Some examples of researcher career development in the world
While working on the recommendations on how to foster researcher career development we identified some institutions that were already working on researcher career development. We thought their experience might be useful for those institutions starting their work on the matter. You can check the experiences of The University of Copenhagen, VITAE UK, The Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, The Polish Foundation for Science and Technology and The Helmholtz Foundation on the right.
Also, we have performed some desk research so we can have an overview of the progress in researcher career development in some other institutions. You can check the full review here
The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS) at the time of this consultation is in the middle of consolidating their researcher career development strategies.
The Human Resources team, which is part of the Management Department, is in charge of coordinating all recruitment, career development and gender actions. Their work is supported by the appropriate IT resources and builds upon the HRS4R logo action plan (for 2015 to 2019). This action plan includes among other elements the creation of an advisory committee composed by researches, reinforces gender policies, and strengthens activities in outreach and public engagement.
The IT platform created for fostering and managing the researchers’ career development by allowing BSC-CNS staff to set annual objectives, be evaluated and identify training needs, which feeds into an annual training plan.
During 2016 BSC-CNS will launch the BSC Diploma of Excellence in Research Skills for all BSC personnel. The idea is starting a unique internal accreditation program with various grades relevant for all research levels, from PhD student through to Group Leaders. This way, BSC-CNS has developed its own in-house model of research excellence for the different career stages (R1 to R4), and although it is still under definition, the implementation of this diploma will set the basis to assess impact of the career development actions by comparing results from year to another.
The Foundation for Polish Science is largest non-governmental organization supporting science in Poland, and being aware of the importance of supporting researchers in their professional career development in order to becoming better researchers, they implemented the SKILLS project (2011-2015).
The SKILLS project includes several researcher career development components including standard training courses (e.g., project and team management, commercialization of research results, entrepreneurship, negotiation skills, public speaking, scientific writing, etc.) but also science popularization and proof-of-concept competitions, internships (in a research performing organization or a company abroad), mentoring and coaching sessions.
All of these components covered all research stages from PhD candidates to established researchers living in Poland and working in a Polish research performing organization. In addition, the SKILLS project also includes a career development program called Academy of Science and Research Management aimed at programme officers and administration staff.
The outputs from all these activities are assessed by evaluation forms and reports following the participation.
The Helmholtz Association brings together 18 scientific-technical and biological-medical research centres and has a talent management strategy supporting scientific and administrative staff that begins through targeted recruitment, and continues with a comprehensive support ultimately aimed at further developing their potential.
This way, the Helmholtz Association career development actions target all research stages from R1 to R4, but also non-academic staff on different career levels. These actions include the Helmholtz Leadership Academy, the Helmholtz mentoring programme for young women of the association, the Helmholtz Graduate Schools, or the Helmholtz Research Schools among other activities
All of these activities are embedded in the abovementioned talent management strategy, and although each of the 18 member centres has its management competencies, all share the same tools and programmes, and exchange information on periodic meetings.
The assessment of the different activities is regularly done by so-called happy sheets, and several researcher tracking surveys have been done (young investigators group leaders in 2011 and 2014), and others are planned for the near future (PhD candidates tracking).
Throughout the entire University of Copenhagen (KU), which includes over 6 faculties and more than 5000 researchers employed, there are a wide range of researcher career development activities organized.
These include workshops and events; which foster networking with private companies and foreign researchers, cover professional capacities, employability, or language courses; as well as mentoring and management activities covering both the social and professional level of the research staff.
All in all, the main research stages that these activities cover are R1, R2 and R3. Particularly, in the case of the R1, all their activities are embedded in a common strategic action plan covering all PhD candidates of the university. Currently, a cross-faculty group is working on trying to agree in a common researcher career development plan for the rest of the stages (R2-R4).
For assessing the impact of the activities, surveys to the participants of the different activities are used, together with focus groups. On top of that KU also uses the data from the Danish National registry to analyse the impact of their research career development services. Specifically, the University of Copenhagen has been looking into the labour market of young researchers through several tracking studies of its PhD and postdoctoral researchers. These studies produce both quantitative and qualitative data related to their working sector, positions, income, gender, etc., which are very useful for the design on researcher career development initiatives.
The non-profit programme Vitae, is the global leader in supporting the professional development of researchers, understanding these as anyone training or trained in research, whether they continue in academia or use their professional skills in a career outside the academia.
Vitae organizes events, co-develops training materials and offers a wide range of online material for researcher development covering all career stages (R1 to R4). It also supports its members in producing their HRS4R logo action plan, and is the EURAXESS Career Development Centre for the UK through it is collaboration with Bridgehead Organization British Council.
Among the online material of Vitae, we find their Researcher Development Framework (RDF) that describes the knowledge, behaviour and attributes of successful researchers. This a resource widely used by research performing organizations to audit and organize their professional development support to the research staff, as well as an assessment tool for individual needs and progress.
Within in the UK, Vitae measures the impact of its career development activities using the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers on behalf the Concordat Strategy Group. In the UK, the Concordat provides an unambiguous statement of the expectations and responsibilities of researchers and their managers, employers and funders, which gives a framework to detail progress on measures related to recruitment and selection, recognition and value, or career development, among other. Most of this evidence is gathered from regular surveys to researchers in the UK:
- Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) to postgraduate research students run by the Higher Education Academy
- Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS) run by Vitae to early career research staff
- Principal Investigators and Research Leaders Survey (PIRLS) also run by Vitae to research leaders and principal investigators