What’s next for the Research Culture & Researcher Development Team?

By Dr Kay Guccione, Head of Research Culture & Researcher Development

white lettering on a black background reads - you didn't come this far, to only come this far.

Our Research Culture & Researcher Development Team annual review and planning day was held in August 2022. Having had some very positive changes to our structure, and some new investment in the team in 2022, we took some time out together to think though our recent successes, challenges, and what we want to do in 2022/23 in the service of our researchers, and of their supervisor and PIs.

Our team is a super reflective team (that figures, it’s a team of professional development specialists!) and we meet monthly to look back at what we have achieved as well as what we have coming up and what’s on the horizon. This analysis has enabled us to tackle some of the meta-issues in our work this year. Issues of how we are can change processes needing some refinement, scoping systems needing to be upgraded, and of recurring blocks and barriers – matters that we need to coordinate with other teams and services across the university. This monthly time out, allows us to think not just about whether we are ‘doing things right’, but also whether we are ‘doing the right things’ and ‘doing the things that matter’ for our research colleagues (after Argyris & Schön, see this neat simple explanation).

Recognising that we (as the Researcher Development Team until April 2022,) were already committed to a holistic, or ecological, or cultural approach to the design and delivery of researcher development work, it made fantastic sense to us to see those agendas blended more closely together. If a better research culture is the outcome we seek, researcher development is the process (pedagogies) we use to get there. And so, in May the ‘Research Culture & Researcher Development’ portfolio was launched, and we began planning to recruit the new Research Culture Team who will move us into Phase 2 of the University of Glasgow’s Research Culture work (there will be ongoing announcements on this blog as the team, and strategy, develops).

Planning our year ahead and choosing our focus and some priority projects that span Culture and Development teams last month, was honestly very exciting. We nerded out. It was also very valuable for giving every person in the team the opportunity to share their ideas, concerns and expectations (‘ICE’, borrowed from the medical profession, and translated here for Supervisor/manager practice) for the year ahead. Our team is multi-disciplinary and includes people at all levels of experience, specialists and generalists, folks coming from different perspectives and disciplines, and a range of roles in the team. It’s my highly unoriginal view that our projects are more likely to succeed if we have all had input into their design.

We used two questions to prompt our discussions, and a summary version of these two discussions are below.

1. What do we recognising and celebrate as our contribution in 2021/22.

  • Building cohesion in how we communicate who we are and what we do, and a shared identity and visual presence as a team.
  • How our individual events, festivals, conferences, and programmes are taking a greater focus on collegiality, inclusion and accessibility.
  • Our commitment to strengthening PGR engagement through informal spaces such as PGR gardening, PGR lunchtime walks, and as audiences for the 3 Minute Thesis and Visualise Your Thesis competitions.
  • How we have responded to challenges, in support of each other.
  • The essential and valued contribution of our PGR Interns.
  • Our progress in reducing the divide between what we see as development for PGRs, and for Research Staff, and for Supervisors, introducing greater collaboration across the team.
  • Great leaps and bounds in our PGR communications strategy.
  • Positive progress in securing supportive technology to support PGRs to feel more in control of academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Welcoming new people into the team to lead on growth of the Research Staff development framework and provision.
  • A focus on alignment with national and UofG strategies and a sense of purpose and direction beyond the delivery of individual items on the programme.
  • How we have been ‘futureproofing’ our provision and investing in the people in the team, which has involved some scaling back, handing back, and saying no.
  • Our commitment to consultation, co-design, and co-leadership with our researchers, and supervisors.
  • Our new mentoring strategy and focus on ‘quality conversations’.
  • Identifying gaps in resourcing through strategic review, and working to raise these issues with the right committees, teams and services.
  • Our commitment to ongoing open sharing with our sector, and professional networks.

2. Looking forward to 22/23, what’s on our horizon? 

As we each discussed our individual objectives for the coming year and the absolute tonne of projects we’ll deliver across our roles, certain themes recurred. We captured these and selected four ‘team enhancement’ priorities for the coming year. These are in addition to our delivery objectives (all the events, programmes and projects we work on), and are things we will all be working on together.

They focus less on what we do, and more on the way we do it. We will take:

  • A Focus on Evaluation: examining our practices, creating shared values about evaluation as well as shared measures, expanding a range of methods, and continuing to use the team blog to communicate outcomes regularly. 
  • A Focus on Engagement: expanding our reach across UofG, making sure that we are visible and accessible, and tackling ‘no-shows’ and wasted places. 
  • A Focus on Career Pathways for Researchers: the creation of a Researcher Careers Strategy which brings together all of the many projects, resources, and initiatives we have into focus.
  • A Focus on Sustainability: sharing our skills and expertise with colleagues (e.g. as mentors, facilitators, teaching assistants), sharing practice with other teams, leveraging community-driven learning, relying less on course delivery by external consultants. 

I feel very privileged to be part of such a reflective, committed and skilled team, and I look forward to bringing you regular updates about where we go with our chosen priorities and projects.

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