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Research

Concordat Annual Report

Last updated: 15 May 2024

Name of Institution University of Gloucestershire
Reporting period March 2022 – February 2023
Date approved by governing bodyResearch Committee 12 January 2023
University Executive Committee 13 February 2023 The Academic Board 15 March 2023
Date published online 17 March 2023
Web address of annual reporthttps://www.glos.ac.uk/information/knowledge-base/concordat-to-support-the-career-development-of-researchers/
Web address of institutional Researcher Development Concordat webpage https://www.glos.ac.uk/information/knowledge-base/concordat-to-support-the-career-development-of-researchers/
Contact for questions/concerns on researcher career development Prof Nigel McLoughlin / Sarabjit Bissas
Date statement sent to Researcher Development Concordat secretariat via CDRsecretariat@universitiesuk.ac.uk 17 March 2023

Annual Report for the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

Statement on how the organisation creates, maintains and embeds a research culture that upholds a positive and inclusive environment for researchers at all stages of their careers (max 500 words)

The University research structures are overseen by the University Research Committee, which includes the research leadership of the University. Research Committee was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor until the appointment of a Pro-Vice Chancellor Academic Enhancement and Research who, with the Head of Research Innovation, provides strategic leadership for Research in the University.

The management and support of research in the University occurs through the University’s Research Priority Areas (RPAs). All research active staff are connected to one of these six areas through their membership of REF units of assessment (UoAs). These are grouped under cognate areas within the RPAs to promote cross-fertilisation of ideas and collaborative research.

Financial support is provided through disbursement of our annual QR allocation through the RPAs and UoAs to support research active staff in securing teaching buyout, conference attendance, and seed funding for high quality research projects, which develops staff research skills across a wide variety of established and emerging areas. This support is available across all career stages, and there is targeted support for early career research colleagues, who also have a representative on the steering group of each RPA.

Because we are a small teaching-led University, our people and culture strategy is based on the principle of equal value for teaching and research pathways. All staff are encouraged to engage with research, but we value equally those staff who choose a teaching focus. In the last REF exercise, we increased both the number of units of assessment (from 6 to 13) and the number of staff (from 56 to 125FTE) submitted, and our Research Strategy is committed to further increases in research volume, through developing additional units of assessment and increasing eligible researcher numbers (to 200FTE).

Our research culture is embedded through RPA led strategies and events that can achieve critical mass of engagement with researchers interested in similar types of research and in common themes and topics. RPAs organise research seminar series and one-day research symposia for staff, and they are currently collaborating on a new celebratory festival of research planned for June 2023.

The University has an Early Career Researcher Network and its steering group meets regularly to discuss potential development opportunities and events. The University is also a member of the South West Consortium of the British Academy Early Career Research Network and the opportunities that arise from this are circulated among the members of our University Early Career Researcher Network. There is an expanding research training offer within the University, including training on becoming a research degree supervisor, training on research ethics and integrity, and sessions which are research methods based. These are delivered by senior and experienced staff from within the RPAs and professoriate.


Provide a short summary of the institution’s strategic objectives and implementation plans for delivering each of the three pillars of the Concordat (environment and culture, employment, and professional development of researchers) for your key stakeholder groups together with your measures for evaluating progress and success (max 600 words)

Environment and culture

The University encourages a vibrant research culture that supports researchers to pursue areas of interest and to create valuable research outputs and generate impact in the world. The University offers excellent flexible working arrangements for all workers including research active staff in line with the University’s overall HR and employment framework. The Concordat has been publicised to staff and has a dedicated webpage. There is a wide variety of training available, including mandatory EDI training. Researchers are encouraged to engage with decision making structures through their membership of Units of Assessment, which through UoA leadership feed into decision making at the RPA level and thence to University level via Research Committee. University Research committee invites views from UoA co-ordinators and post graduate research leads at two meetings per year.

The University plans to continue these commitments and to further embed the principles of the concordat through fostering closer communication between structural and research management structures to develop an integrated environment conducive to the development of researchers across all areas of the university.

KPI: Ensure that each School in the University has research representation through RPAs, the Early Career Research Network and a Unit of Assessment housed within the school so that the enhancement of research culture extends to all areas of the University.

