In this blog post Nicola Cuthbert, Researcher Development Manager at the IAD, discusses the different researcher networks and communities at the University, and ways to get involved.
The Institute for Academic Development (IAD) supports research staff with their professional, personal and career development and an important part of this is encouraging and helping our researcher networks and communities to connect and develop.
Over the last year we have been proactively engaging with our researcher community and our colleagues who support researchers as part of their role. Facilitating events that allow colleagues to meet and network, is always something we are keen to support. It’s not rocket science, it doesn’t require a new programme or plan, but just time (maybe a doodle poll) and a space to host, but the benefits are often long lasting and far reaching.
The IAD has facilitated researcher networking events for a number of years, and in February we held our first Postdoc Champions networking event. Postdoc Champions (or Research Staff Champions, Postdoc Advisors, or ECR Reps are some other titles used across the University) have a common goal and purpose to support researchers in different Schools and Colleges. The Postdoc Champion role was developed in the College of Science and Engineering and the role is responsible for encouraging postdocs to connect with School and wider University initiatives, access relevant support and engage in opportunities relevant to career and professional development. As part of our Concordat Action Plan (21/23) we developed a role descriptor to support other Colleges discuss it at a local level and since then there are now champions across the University. One College has also developed their own descriptor to support a recruitment of this role in the College.
The February meeting allowed champions to come together and update on what they are doing, discussing common areas and questions they are often faced with e.g. Mentoring support, Induction Support, 10 Days professional development, plus more. From this event a Teams space (Postdoc Champions Network) has now been set up with it being used to update on developments by different Colleges/Schools on specific areas involving their researchers.
In March we held a Research/Postdoc Staff Societies networking event. These are run biannually (temporarily stopped, like everything else, during the pandemic but has now been picked back up!) and this event included researchers who have been part of a society for a while and new society organisers who were keen to find out what others do. Discussion focused on society activities, including careers events, quizzes and pizza night, to discussion around organising a University wide event as part of Postdoc Appreciation Week (PAW), with a date in place to start the planning process. A number of society organisers also sit on the University’s Concordat Implementation Group (CIG) which allows member to bring their thoughts and ideas to the group, update on what they are doing, ensuring that researcher’s voices are part of our planning and implementation.
If you are a new research staff member or are interested in joining or setting up a society, or a new postdoc champion, about to become one or interested in supporting this in your area, there is lots of support to help you start!
A list of existing societies and champions can be found on our Research Staff Hub (RSH):
We also have a space on the RSH focused on Community and Networking, with information on Research Staff Societies, cross School/College networks, along with networks and organisations who represent staff groups.
We are really keen to enhance the University-wide researcher networks and communities, providing structures and systems to allow researchers, and those who support them, to work together, develop professional and career development opportunities and share practice and this is integrated as part of our next Concordat Action Plan (23-25), due to be published this month.