manchester has developed an Extended Access to emails and e-resources Policy for Researchers, in partnership with the University’s Research Staff Association. After a successful pilot in 2012 this policy is now embedded across the University.

Consider researchers and their managers as key stakeholders within the institution and provide them with formal opportunities to engage with relevant organisational policy and decision-making:

  • University of Liverpool (Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease) ensure that PDRAs and ECRs have a representative member on most committees and panels, including the research strategy group so that decision making (including planning decisions and allocation of smaller grants and awards) is transparent and can be communicated to peers.
  • King’s College London initiated a committee of research staff representatives for the 2016 HR Excellence in Research review and action plan, which lost several members following submission. At a subsequent workshop for research staff representatives the Centre for Research Staff Development (CRSD) helped the representatives appreciate how they could contribute to higher level decisions and restart the committee. With further support and guidance from the CRSD, including coaching for the chairperson and appropriate introductions, they gained a new sense of purpose. They are now actively contributing to internal and external consultations and initiatives, organising their own succession planning and showing strong leadership.

Examples for funders

Consider the balance of their relevant funding streams in providing access to research funding and its impact at all career levels

  • Wellcome Trust follow the progress of their researchers’ careers through three schemes – basic science, clinical and international careers. These data inform the Trust’s provision of research and career support through policy influence, equality and diversity initiatives, funding schemes and a Research Leadership Development Programme. Risks and Rewards: how PhD students choose their careers.

 

Professional and career development

Professional and career development are integral to enabling researchers to develop their full potential

Researchers must be equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse global research environment and employment market.

This Principle recognises the importance of continuous professional and career development, particularly as researchers pursue a wide range of careers.

Examples for institutions

Provide opportunities, structured support, encouragement and time for researchers to engage in a minimum of 10 days’ professional development pro rata, per year

  • University of Liverpool Doctoral College has a new online portal that supports staff development through continuous professional development. All postgraduate and staff training is centrally accessible, providing a good opportunity to tailor packages of personalised development.
  • The US National Institutes of Health, Office of Intramural Training & Education, runs programs and services for postdoc trainees at NIH on academic and transferrable skill development. They provide guidance for personal assessment against a set of agreed core competencies, to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and provide professional development resources. Many of these resources are also made freely available to medical research trainees outside the NIH through their website, including attendance at OITE career symposia. Source: www.training.nih.gov.
  • Imperial College London’s Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre offers training courses and workshops, online resources, support for funding applications, and one-to-one consultations for postdocs, fellows and clinical researchers.

Provide training, structured support, and time for managers to engage in meaningful career development reviews with their researchers


  • Queen’s University, Belfast has mapped out the career trajectory for researchers interested in pursuing academic careers, showing how they pass from early to advanced stage researchers and then to early stage academics or research fellows. Their scheme shows the typical characteristics of research undertaken at each stage and the responsibilities of the researcher, the PI and institution. The training and development available for each stage is documented with expected outcomes for each level of researcher.

Ensure that researchers have access to professional advice on career management, across a breadth of careers

  • University of Oxford has a Careers Working Group, comprising postdoctoral researchers and the Careers Service, to plan and provide careers-related resources and events. These include an Early Career Researcher blog, a Careers Conference for Researchers, focusing on careers beyond academia, and the production of a database of research career profiles in non-academic sectors. They have designed a Professional/Personal Development Review, and divisional and departmental training programmes, all of which are made available to researchers during their contract, and for one year afterwards.
  • Queen’s University, Belfast, has appointed a careers advisor with responsibility for tailored training for postdoctoral researchers, offering one-to-one career consultations. In the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences, a Postdoctoral Director enhances current training opportunities for PDRAs; there are plans to extend this provision across the University. Other support available for postdoctoral research staff includes mentoring, through Athena Swan Gender Initiative, support for using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework, and ‘Meet the Employer’ events to introduce PDRAs to employers from outside academia.
  • UCL Careers offers specific services for researchers (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/about/eligibility/researchers) which they provide for both postdoctoral and postgraduate early career researchers. A key success factor is that their whole team have PhDs and has done a postdoctoral period before they moved into careers support so they really understand the position of early career researchers and the challenges and dilemmas that confront them at what is usually a transitional period of their lives with all the uncertainties that this brings. Their services are very popular: events, research careers fairs, one-to-one advice sessions. They author a blog for researchers which often includes stories about researchers and their careers outside of academia (http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-researchers/tag/careers-case-study/) and some short video interviews of researchers who have gone off to a range of careers where they talk about their role and the skills they use from their research training.

Provide researchers with opportunities, and time, to develop their research identity and broader leadership skills

  • University of Liverpool run a ‘teaching for researchers’ course to give practical experience to PDRAs of academic teaching, plus a less formal resource for recruiting PDRAs to teaching support roles via a convenient web form  https://goo.gl/forms/MVwfQkE2YqeSfiH92.
  • Staff Scientists at the US National Institutes of Health and researchers funded by the Research Council of Norway are given 20% of their time for independent research.
  • Imperial College London and other institutions are promoting formal co-supervision of research students, through the launch of a scheme which allows postdoctoral researchers to be officially recognised as an ‘Assistant Supervisor’ if they supervise PhD students.
  • Imperial College London runs an annual Dame Julia Higgins Postdoc Collaborative Research Fund, an interdisciplinary fund in the Faculty of Engineering, to which small teams of postdoctoral researchers can apply in order to undertake an independent project
  • Kings College London established the Centre for Research Staff Development (www.kcl.ac.uk/crsd). The Centre has introduced new programmes including a suite of leadership courses, supports university-wide representation, and identifies and proposes policy changes to enable research staff to fulfil their potential.

Examples for funders

Acknowledge that a large proportion of the researchers they fund will move on to careers beyond academia, and consider how they can encourage and support this within their remit

  • Placement/internship programmes support inter-sectoral mobility. Examples include Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and the BBSRC Flexible Interchange Programme.

Examples for researchers

Explore and prepare for a range of employment options across different sectors, such as by making use of mentors, careers professionals, training and secondments

  • University of Leeds actively encourage PDRAs to use their mentoring and continuous professional development programme to seek an academic mentor from outside their department, institute or faculty to develop and action their career objectives.
  • University of Sheffield developed the Think Ahead Mentoring Programme iteratively in consultation with researcher and academic groups and underpinned by ethical professional practice in mentoring. The programme provides workshop-based induction activities, support for contracting, cohort meet ups, mentor CPD, online materials, and practice supervision. Mentoring relationships are mentee-led and are encouraged to develop flexibly within this framework of on-going support. Over 100 partnerships have completed the programme each year, and data indicate that mentees gain by support for career planning and decision making and hence experience associated increases in confidence and motivation at work. Mentor evaluation data show that academics are applying mentoring skills to their supervision and line-management relationships, meshing their new skills with their existing academic practice.

Seek out, and engage with, opportunities to develop their research identity and broader leadership skills

  • University College London has a number of cross-disciplinary Research Domains in areas of strategic importance and significant activity.  Each of these has an Early Careers Network which is run by the early career researchers themselves with some administrative and financial support from the Domain Chair.