Employment

The University wishes to be seen as a secure and supportive place for researchers to work. Recruitment is merit-based and induction comprehensive. HR Policies are regularly reviewed and robust. Specific Policies and Practices relating to researchers have been documented in the Code of Practice for REF. Both HR Policies and the Code are transparent and available. There are well established procedures for tackling discrimination, bullying and harassment. There is a well-established mechanism for staff to agree work objectives and to receive performance appraisals. The vast majority of our contracts are open-ended and we make very little use of contract types which may be viewed as precarious. There are no plans to change the approach to employment of research staff as we believe that open-ended, secure contracts based around a mix of teaching and research best serves the University’s strategic aims and make for a more satisfied work force.

KPI: To maintain the standard practice of employing research active staff on open-ended contracts.

Professional Development of Researchers

The University applies a Workload Allocation Model (WAM) with defined time allocations for various tasks. This is reviewed annually. The annual staff development review offers the opportunity for researchers to bring forward development plans and identify opportunities for support. Beyond this, the University is keen that QR funding is used to free up staff to work on research projects in their areas of interest and expertise. The University is also keen for early career colleagues to work alongside more experienced colleagues in research projects and in writing funding bids in order to gain additional developmental experience. In internal funding awards some funding is directed specifically to early career researcher led bids, or bids where early career researchers are alongside an experienced colleague as a co-investigator. Newly appointed staff are expected to undertake the PGCAP which includes leadership development. Our professional development offer for researchers is being further developed to include sessions on entrepreneurial aspects of research as well as further sessions on the methodological, ethical, and supervisory aspects.

KPI: To roll out an expanded professional development offer by 2023/24.


Summary of actions taken, and evaluation of progress made, in the current reporting period to implement your plan to support the three pillars in respect of each of your key stakeholder groups [Institution; Academic Managers of Researchers (Deans, Heads of Schools/Departments/PIs); Researchers]

Environment and Culture (max 600 words)

Institution

As part of its commitment to a transparent research culture the University made a prominent announcement on StaffNews (our internal information site) of its intention to become a signatory to the Concordat, explaining the purpose of the Concordat and providing an overview of the three defining principles. A revised Concordat web page was established on the Academic Development web pages to raise awareness of the Concordat.

The University promotes an interdisciplinary research culture through our RPAs which operate in a cross-school interdisciplinary fashion and are focused on broad thematic areas. RPAs are allocated substantial financial resources to support researchers at all levels to produce high impact research that can both make a difference in the world and also significantly upskill researchers. We have also committed to the appointment of associate professors or professors in each School to promote research funding opportunities whilst at the same time enhancing bid writing skills, external networking and creating a culture of inclusivity through teamworking. This will significantly enhance our research leadership capacity.

Our University Funding Office, a team of 4 specialist funding advisors support the development of our researchers and offer a range of workshops and writing days as well as one-to-one advice on research bids and tenders. Our Growth Hub has substantial external contacts and works closely with the funding team on innovation and enterprise-related calls.

Academic Managers of Researchers

The University currently employs 27 research-only staff, and 8 of those are Fixed Term Contract Researchers (FTCRs). These are predominantly housed in our Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI). CCRI managers are continually reviewing the numbers of our research staff on fixed term contracts and where further extensions to contracts are requested, CCRI and HR ensure that there is an objective justification for the extension and assesses whether continuation of a fixed term contract is appropriate or whether individuals should be transferred to indefinite contracts. We have a long-standing culture of supporting fixed term researchers to progress to permanent employment.

More generally across the University, open and direct communication between researchers and management is of paramount importance, so that researchers’ concerns and suggestions can be raised. Staff Review and Development (SRD) processes are standard across the institution, but further development opportunities are available such as targeted mentoring for papers in progress, shared research practice seminars and ‘shut up and write’ events. The same applies to RPA and UoA leads having joint development discussions with researchers in their UoAs, where research active staff have a more teaching focused role and generally are employed on standard open-ended teaching and research contracts.

Researchers

Researchers have the opportunity to participate in 10 days development time per annum and opportunities are provided in group sessions and on an individual basis. For example, intensive research methods training is provided in project teams as this enhances the research projects that are being worked on. Whilst on an individual basis, attending ‘Becoming a Research Awards Supervisor’ is also encouraged, as are teaching development sessions.

All RPAs are allocated funds to support researchers to present their work at conferences both nationally and internationally to promote their research activities. They are actively encouraged to expand their networking connections with a focus on developing their careers and reputations externally.
CCRI has developed a pool of highly knowledgeable, specialist staff who serve as external examiners, examining doctoral awards here in the UK and across Europe. This reflects on the quality of researchers within this Institute being highly respected in the field, and this expertise is often shared with colleagues internally through development sessions.


