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Vitae 2015 Workshops

Workshops - Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2015

I participated in a lot of good workshops this year at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2015, and below are my thoughts and experiences.

A1: Empowering career transitions – approach, tools and challenges

This workshop outlined a powerful 3-month programme in Liverpool John Moores University to support researchers in next steps. The programme – developed by Dr Lynne Clark (Researcher Developer/Manager) and John Trantom (Staff Development Adviser) - was a collaboration of skills from across the university offering career mapping and modelling, a variety of tools, and optional coaching sessions, to help researchers focus on how to develop their skills and themselves to get the research position they want. Helping them to:

B4: Integrating research development and researcher development

This session explored the differences, similarities and opportunities for Research Development (e.g. funding, grants applications) and Researcher Development  (e.g. training, skills improvement). Led by Dr Kieran Fenby-Hulse (Research Development Executive, Coventry University) and Dr Anne Galliot (Research Development Adviser, University of Brighton), this was not only in terms of where these services were ‘located’ within a university structure, but also where opportunities lay for working together to improve the researcher experience and avoid duplication. If you were to solely focus on the end-user:

C1: Successful models for providing training opportunities to postdoctoral research staff

Led by Dr Katie Wheat (Training Resources Development Manager, Vitae) and Dr Emma Compton-Daw (Academic Developer at the University of Strathclyde), this workshop presented a small sample of responses to a more qualitative, free-text survey (not duplicating CROS etc) that they had developed exploring what they think “works for research staff … in terms of professional development”.

Their early findings indicated that some crucial areas for professional development were linked to:

Four “particular topics of value” for professional development were identified as:

  1. Leadership
  2. Management
  3. Teaching skills
  4. Research skills

The topics they thought “most benefitted their career” were linked to:

The role of the UK Research Staff Association (UKRSA) was discussed as a supporting mechanism that could also complement and enhance research staff opportunities for professional development. UKRSA not only provide a “voice” and representation, but can also be used as a powerful community-building and skills-building mechanism to drive forward individual and collective research staff professional development.

D3: Developing research staff: using structured programmes to increase engagement and enhance outcomes

My final workshop session was led by Michelle Paterson (Staff Developer for Research Staff) at the University of St Andrews. Michelle presented the innovative and successful university ‘Passport to Research Futures”. Setup in 2014, this provides a clearly structured programme offering research staff either:

  1. A university-recognised-and-certified ‘Passport;’ or
  2. An ILM-recognised-and-certified route (development award).

As with many universities, challenges linked to lack of the following were present, however the ‘Passport to Research Futures’ has helped overcome these for some researchers:

The passport focuses on personal development through 9 units including induction. There is no assessment or homework and training is structured around courses already delivered within the university in half-day block. In addition there is support such as: mentoring, lunchtime networking, epigeum, and a social learning group using yammer.

And this was only a small reflection of hte conference - see my Vitae 2015 Plenaries page and blog for more info.

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