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Supporting the Career Development of Researchers

How is the University supporting the career development of researchers?

You may already have encountered the excellent face-to-face services offered by the Careers Service and Personal and Professional Development but did you know that there are a broader range of policies and actions that have been developed to support your career development.

The University is signed up to the UK Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. This is an agreement between funders and employers of research staff to improve the employment and support for researchers and research careers.  The Concordat is based around 7 key principles

1. Recruitment and Selection
2. Recognition and Value
3&4. Support and Career Development
5. Researchers’ Responsibilities
6. Diversity and Equality
7. Implementation and Review

An External Review Board has recently published review recommendations. 

What does this actually mean in practice in Cambridge?

ec-hr-kitemarkThe University regularly develops and publishes a Concordat implementation plan.  This has been updated recently, and as a result, the University has been awarded, via an external review, the HR Excellence in Research Award.

The plan is a public document and you can download it here. This covers progress against the published action plan from 2012 and the strategy for 2014-2018.  It makes a very interesting read!  The plan is comprehensive and was developed by:

  • top-level University Committees
  • University Offices with a specialist remit for supporting research staff*
  • postdocs

What are the highlights?

  • The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, founded in 2013, advocates at the most senior level of the University for Postdocs and supports the postdoc community before, during and after their time in Cambridge. 
  • Construction is underway in NW Cambridge to provide affordable housing for University and College key workers (majority will be postdocs) from late 2016, a primary school, nursery, and a permanent Postdoc Centre.
  • ‘Employment and Career Management Scheme for Research staff’.  This sets out fundamental standards for recruiting and managing research staff.  Why not visit this site and read more.
  • Focus on induction and staff review and development (SRD).  Central University induction for postdocs will be mandatory from Oct 2015.  Numbers of postdocs having staff reviews has increased although there is still some way to go.  The current scheme is being reviewed and an online recording system will be introduced.
  • £1.1million fund for delivery of Researcher Development (since 2012).  A review of researcher development is underway to increase and enrich the range of opportunities for postdocs in training and development. 
  • Specialist face-to-face and online careers support and personal and professional training and development for postdocs with a specialist focus on leadership and teaching in 2015-6.
  • Returning Carers Scheme to support researchers and academics returning to work following leave for caring responsibilities e.g. maternity leave.  The majority of these awards go to postdocs.
  • Uptake and success of the Athena SWAN award process.  Although this scheme is designed to improve women’s careers, experience shows that these schemes benefit all staff.
  • A major drive to increase the representation and effectiveness of representation by postdocs in governance.  The PdOC Society and the OPdA have established the Departmental Postdoc Committee Chairs’ Network (DPCCN) to provide for the postdoc community to articulate their needs and get them heard.

How can you contribute?

Input from, and collaboration with, postdocs forms an essential part of monitoring progress in implementing the Concordat.  Your response(s) to surveys, participation in postdoc committees, focus groups, and membership of Departmental and University Committees all form part of this input. 

You will probably have views, experiences and practical solutions to share.  Here are some suggestions of how to get informed and involved.

  • Join your departmental postdoc committee.  Find a list of contacts here.  If your department does not have a postdoc committee then consider starting one.  The PdOC Society and OPdA can offer you help and support.
  • Subscribe to the PdOC weekly newsletter.  In addition to PdOC activities the newsletter includes a whole range of opportunities for postdocs.  Calls for postdocs to join working groups, focus groups and represent postdocs on University Committees are advertised here.
  • Staff and postdoc surveys form an essential part of the quantitative evidence of progress (or lack of progress).  Many thanks to those who completed the recent CROS survey and Departmental staff surveys.  Opportunities to complete surveys will be publicised via the OPdA, PdOC Society and your local HR team.