Employment (max 600 words)

Institution

Our internal policies are robust, transparent and purposeful to drive the University’s strategic plan forward.  The policies and strategies are consulted upon with colleagues and feedback is considered. The University raises awareness of policies and strategies through roadshows and prominent features on our internal StaffNews platform.

Career pathways have been developed to promote career development of our academic colleagues and researchers.  Managers are familiar with these pathways which form part of a conversation during SRDs and help to create a mapping process for career progression.

Our UoA Leads engage in one-to-one meetings with our active researchers to develop an understanding of their career plan and provide support to align these with the University’s research priorities. This support enhances career development and provides a planning opportunity for future growth.

We have in collaboration with our Head of Learning and Teaching Innovation created a two-day development programme ‘Pathways into Teaching’ which is aimed at Final Year PGRs /FTCRs / ECRs.  The two-day programme outlines careers into teaching in HE setting, preparing academic CV, navigating the application process, from form to interview and seeking a career as a researcher. It is further supported by a panel of our colleagues and researchers sharing their own experiences. This illustrates our commitment to developing our academics.

Academic Managers of Researchers

Our RPA research leadership and Head of Schools form a Steering Group for each RPA. This allows cross communication between research leadership and structural management to drive the University’s research agenda through a set of agreed principles so that research plans feed into school planning and can enhance teaching and curriculum activities.

Our Director of CCRI has been instrumental in developing our FTCRs/ECRs in that unit with the intention to offer secure employment opportunities wherever funding allows. It is a practice that is imbedded and will continue in the future.

Researchers

Researchers are encouraged to pursue collaborations with other HE institutions and develop existing and new networks. For example, BA ECRN allows ECRs to come together to work on research events that will raise their profiles and enhance their external connections. The University also supports researchers to engage in KTP and consultancy opportunities which are encouraged through our GrowthHub.

Development opportunities are provided through the Research Innovation theme of our Research Staff Development programme to promote alternative opportunities and raise awareness of these.


Professional development (max 600 words)

Institution

Our commitment towards professional development remains a key action. The alignment of our training and development opportunities centrally under Human Resources will provide our all researchers, including ECRs and FTCRs with a greater appreciation of the development opportunities they can access. 

The Academic Development Unit (ADU), Head of Research Innovation, RPAs and UoAs leads (latter two groups meet regularly with Head of Research Innovation) are closely connected with all researchers in their respective groups and together create a synergistic, vibrant and inclusive research culture at all levels. Supporting this culture is a protected allocation of 185 hours for Research and Scholarly activities on all research and teaching profiles, additional hours for professors and associate professors, and those who have research leadership roles at all levels. Further additional hours can be allocated by negotiation for specific research projects.  

As an institution there are close working relationships with HR, Senior Managers and Research Managers whereby key decisions are made to ensure all managers are developed to a high standard to allow them to fulfill the University’s Research Strategy and our obligations for the Concordats.

Academic Managers of Researchers

CCRI is our flourishing research institute where all 8 of our FTCRs are housed. All new CCRI colleagues are formally inducted and work very closely in small teams, where there is an extensive support system. When new contracts are secured, a detailed project plan is undertaken, and any training and development needs are put in place. All FTCRs and ECRs are invited to participate in meetings promoting an inclusive culture. This practice is mirrored across the University where research active staff engage with research leaders and structural managers to plan research and development activities as part of annual discussions on work planning. This is supplemented by our bespoke training and development offer and forms a large part of development opportunities from experienced and expert colleagues, and where necessary this is supplemented and complemented by specialist external skills providers. These cover a wide range of topics from research and teaching to enterprise and leadership, and include EDI training. These are promoted with positive action statements of inclusivity to embed a positive research culture. Managers of researchers also undertake specific managerial development to better understand researchers’ needs.

Researchers

The work allocation model operated at UoG allows all research and teaching staff to undertake research related activities and development opportunities.  The ADU often works alongside HR to offer a spectrum of development opportunities to colleagues. These include recently established career pathways that guide colleagues to enhance their career trajectories. FTCRs and ECRs are encouraged through positive action statements to attend development workshops which are aligned to the RDF planner ensuring that wide range of skills sets can be developed.  

Through realigning our development programme and asking a set of questions when researchers book onto workshops, we have developed a mechanism to engage with our researchers and their managers to provide enhanced career development opportunities. This in turn will feed into our Concordat Working Group (CWG) to further recognise distinct development needs.  

