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01 October 2019 Sue Midha, Director of Human Resources
This morning UHR can announce that we have become a signatory to the newly updated Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, joining organisations including The Wellcome Trust, UK Research and Innovation, Cancer Research UK and the UK Research Staff Association in showing our support, writes Sue Midha, UHR Vice Chair and Director of Human Resources at Cardiff University.
But many of our members will be unsure of the timings and process that has led us to this point. Why has a new version of the Concordat been created, and why has UHR chosen this point to throw its weight behind the revised work?
First launched in 2008, the Concordat paved the way to significant improvements in the research environment across the sector, but arguably had started to seem like an “old policy” in need of review and greater engagement. The 2017 Careers in Research online survey (CROS) and the Principal Investigators and Research Leaders survey (PIRLS) made that very point, reporting that of the 7598 researchers who responded more than 58% indicated they had “never heard of” the Concordat. It is central to UHR’s thinking that we need to drive up awareness of the Concordat amongst researchers and PIs, but also amongst HR teams and within our universities more generally. With more than 95% of the UK’s universities now members of UHR, we are well-placed to help that push on awareness.
For several years I’ve acted as the UHR link into the ongoing Concordat project, working as part of a cross-sector team to reflect UHR members’ views throughout the development cycle of the new work. The sector-wide consultation has convinced me that this is genuinely the sector’s best current effort at getting this subject right. It is hugely positive to see that the new Concordat sets out clearly the responsibilities of all key stakeholders - funders, research institutions and importantly our researchers themselves. This increased emphasis on all parties taking ownership and working together is something to be welcomed. To be effective the Concordat needs to be owned by all.
UHR has chosen to become a signatory of the Revised Concordat now because we appreciate the step forward in thinking since 2008, and we welcome the signatories’ role in “driving the systemic change” that Professor Julia Buckingham, Chair of the Concordat Strategy Group and President of Universities UK has asked for. The new Concordat outlines a number of those systemic challenges, including the need to provide greater security of employment for researchers, and by providing more flexible criteria for maternity and paternity benefits. The new Concordat also provides an opportunity to focus attention on early careers in research, and for universities to really think through their talent pipelines, and strategies from recruitment to retention and reward. There’s a strong focus on career development too, with a commitment to up to 10 day’s development per year, as well as focus on providing support for PIs and clarity around a PI’s obligations.
It was certainly timely to carry out this ten-year review - and we all now have a role to play in ensuring the Concordat’s successful implementation, and that it continues to fulfil its intended purpose from 2019 onwards.
UHR Vice Chair
Director of Human Resources at Cardiff University
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