Development Activity Guidance

The revised Concordat to support the career development for researchers includes reference to researchers having opportunities, structured support, encouragement and time to engage in a minimum of 10 days professional development pro rata per year.

Professional development can take a variety of forms and varies with career stage. The University of Liverpool have developed a web resource Development Activity Guidance which includes examples of opportunities that enable researchers to develop skills and experience to support their career and professional development.

What kind of an organisation are you in the context of the Concordat?

Research University 

What challenge were you trying to address with this initiative?

Researchers are expected to take ownership of their career, identifying opportunities to work towards their career goals and cultivate their independence. The University of Liverpool’s Statement of Expectations outlines the minimum 10 days or 70 hours professional development (pro rata) per year that researchers should utilise to advance their career.

Development needs and the activities associated with them vary with career stages. Therefore, individuals are encouraged to choose the activities most relevant to their current situation with input from and the agreement of their PI.

A lack of understanding that professional development can take a variety of forms and may or may not take place in a university setting can on occasion limit the opportunities researchers engage with.
The Development Activity Guidance webpage includes examples of opportunities that enable researchers to develop skills and experience to support their career and professional development.

What did you do and how does this align with the Principles and keywords you have selected below?

The aim of the 'Statement of Expectations' is to define expectations around responsibilities for the roles of research staff and principal investigators with an emphasis on embedding professional practice.

Research staff are encouraged and supported to undertake professional development beyond the needs of their primary project and to allocate a minimum 10 days pro rata, per year, to engage with professional development opportunities.
Researchers are supported to balance the delivery of their research with their own professional development, recognising that researchers will pursue careers across a wide range of employment sectors.

The Development Activity Guidance is a living resource that is continually updated and provides examples of activities and opportunities researchers can get involved with to make the best use of their professional development time.
Examples include:

  • Contributing to policy developments aimed at creating a more positive research environment and culture within our institution and the wider community
  • Participating in university-wide projects beyond research-related activities
  • Engagement with career-related experts to explore careers outside academia
  • Developing your independent research identity and broader leadership skills
  • Expanding your awareness and experience of the wider research system
This resource is essential in helping researchers identify development opportunities so that they can engage with a diverse range of activities.

What were the challenges in implementation and how did you resolve them?

Ensuring visibility and engagement with the Development Activity Guidance webpage is essential.

The webpage is frequently linked to via the weekly e-bulletin sent out from the University of Liverpool Research Staff Association to all staff on a research only contract as part of our “Did you know?” section. This information is therefore regularly signposted to over 800 researchers.

A link is also included in a welcome email that is sent out each month to all new starters at the University on a research only contract.

How did you evaluate the impact of your initiative?

The success of the Development Activity Guidance is evident in the following notable outputs and outcomes:

  • The webpage is regularly engaged with and has had over 400 unique page views.
  • There has been an increase in the number of Postdocs and Early Career Researchers having an active role on a variety of internal and external committees such as UKRSA, Athena Swan and the UoL Concordat Steering Group.
  • Researchers have also been engaging with the Prosper portal (a postdoc career development resource portal). Since its launch in June 2020, more than 1057 users have accessed the portal with over 22,000 page views with activities/worksheets being accessed 341 times.
  • The registrations for development activities such as our annual Flagship event Making an Impact have increased steadily each year, with over 500 postdocs and 174 ECR researchers attending Making an Impact 2021. With sessions on research opportunities outside of academia being particularly well received.
  • 89 members of staff on a research only contract engaged with the University’s mentoring scheme as a mentee and 6 as a mentor.
  • Researchers’ involvement with the Research Staff Association, in particular the core committee, gaining experience in planning and organising events, building relationships with industrial partners, representing ECRs on internal panels, and building additional transferable career development skills such as those depicted in the Vitae Researcher Development Framework.
  • Case studies available on the Researcher hub also provide examples of how researchers use and apply their development time.