HR Excellence in Research – Does it work for you?

The logo for the European Commission HR Excellence in Research Award

HR Excellence in Research

HR Excellence in Research

In November, the UWE Researchers’ Forum tackled the subject of whether or not the HR Excellence in Research Award has improved things for the researchers employed at UWE, Bristol. At its heart are a number of policies that have been agreed by a number of stakeholders in higher education to improve the working conditions and attractiveness of research careers.

The purpose of the event was quite simple, to have a look at the confusing array of policies in this area and to pose the question “Does this change things for researchers themselves?”

To start things off we need to explore the policy landscape and recap recent history to illustrate how the different policies/agreements interact and shape things. Here is the presentation that we used to do that.

Key Documents

The key message is that there are lots of initiatives that overlap to impact on researchers and their career development. It’s perhaps not surprising that a good proportion of researchers are not aware of all of them.

I think that there are two key documents that are central to this.

  1. The European Charter and Code for Researchers
  2. The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

The latter is the UK agreement to implement the former by setting out 7 key principles. These were also explored in the above presentation. This also has helped inform what UWE, Bristol should be doing in trying to ensure that researchers are supported appropriately.

It’s also worth noting that the UWE Researchers’ Forum has been following the Concordat since its introduction in 2008 and explored relevant topics along the way.

What do UWE Researchers say about their experience?

Having policies and making commitments to change and improve things is one thing but the real question is, “Has it made any difference?”. Asides the Researchers’ Forum, the other main instrument for answering this is to look at the results of the Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) – a biennial survey conducted to gather the anonymous views of research staff in UK higher education institutions about their experiences, career aspirations and career development opportunities.

UWE, Bristol have participated in this survey since 2009. The following presentation highlights some of the key areas that give insight on the experience of UWE researchers.

Summary

There has been a lot going on with respect to factors affecting how researchers are supported in their career development – many policies have been launched in the past 15 years. At UWE, we have a relatively modest population of staff who are employed on research only contracts with a little over a quarter of them employed on an open ended type of contract.

One of the challenges as someone who supports the development of researchers is to connect them as a community, whether that be virtually or in a face to face meeting. The UWE Researchers’ Forum is one of those opportunities to meet with and engage in development opportunities with peers. It is now in its 11th year and one of the next steps is to review how it operates to see if we can do it better.

Another challenge is to provide appropriate development opportunities that meet the needs of an incredibly diverse research staff demographic in a way that is coherent and simple to engage with. This is something we are wrestling with all the time as resources (time, people and budget) are limited.

Despite the limitations faced, there is much to be positive about and the hope is that we can always improve things.

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