The University offers opportunities for staff to undertake research degrees, advance HE accredited courses and teaching fellowship awards to enhance career opportunities, opportunities to develop external networks and engagement with wider subject communities through research degree examinations, conference attendance and collaborations.


Comment on any lessons learned from the activities undertaken over this period and any modifications you propose to make to your action plan and measures of success as a result. (max 500 words)

Some feedback received has indicated that we need to remind colleagues of our commitment to the Concordat and we will do this through our internal communication mechanisms.

We are also aware that we need to enhance embedding of the principles of the Concordat through refresher sessions aimed at academics, research managers, and professional services managers.  This will also allow the ADU to gain a more comprehensive understanding of developments in progress across the wider University.

The recent appointment of an Academic Development Support Officer, whose focus is researcher development, and who will work closely with HR and managers of researchers to develop an updated and comprehensive training programmes which focuses on researchers, will facilitate the further embedding of the Concordat principles into University wide researcher development training and strategic development planning.

We have begun to promote our workshops with ‘Positive Action Statements’ for FTCRs / ECRs / Researchers / Research Managers on workshop descriptors. This will continue to be incorporated across ADU led development opportunities to further make explicit links between the concordat principles and the University development opportunities.

We are examining possibilities such as Ten is Zen: Counting 10 days of Continuing Professional Development and ‘power of ten’ to offer support for researchers to create bespoke development plans. Discussions, have been initiated to ensure that awareness of the concordat is built into new staff induction programmes, and we hope to have this in place in 2023.


Outline your key objectives in delivering your plan in the coming reporting period (max 500 words)

The University’s key objectives in delivering our forthcoming plan is to firmly embed the Researcher Development Concordat by aligning our Research Staff Development Programme to the three key principles of the Concordat and the statements to Support the Research Integrity Concordat. The two Concordats will underpin our development workshops ensuring that the principles are cross referenced to our workshop descriptors. We have reviewed our workshops and aligned them to three themes with each descriptor incorporating positive action statements encouraging experienced and early career researchers to attend.  

Our University is undertaking a review of training and development opportunities offered across all School and Services, to achieve better alignment of all available opportunities and to identify gaps. This will allow us to further embed the principles of the concordat, for example into our two-day Introduction to Teaching in Higher Education workshop and the development of our Teaching Ready and Research Ready sites offer a ‘one-stop shop’ to all colleagues, therefore bringing to the forefront of our FTCRs and ECRs the full spectrum of development opportunities they can access alongside research specific workshops ensuring they undertake training and development courses and workshops. 

All staff are required to undertake a Staff Development Review with their managers, and this includes our FTCRs and ECRs. It is here where planned development is recorded and agreed for the following year, but discussions take place throughout the year to ensure that our research and academic colleagues can undertake their role to the highest standards. 

Through regular meetings with key colleagues and groups we will continue to raise awareness of the Concordat, provide updates and highlight actions that need to be accelerated and those that require reconsideration.  

The CWG will meet quarterly to review progression made against the actions and revise actions, processes and workshops to ensure the key principles remain high on the University’s Agenda. Our Head of Research Innovation will continue to work closely with our Head of Human Resources, and our ADU to ensure that future training and development is aligned with the concordat.


Please provide a brief statement describing your institution’s approval process of this report prior to sign off by the governing body (max 200 words)

Our Concordat Working Group (CWG) will have operational oversight of the progress made on the current Action Plan; allocation and progression of tasks to embed the principles of the Concordat; and joint responsibility for this report to ensure that that the CWG’s vision, expectations and responsibilities are reflected.  

The report together with progress made on the action plan have been circulated to Researcher Managers and RPA leads, for the feedback and as managers of researchers it was of paramount importance that they were involved at key stages to better understand the purpose of the Concordat as they will be supporting the implementation of the actions and feedback to the CWG. Draft documents were placed before the University Research Committee, chaired by our Pro-Vice Chancellor, Academic Enhancement and Research, Professor Sarah Jones on 12 January 2023 for consideration and approval prior to the report being presented at University Executive on 30 January 2023, the report and the minute approving the University’s submission was then placed before the University Council for approval.

Signature on behalf of governing body:

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Contact for queries: Prof Nigel McLoughlin / Sarabjit Bissas

This annual report will be analysed by Universities UK, secretariat for the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, to identify good practices, themes for development and information to improve national research culture policy and practice.

If you have any questions, or suggestions on how the reporting process could be improved, please email the secretariat at CDRsecretariat@universitiesuk.ac.uk.

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