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Developing Research Careers

image29.gifThe UK research councils are seeking to attract the best students into research and support early-stage researchers: see Research Careers: A strategy for success. The UK GRAD programme supports young researchers' development: see Vitae, a champion for researcher career development, and The Balanced Researcher: strategies for busy researchers, a booklet containing practical information on being more effective at work and balancing work and other parts of your life. The authors of the booklet use an approach based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Coaching, and for more on this, see, Kearns and Gardiner (2007) Is it time well spent? The relationship between time management behaviours, perceived effectiveness and work-related morale and distress in a university context . This article highlighted how having a clear sense of career purpose was most important for perceived effectiveness at work, followed by planning and prioritizing. If the aim of using time management strategies is to improve performance and reduce stress, researchers need to learn to identify the purpose in their career and then plan their time accordingly.

CRAC (the Careers Research and Advisory Centre) were contracted by RCUK to investigate the possibility of developing a national 'research career mapping tool' (RCMT) mapping different research career paths, but their Research Career Mapping Tool Report (2006) pointed out that this was difficult due to the lack of a clear framework for research careers, the international dimension and the range of possible destinations. Thus an early career researcher in HE could continue on the research (project) path; move across to an academic career which combined teaching and research; switch to research work elsewhere (e.g. industry, government, charities); move to a job using their specialist knowledge & understanding but not in research) or move to a job using transferable skills rather than specialist knowledge. Now the problem for those seeking to offer guidance to career researchers is that it is those who were considering shifts away from research who were likely to need the most support. One suggestion was therefore to consider how expertise, professional relationships, responsibilities and skills develop within and across organisations as a career progresses through different stages. One consequence of this is that the Vitae site has developed resources explicitly to help with Managing your career. Career management is not just about making job moves, but also about the long-term commitment to building your skills and experience to meet the requirements of current and future roles, so the resource is structured to offer advice and resources covering the essentials of continuous career management.

Employers' views of researchers' skills offers a different perspective on these issues, while how researchers develop their careers was investigated by Purcell and Elias (2006) in research for ESRC on Employment of social science PhDs in academic and non-academic jobs: research skills and postgraduate training. However, as well as multiple possible exit points for researchers, the ESRC recognises that Educational Research in the UK is a broad and diverse field with multiple career entry points for new researchers, see Building Capacity through Collaborative Networking in the Field of Education - Strategic Training Initiative. The ESRC have also put in place a Researcher Development Initiative, designed to support the training and development of researchers in the social sciences at all stages of their career, and the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) to support researcher training and development. The predecessor of NCRM, the ESRC Research Methods Programme (2002-2007) also produced support materials for researcher development and ESRC has set up ReStore in an effort to sustain online resources in the field of research methods and lead the development of a long-term strategy for ESRC in sustaining on-line resources.

The UK GRAD programme also has a section on Researchers' Careers that places these in a European context and the European Commission is seeking to contribute to the development of a European labour market for researchers. HEFCE have produced an Issues paper (October 2008/39) on 'Graduates and their early careers'. This report describes the characteristics of graduates from UK higher education and their progression into work or further study six months, and three and a half years, after graduation and identifies what effect the choice of subject has on their early careers. It focuses on graduates of subjects classified as strategically important and vulnerable. BERA (2008) have also produced 'THE 2008 BERA CHARTER FOR RESEARCH STAFF: promoting quality conditions for conducting quality research.'

TLRP showcase:

TLRP fostered a network of contract researchers, led by Chris Taylor (University of Cardiff), see:

Resources from RCBN and Journal: communications and impact by Chris Taylor

Understanding researchers' career development by Alan Brown

Mapping the Ripples: An evaluation of TLRP’s research capacity building by Zoe Fowler and Richard Procter

Building a Research Career by Rosemary Deem (2003)

RCBN Building Research Capacity Journal Issue 9 (May 2005) focused exclusively on 'Contract Research Staff and TLRP' following a major conference on researchers' careers.

See also Anne Edwards Managing Large Projects and Tracey Lee et al. on Reconfiguring contract research: career, work and learning in a changing employment landscape.