Forging collegial spaces for collaboration

By Dr Kay Guccione and Dr Sam Oakley, Researcher Development Team

The Glasgow Crucible is an annual career development programme for emerging research leaders at the University of Glasgow. Named for the vessel involved in the steel making process, this multi-day intensive event supports 30 senior research staff and new academic staff to acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence to be bolder and more ambitious in seeking career opportunities, writing funding applications and in publishing research. Alongside this, through a process of peer-coaching and connection with colleagues across disciplines, participants are supported to forge meaningful connections, with view to future collaborations.

The Glasgow Crucible is led by Dr Sam Oakley in the Researcher Development Team, who brings together a skilled multi-disciplinary team based in Research and Innovation Services (R&IS), the Careers Service, the Wellbeing Service, and the Colleges as well as external trainers with specialist research leadership expertise, and representatives from Scottish Industry and Scottish Government. 

The Glasgow Crucible sits within the University of Glasgow Talent Lab and is part of our commitment to focussing on Collaboration, Creativity and Careers as priorities. The Talent Lab houses several diverse development programmes that all focus on developing leadership in research, and researchers as leaders.

The Glasgow Crucible experience

Inspired by a refreshing residential stay, creative off-campus learning environments and bespoke workshops, last autumn’s participants were encouraged to work with new people, to build up their networks and learn from each other’s expertise and different perspectives.

The programme provided a much-needed opportunity to escape the daily routines of research and to light a fire under the wealth of research ideas and aspirations our participants brought into the event. It was clear from the energy in the room that great discussions were being had, as people found common ground across disciplines, and were excited to look beyond their own projects and immediate environments.

“I’m sure it was a lot of work to plan and create these Crucible events for us so I also want to thank the whole team. After being so focussed on my research project during all the lockdowns, it was very healthy to come away and do something different!”

Impact on ideas, confidence, and collegiality

100% of respondents indicated that The Glasgow Crucible had positive impact on them as a researcher. This included the opportunity to have informal, open and confidential peer-discussions with colleagues about the working environment and having protected time and head space to think about how to navigate the different aspects of the academic career.  

Participants also reported gaining a greater awareness of the varied research activities taking place across the University, and how to start and sustain meaningful collaborations, supported by expert colleagues in ‘research enhancing’ (research support professional) roles.

Additionally, 75% respondents indicated that they had already done something differently as a result of attending. Specific examples included submitting a grant application, refreshing professional online profiles, and beginning to see themselves as a research leader. This gain in confidence meant that they were approaching collaborations more enthusiastically, thinking about the challenges in their own research differently and even planning a career move to include interdisciplinary research. The remaining quarter of participants were also planning to take action in the near future, and everyone agreed that they had made new useful contacts across the university and beyond.

“Just a quick note to say many thanks to you and the team for all your hard work in making the Crucible happen! You put together a great programme, and I know from my discussions with fellow Cruciblians (why not?!), that everyone got a lot from it.”

What’s in store for Glasgow Crucible 2022

Applications for The Glasgow Crucible 2022 open in May, and whilst there is a strict limit on places again, we have reserved a proportion of these for colleagues in groups that are underrepresented in research leadership careers.

In reflecting on the success of the Glasgow Crucible, and the reasons underpinning that, we consider that there are three key components that make this programme a success, and we want to make sure they are retained:

Firstly, impact is achieved through the mix of experts we bring together. Not only our external experts in leadership, government, industry and policy, but the diverse ‘team’ across the University of Glasgow. What this looks like in practice is building partnerships between ‘research active’ colleagues and ‘research enhancing’ colleagues, whose complimentary expertise covers the whole process of getting research done, from idea to impact. We draw from many different functions of the university, to bring the right experts together.

Secondly, we see immediate impact on career development by creating real experiences to work together, on real projects. Rather than applying a ‘training-focussed’ model where participants ‘bank’ new knowledge for some unspecified point in the future, the Glasgow Crucible supports the whole process of embedding learning in practice. Experience is what matters in career enhancement, not theoretical knowledge.

And thirdly, The Glasgow Crucible offers a tailored experience. By guaranteeing good quality mentoring and coaching conversations, which allow for career planning in a highly personalised way. We show our participants how to take small practical steps forward, and allow them to choose goals that align with their own values, and aspirations.

The programme is already highly regarded but will still be adding some new enhancements for 2022. Most prominently, we are excited to be able to use the brand new ARC as an innovative space for learning, and to reflect the ARC’s commitment to interdisciplinarity, creativity and collaborative leadership, we will be strengthening the learning outcomes of the Glasgow Crucible programme to match. We’ll also be adding more opportunities for mentoring discussions, and personalised coaching conversations, to help embed new learning into practice.

And the very good news for those who have gone before, and want to sustain momentum, is that this year we will formalise a Glasgow Crucible Alumni Network to ensure follow-on learning, keep up the enthusiasm for collaborative career development, and keep the creativity alive. 

Your thoughts welcome in the comments.

A selection of tweets showing favourable opinions of the Glasgow Crucible.

One response to “Forging collegial spaces for collaboration”

  1. […] building more opportunities for researchers to come together to learn from and with each other. Our Glasgow Crucible is a leadership development programme and a prime example of the transformative power of […]


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