In January 2013 BU was awarded the HR Excellence in Research Award from the European Commission in acknowledgement of our progress to date and commitment to further improving alignment between BU policy and practice and the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. As the number of research staff employed at BU continues to grow, the embedding of the principles of the Concordat becomes even more important.
As part of the award, BU has an externally approved action plan to strengthen support for research staff and their managers. The action plan is reviewed regularly by the Research Concordat Steering Group.
Achievements to date include:
Giving research staff a valued voice:
- The BU Research Staff Association (RSA) was launched in autumn 2014 to provide research staff with a forum to discuss issues linked to the implementation of the Concordat. The RSA chairs (Marcellus Mbah and Michelle Heward) are planning wider engagement activities for 2015-16, including establishing the RSA as an informal network to share learning/experiences as well as developing a seminar series for BU researchers to showcase their work.
- The formal membership of URKEC, which reports into Senate, has included a research staff representative as an established member since January 2013. From autumn 2015 the Faculty RKE Committees have included the local implementation of the Concordat in their remit and a research staff representative as an established member.
- Research staff are increasingly provided with opportunities for undertaking public engagement activities. For example, the lightning talks event at the Festival of Learning 2015 featured presentations from eight research staff and one PGR to c. 25 attendees (average event score of 8.3/10, with 10 being excellent). The concept has now been developed for BU staff and students with one event taking place each term. The format is being developed for the FoL 2016 and other public engagement events.
- BU took part in the national Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) and Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS) in 2013 and again in 2015. The results have been shared with RCSG, URKEC, DDESG, Faculty RKE Committees, etc.
Providing research staff with greater job stability:
- The BU Bridging Fund Scheme was launched in August 2015. It permits the temporary employment, in certain circumstances, of researchers between fixed-term contracts at BU for whom no other source of funding is yet available.
- The mandatory recruitment and selection training has been updated to include reference to giving due consideration to the wider skill set of researchers including transferable skills and attributes. The aim is to ensure that researchers are given the best opportunity to advance their career.
Improvements to the procedures and support for research staff:
- Publication of BU’s first Code of Practice for the Recruitment and Development of Research Staff in autumn 2014.
- Induction processes and resources have been significantly improved. The ‘New to BU’ webpages now include a specific section on support available to researchers. The Academic Career Development Programme now identifies three induction events for new staff, including the RKE Induction to which all new academic and research staff are invited. All new research staff and their managers receive information about the Concordat, RSA, etc. soon after joining BU.
- The BRAD development programme was launched in September 2013, based on Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework. 96 academics/researchers participated in one or more of the sessions during 2014-15 (against a target of 50).
- A dedicated research staff section has been added to the BU Research Blog. This includes specialist careers guidance resources for research staff and their managers.