To celebrate and recognise the achievement of the University’s research staff, the Research Staff Strategy Group (RSSG) introduced a new University awards scheme exclusively for research staff (defined as research assistants, associates/postdocs and fellows). The four categories of award (Research Staff of the Year, Best Outstanding Output, Best Outstanding Contribution to Research Impact, and Best Outstanding Contribution to the Research Environment) showcase the excellent work of research staff and raise their profile and visibility across the University.
The University of Manchester is a research intensive university employing more than 12,500 academic and professional services staff based across three large multidisciplinary Faculties (Biology, Medicine and Health; Humanities; Science and Engineering). The main group of staff within the remit of the Concordat Action Plan are those whose primary responsibility is to conduct research and who are usually supported by external research grant and contract funding. This group includes research assistants, research associates/postdocs and research fellows and is a diverse and fluid cohort of 1800-1900 people.
The staff survey indicated that research staff feel less recognised and valued than other groups of staff and the aim of introducing Research Staff Awards (for research assistants, associates/postdocs, fellows only) was to raise the profile of research staff, showcase their excellent work and improve their feelings of recognition.
The Research Staff Strategy Group (RSSG) discussed introducing an awards scheme and, with the input of researchers and PIs, the group agreed on four categories - Research Staff of the Year, Best Outstanding Output by Research Staff, Best Outstanding Contribution to Research Impact by Research Staff, and Best Outstanding Contribution to the Research Staff Environment.
Faculty Research Groups promote the rewards and encourage nominations; all nominations must be accompanied by two supporting statements from peers or academics. The criteria are listed below:
Research Staff of the Year
The nominee should be an outstanding researcher who has excelled in some significant manner; for example, a journal publication or contribution to securing a major research grant.
Best Outstanding Output by Research Staff
The nominee should be a researcher with a first or sole authored high quality research output.
Best Outstanding Contribution to Research Impact by Research Staff
The nominee can be an individual researcher or a team (a researcher must play a leading role in the team) who undertake high-quality engagement and impact activities which can be shown to have an impact on society either in the UK or internationally.
Best Outstanding Contribution to the Research Staff Environment
This nominee can be an individual researcher or a team (a researcher must play a leading role in the team) who have made a positive impact on the research environment. For example, this could be through the organisation of events which bring together the research staff community, or by identifying an area of development within the research staff community and providing a solution to this.
The award holders have been informed by email and there are announcements on the University staff pages, Faculty bulletins and this year also on the University’s LinkedIn page.
The main challenges are making sure the awards are known in every School and department, and managing the number of applications. To resolve this latter issue, we have used Faculty-based research committees to short list applications before a panel from RSSG assess the final short list.
The RSSG reviews the scheme on an annual basis, which includes measuring interest in the scheme to identify where there are gaps in applications and taking feedback from research staff reps. Small tweaks have been introduced; for example, self-nomination is now eligible.
Concordat principles: Environment and culture