Fistral Training & Development News

Vitae 2013 thoughts on the International Researcher Development Conference

Last week I attended the Vitae International Researcher Development Conference 2013. It helps keep me up to speed with developments in the sector, and as always gives me a chance to meet old and new customers. It’s always good to be able to put a face to the person behind the email or telephone call that you are working with.

Vitae Conference Themes Over the Past Few Years

Based on the plenaries and workshops I’ve attended, the themes of the conference have shifted around the following topics, with a different key focus each year.

  • Transferrable skills
  • Employer engagement
  • International collaboration
  • Developing researcher developers

This year, some of the key ideas I took from the conference were around:

  1. Global researchers and the global research community
  2. Career progression and professional development within academia
  3. Building institutional capacity
  4. Policy developments in the sector – e.g. HR, Equality and Diversity, Funding Agendas
  5. Identifying the impact and value of researcher development

See the Vitae 2013 Programme for more info on all the sessions and links to presentations and other downloads.

Day 1 Highlights

Vitae Membership and Subscription fee from January 2015

One of the main points of discussion from the first day’s plenary session was Vitae’s announcement that as of January 2015, Vitae will be introducing a paid subscription service, giving different levels and types of membership different views on the resources, information and tools that Vitae provides.

This development was not entirely unpredicted, and given the current funding climate that Vitae is operating within – and the volume of resources and tools that have been developed and tested with universities across the UK – the general feeling was that people understood the need, but were very cautious about the potential implications going forward.

There was no mention at this point of cost of membership (the elephant in the room), however I suspect this is still to be finalised. Watch this space:

Workshops on Trained-led institutions and Trends in Assessing the Impact of Researcher Development

Both workshops I attended were very honest and informative, and provided a lot of food for thought. One focused on the opportunities and challenges faced by researcher developers in a trainer-led institution (Dr Keith Fildes, Sheffield Hallam University). The second (Dr Richy Hetherington, Newcastle University, and Dr Tony Bromley, University of Leeds – also presenting slides from Dr Robin Humphrey, Newcastle University who was ill) provided differing approaches on assessing the impact of researcher development on doctoral outcomes. For example, whether or not, and what type of, development processes, practice, training or intervention in Newcastle University, could be said to link to completion of a thesis, number of corrections needed, and/or whether it was linked to completion on time. This differed between faculties as well as institutions, but the bigger question was raised as to whether there were similar trends that other universities could identify that may be core to identifying and assessing the Impact of Researcher Development.

Fistral Pre-Dinner Drinks

Based on the success of last year, I was also able to buy new and old friends from Manchester, Bath, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Coventry and York among others, a glass of wine before the official Vitae drinks reception. Thanks for a really enjoyable evening!

Day 2 Highlights

Plenaries on Most recent Researcher Development Statistics and Supporting Professional Development

On the second day plenaries were split into two sessions: presentations on the most up-to date statistics, research and publications in the sector and a discussion centring on supporting professional development within academia. Areas such as the following were presented for discussion in Plenary B:

  • Supply-and-demand of researchers linked to retirement of ‘baby boomer’ academics (Prof Mick Fuller, Plymouth University)
  • Equality Agenda – bridging the gap between policy and practice (Alison Mitchell, Vitae)
  • Challenges and Opportunities of Doctoral Programmes (inc DTC, DTP) working cross university and internationally (Dr Rebekah Smith McGloin, University of Nottingham)
  • Do Research Staff need training or another type of intervention (Dr Julie Reeves, University of Southampton)
  • iGRAD approaches to supporting researchers, PIs and Supervisors (Dr Christian Dumpitak, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf)
  • The cradle-to-grave approach to Researcher Development (Dr Laura Leonardo, Newcastle University)

Workshop on how 117 Universities have Mapped their Researcher Development to the RDF

Traci Wilson (Vitae) gave an overview of the diversity of approaches to mapping the Researcher Development provision (and publicly sharing or representing the mapping) to the Researcher Development Framework (RDF). Based on 117 universities, mapping was not solely linked to RD-focused training provision, sub-domain mapping was also demonstrated via access to School and cross-university training, and a variety of activities such as public engagement, research office utilisation, publications, presenting at conferences. Given the diversity it was not possible to perform a UK-wide analysis, but it was estimated the 48{48874dce6b375ead853888a9b8064ea86602b0d81086c9084f86500734dfdf6f} of universities now map provision to the RDF.

In summary

It was a good conference, relevant, informative and interesting, excellently organised, with a lot of nice people in attendance. Looking forward to meeting everyone again next year. Need I say more!

Posted in News & Newsletter.
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