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Sector Best Practice

There is more work happening across the sector in this area as well, with organisations like the Royal Society and the Russell Group sharing case studies and best practice. A selection of best practice from across the sector includes:

National Centre for Research CultureLink opens in a new window

Research Culture Knowledge ExchangeLink opens in a new window

Research Culture Enablers NetworkLink opens in a new window

Royal Society Report
  • Participants highlighted the importance of being given the time and the space to do blue skies, risky research as well as synthesis and replicability studies.

  • Contributions to teaching, research and other strategic endeavours should inform decisions on promotion and advancement.

  • The Royal Society has reinforced others’ calls for transparent promotion and progression criteria for all research staff.

  • Participants gave a number of examples of research leaders taking small but impactful steps to improve wellbeing in the workplace. This included keeping regular hours to re-set the belief that only academics working long hours could be successful.

  • Time and resource to help PhD graduates understand the full and diverse range of career options open to them.

Realising Our Potential Report (Russell Group)
  • Boosting quality-related ‘QR’ block grant funding for universities, considering opportunities to lengthen research grant funding periods, and reducing the use of academic contracts that last one year or less can all help address this.

  • It is important to ensure evaluation, recognition and reward systems consider the wide range of activities that contribute to an internationally excellent research environment, including effective teamwork, good people management and support for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

  • Efforts to reduce bureaucracy for researchers and ensure they can access support networks beyond their immediate line manager or research group are important. There are also real benefits in involving early career researchers more actively in decision-making, allowing them positive opportunities to engage, gain visibility and take on leadership roles.

  • There are some good examples of dedicated schemes and programmes for those from underrepresented backgrounds. Appropriate EDI-related training for those making decisions about grant proposals and researchers’ careers is also important, and the composition of funding panels and other committees could include a more diverse mix of people.

  • Transparency at induction around career progression opportunities within academia, promoting the benefits of wider mobility and providing dedicated support to help early career researchers prepare themselves for a range of different career paths.

Realising Our Potential: Toolkit

The toolkit recommends focusing activity on the following seven areas:

  • Reduce the number of short, fixed-term contracts (less than a year)

  • Open-ended contracts for researchers

  • More senior posts

  • Bridging funding to support research teams between grants

  • Redeployment opportunities for people on short term contracts

  • Create stable and sustainable career tracks for staff

  • Managing career expectations for PhD students and postdocs

  • Raise awareness of career opportunities beyond academia

  • Promote positive narrative around alternative career routes

  • Access to mentorship and training

  • At least 10 days of professional development for researchers per year – monitoring of the take up of these

  • Provide applicants for internal job posts and promotions with feedback on outcomes

  • Flexible working options to ensure progression is open to all

  • Taking into account career breaks to minimise the impact of sick/family leave on career progression

  • Develop progression criteria that recognises industry and knowledge exchange

  • Ensure research culture priorities are reflected in the promotion and hiring criteria – i.e. evidence of good management

  • Make research culture an integral element of application processes for internal funding and awards

  • Promote, provide training on and reward good publishing practices i.e. DORA, open access

  • Make leadership/management training available to all research supervisors

  • Reward effective management through hiring, appraisal and promotional criteria

  • Robust support networks for PGRs and researchers

  • Provide mentoring schemes

  • Provide second supervisors for PGRs

  • Set up and support ECR and PGR networks and forums

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  • Consider how ECRs can be given opportunities for visibility, leadership and decision making

  • Co-create initiatives that promote a positive research culture by surveying research staff and students

  • Ensure that career progression is open to everyone, including those with caring responsibilities

  • Develop an EDI strategy

  • Consider providing specialised mentoring schemes for those from under-represented backgrounds

  • Reward contributions to promoting EDI – i.e. in hiring criteria, internal funding awards

  • Effective EDI training for all staff and senior leadership

  • Conduct training with under-represented groups to prepare for grant interview panels etc.

  • Alternative research group structures that devolve leadership and responsibility

  • Ensure clear line management and accountability

  • Provide researchers with their rights and responsibilities at induction

  • Clear, well-advertised reporting and complaints system, with the option to report anonymously

  • Ensure access to mediators who can support the resolution of conflict

  • Senior leadership should take clear action when inappropriate behaviour has been established

  • Ensure transparency around investigation processes