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A Roadmap to Research Success: The Competency Framework Decoded

In this blog post, Al Innes, Strategic Research Executive at Edinburgh Research Office shares the latest developments from the Insights and Intelligence service of the Strategic Research Development team (SRD), available to help researchers and research leadership find the right tools to support research at the University of Edinburgh. 

Who is the framework for? 

For Academic Staff 

The framework breaks down the research career of staff into five areas. Starting with Aspiring Investigators, those considered high potential researchers who aim to drive their own research but have yet to do so. The next space is for New Investigators, those that are newly independent Principal Investigators beginning to manage and lead research projects and teams and building track records of research achievements appropriate to discipline. Then follows Experienced Investigator, those experienced in securing research grant income appropriate to discipline. This describes you if you are comfortable consolidating and growing your research profile. 

If you feel that you are beyond that stage then perhaps you will identify as a Research Leader, someone with excellent research activity levels, an academic who could or does already run major grants, centres or networks. Even if you are a Senior Research Leader, someone considered a major influencer internally and externally, perhaps sitting on key boards and committees at a national or international level – the framework can still help you to shape your research activity, place your bids in a competitive context and facilitate the development of complex proposals. 

Research-related Colleagues

As a professional services colleague, you can also benefit from the Competency Framework for Research Funding. It serves as a guide for evaluating and planning your professional growth in supporting research.  

How do I use the framework? 

For each competency there is a description of what it means in practice together with examples of the skills, knowledge and behaviours expected at each academic career-level. The competencies are intended to be discrete and cumulative, with each career-level building on the ones before. At the core of the framework is your ability to review the academic career-levels and decide which one best fits your current funding track record. 

From there you can assess each competency, read the associated skills, knowledge and behaviours and make an assessment of where you are. Then try to consider in which areas you excel, and where you may need to develop your competence. 

Dr Kirsty Collinge has developed a User Guide for the framework that helps to break down the competencies – for some of these we also have supporting resources designed to help you identify your needs in the space and look to develop your understanding. 

Major Research Bids Toolkit 

This toolkit is a resource hub offering guidance and information for researchers and support staff involved in developing major research bids. Designed in 2022 by Dr Kirsty Collinge, the toolkit provides information, guidance, and resources on developing major research bids. It is aimed at researchers who are either considering or already in the process of developing a major research bid, as well as professional service colleagues involved in supporting their efforts. The toolkit is supported and introduced by a ten-part blog series exploring key components of the toolkit. 

Interdisciplinary Research Support Resources 

Designed by Jonathan Rans, to support interdisciplinary research, this toolkit provides entry-level guides, case studies, and resources to help researchers integrate interdisciplinary methods into their work. 

Funded Research course for Aspiring Investigators 

Developed in 2023 by Al Innes and Charlotte Brady, this course is available to all staff at the University and is discipline-neutral, providing a set of learning modules that will prepare you to explore the rich landscapes of planning, strategy crafting, and funding complexities. 


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