Profile of Academic Targeted Research Scheme

The Bournemouth University Academic Targeted Research Scheme (ATRS) was launched to attract and recruit talented early career researchers in targeted research areas, with the potential to become future research leaders. As an academic at Bournemouth University (BU), they are developing their career in an exciting work environment, provided with a high level of dedicated time to drive research activity and build capacity, and have the freedom to develop their research interests within targeted areas. Six appointments were made, which are still ongoing. The opportunity has led to strong research networks, collaboration, and time to achieve goals.

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

Research staff and other staff

What challenge were you trying to address with this initiative?

BU operates a fused way of working for academics, with equal responsibilities for teaching, research and professional practice. We wanted to provide internally-funded fellowship style opportunities to early career researchers to allow them to focus 90% of their time on research within our strategic investment areas.

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

There are four strategic investment areas (all interdisciplinary) and we identified six key areas that would overlap these and which we wanted to grow. From QR funds, we created six new, three-year, fixed-term posts, which would each come with a research budget (up to £10k for each of the three years). We set out the aims of the scheme and the support on offer to those appointed, which would include substantial training plans and support from peers, dedicated time to undertake research, and the freedom to develop their research interests. Appointments are expected to submit external research funding applications during their appointments. The ATRS aims to grow our research culture and capacity at BU, and support the potential for ECRs to become future academic leaders in their field.

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

There were two challenges.

  • The first was around titles: we wanted to have fellowship in the title to clearly show a research connection but were unable to do this due to our academic framework, and so had to advertise as Senior Lecturers.
  • The second was around recruitment: as these are interdisciplinary research posts, and the Senior Lecturer title didn't make it overly clear as to expectations, it was difficult to recruit and we had to advertise three times before making all six appointments. We adapted the job advert each time and this helped to attract more candidates. It has meant that we have a year's difference in contract dates between the first and last post appointed.

How did you evaluate the impact of your initiative?

As these are three-year posts, they are still ongoing. As part of the scheme, each appointment has to write a six-monthly progress report. These reports are summarised for a senior research committee. This enables us to not only view the progress they are making with their research objectives, but also identifies how we can support them further. This has involved greater integration across BU, formal training plans, and most importantly, pathways to permanency. A full evaluation report will be completed in a year's time.

Were there any surprising or unexpected consequences?

There was an issue about their acceptance within BU as other academics had heavy teaching loads, whereas these didn't. Also, as they are interdisciplinary, they were hosted by a department within a faculty, and so it took a while to integrate them. However, this is now working really well as they have been collegiate and ensured they've formed several networks both internally and externally, which is leading to opportunities for other research groups.

What advice would you give others wanting to do this?

Think through the impact on others and ensure that communications are clear about what the university wants to achieve. Provide an opportunity for line managers to fully understand the expectations of the scheme and how they should support the appointees.

Beneficiaries: Research staff Research and teaching staff Managers of researchers

Stakeholders: Managers of researchers Professional staff Senior/executive team

Concordat principles: Employment

Keywords: Research identity Career progression Career management Leadership development