Researcher Forum and Faculty ECR Forums

The Researcher Forum at Plymouth enables the University to facilitate communications, consultation, practice sharing, development and support with our Researchers. The Researcher Forum facilitates discussion and networking between our researchers, managers, academics and staff supporting researchers and is key to supporting our researchers. Meetings are themed according to Concordat-related activities, University initiatives and priorities for researchers, for example: Concordat consultation, REF, career development, funding support, Open Access and, Impact. The Concordat Working Group works closely with the Researcher Forum and Research Staff representatives on Concordat-related activities, providing a pivotal link with our community of researchers. Faculty ECR Forums have been established for the Faculties of Health; Science and Engineering; and Arts, Humanities and Business. Faculty ECR Forums are conduits for information, consultation, representation, career development and support for researchers aligned with each group. Establishing Faculty ECR Forums has led to further opportunities for research staff through 'Faculty crossover representatives', which provides an excellent opportunity for researchers who are interested in developing their experience/research beyond their Faculty network.

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

The University of Plymouth is a post-92 research and teaching organisation.

What challenge were you trying to address with this initiative?

Following the publication of the 2008 Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, we held consultation events with researchers and managers to disseminate the Concordat and identify priorities for researchers. Key priorities identified by researchers and managers included: a forum for discussion, networking and support, and communications.

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

The Researcher Forum was established in 2008 to engage with our community of researchers to enable opportunities to meet, communicate and promote Concordat-related activities. The Researcher Forum provides opportunities for representation, discussion, consultation, development, networking, support and practice sharing across the Plymouth research community.

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

An identified challenge was ensuring communications reached the main beneficiaries of the Concordat. A central mailing list for Research Staff was set up in 2008 and linked to new staff appointments, ensuring its sustainability. Another identified challenge was availability of staff to attend meetings and therefore themed, short (1-1.5 hour) sessions were introduced and continue through face-to-face or online formats.

How did you evaluate the impact of your initiative?

Impacts of the Researcher Forum have been identified including: 

  • improved links between researchers and the teams providing support for research
  • increased engagement with training and development activities for researchers
  • improved representation on high-level university committees by giving the Researcher Forum representatives a place on University-level Committees and Steering Groups
  • and establishing Faculty-facing ECR Forums and Faculty crossover representatives.

Were there any surprising or unexpected consequences?

The Researcher Forum and Faculty ECR Forums are absolutely pivotal for our Concordat and HR Excellence in Research activities. A flexible and organic approach to running meetings and developing the Forums has led to increased engagement by researchers, managers and staff supporting researchers including researcher-led initiatives and events.

What advice would you give others wanting to do this?

>Introduce themed, short events initially and allow time for discussion, and networking.

Beneficiaries: Research staff Postgraduate researchers Research and teaching staff Teaching-only staff Managers of researchers Professional support staff

Stakeholders: Researchers Managers of researchers Professional staff Senior/executive team

Concordat principles: Environment and culture Employment Professional and career development

Keywords: Researcher ECR Forum Representation Career development Networking Collaboration Support Concordat Training Signposting Policy Equality, diversity and inclusion Research culture Research integrity Wellbeing Researcher voice Bullying and harassment Flexible working Open Transparent and Merit-based (OTM) recruitment and progression Induction Job security Working conditions Career progression Performance management Professional development Career management Diverse careers Leadership development Research identity Research assessment Recognition