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doormatWhen I first started in the role of Researcher Development over 10 years ago it was quite common to hear that new members of research staff would be shown to a desk in a lab or office and then left to ‘get on with it’. I had hoped that over the last few years development in induction processes at both department, Faculty and University level had dramatically improved. However about a year ago, when running a Faculty induction day for new Research Staff I heard a familiar old tale of “So there’s your desk, just get on with it”.

I had been part of a cross university working group over the previous few years to look at the enhancement of University level induction of research staff and additionally myself and a colleague in another Faculty had developed a cross Faculty induction day designed specifically for new Research staff to make the most of their research contract with us. So just over a year ago when I heard the sad ole tale of departmental induction experience, along with some recent data from a staff survey and a conversational tour looking at the environment for researchers within departments which all suggested experience was very different across departments, I decided to review departmental induction across the whole Faculty that I support.

inductionUsing the contacts of departmental academic champions who sit on a Faculty committee responsible for the support and development of research staff, I was able to gain information on the process and procedures in place for induction within each department and get copies of the materials regularly given out. This allowed me to look for best practice activities that might be shared across the Faculty and identify any gaps within department provision that we needed to address. The Faulty committee of academics and research staff reviewed the examples of best practice I had found and came up with a set of recommendations we all felt should be provided as a minimum within a department. I then presented this to our Faculty Executive Board for approval before starting out on the long process of touring the departments to support the enhancement of their practices based on the document. Our recommendations for departmental induction contained some of the following suggestions and these are taken as minimum standards but I should say that many departments are doing far more than this and doing a fantastic job of it, but we wanted to make sure that every Department at least;

  1. Send a welcome letter/email from the Head of Department: Many researchers said they had not met their head of department. Our recommendation suggested inviting the new member of staff to meet with them at a specified time to introduce themselves and welcome them to the department.
  2. Provide their new role job description as part of the induction process: Once a researcher has applied and been offered that new job, often all the documents that were involved in the job application, 3 months down the line when they actually start have been filed away never to be seen again. When it comes to their first appraisal where they are expected to reflect on their job description, many realise they don’t have a copy and can’t easily access it. So we felt it was important to offer it at the point of induction and encourage it to be kept ready for appraisal time.
  3. The assignment of a named induction buddy before arrival: Everyone already had someone who is responsible for a new starters induction (often their line manager or technician) but we wanted to make sure they had a peer (ie another member of research staff) they could go to if they had any questions and someone who would take them under their wing, perhaps show them the best place to buy a sandwich at lunchtime, or where the local pub is that everyone goes to after work on a Friday.
  4. A defined process for announcing a new starter to the rest of the department: Researchers often commented that new people would just ‘appear’ in their office and they didn’t know anyone new was starting or who they were! Suggestions for the process include information via welcome email to whole department, in a departmental newsletter and/or announcement at a regular seminar/coffee morning
  5. Department to email Researcher Development Manager to inform them of the new starter: This ensures they are introduced to the support for their training and career development and invited to the Faculty induction for researchers
  6. InductionPackProvision of a departmental induction pack: We had another page of suggestions for what should be included in an induction pack whether that be online or a hard copy, so I’m not going to list it here but it including obvious things like a organogram of the department so the new starter could work out who everyone was and how the departmental structure fits together, links to compulsory training e.g. fire training etc., departmental information for things like how to get onto mailing lists, etc etc the list went on and on.
  7. Provision of a departmental induction pack specifically for the line manager of a new research staff member: This directs line managers to support for research managers online, development opportunities for research leaders, information on the opportunities available for their member of staff’s development, support available for appraisal of research staff and line management roles and responsibilities

I would suggest that if you didn’t get some of these things when you started in your department, why not question what more can be done locally for your new starters in the future to make the research environment a more welcoming place to work.

Reflecting back on the process, although it’s taken a long time to work through both the review of practice, gain approval and now the implementation of the recommendations, it has been really rewarding seeing small changes put in place that can make a big difference to the first impressions we make to welcoming our new research staff.

Doormat Image credit

ERS_Logo_12_bI attended the Engineering Researcher Symposium last Friday (30 June 2017) and the message that came across to me, was that often collaboration isn’t about having a research idea and then looking for collaborators, but rather it can be by talking to others, that ideas for collaboration come about. Read the rest of this entry »

stress laptopWorking in academia, most of us don’t have the ability to hand work over to someone else when we need to take a break so that it all keeps ticking along. Typically after taking a week off with the kids for half term, I then get hit on the back of the head with a freezer block and get a lump the size of an egg and 2 days later come down with a throat infection as soon as I start back in the office.  In the time you are away the emails ridiculously build up and the to do list is getting longer and longer. We take breaks to avoid stress but in the process it often feels worse when you come back then when you went away. How on earth do you catch up on all this and not just end up rocking in the corner as the stress builds up? Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership is one of those Holy Grail skills that all researchers aspire to develop but often struggle to leadershipdemonstrate and give evidence of leadership experience on job applications or in interviews. There are lots of different ways to lead and just because you line manage someone, doesn’t mean you are acting as a leader. Other forms of leadership include; leading up (i.e. leading your supervisor, which in research is a very regular occurrence as you are the person who knows your research area as well as, if not better than your PI), self-leadership (which is self-explanatory and something researchers do on a daily basis) and lateral leadership which I want to cover below. Read the rest of this entry »

I was appalled by two recent reports in the news of women treating other women appallingly. Women in very professional roles behaving very badly!

Mother ‘told to prove lactation’ at Frankfurt airport

A top police officer mocked a colleague’s ‘boob job

Yes the ‘mean girls’ are alive and well and now employed in roles with authority! Read the rest of this entry »

Second guest post in a series of three by Dr Graham McElearney, Senior Learning Technologist, Technology Enhanced Learning Team in CiCS

Many of the reasons that you might want to think about getting yourself and your work published and visible online stem from the arguments to get involved in public engagement more generally (discussed in my previous post, ‘The Power of Public Engagement’).  This post will explore the benefits of using digital media within public engagement, as well as the emergent field of digital scholarship. Read the rest of this entry »

One thing I really struggled with at the start of my PhD was a big question: am I making enough progress? PhDs vary hugely between individuals and topics, and as such there’s no set guideline to fo…

Source: How Do You Know If You’re Making Enough Progress in Your PhD?

Some wise words here from PGRs Billy Bryan and Furaha Asani.

PhD Life

“This is not your supervisor’s market”, asserted Donna Yates in one of our recent posts. But what kind of market is it then, and how can PhD graduates find their place in it?  Furaha and Billy reflect on the changing landscape of modern knowledge economy.

Getting onto a PhD programme isn’t like it used to be. Once upon a time, you had to be a member of the affluent social elite, or incredibly clever, to have a chance of wearing that floppy hat and gown on graduation day. That’s not all it got you:a PhD was your guaranteed entry ticket into an academic job, that’s why people undertook them in the first place. The career pathway was linear and simple.

Times have changed

The PhD student population is now more evenly scattered. Now, students from more diverse socio-economic backgrounds are studying for their doctorates. The typical PhD student now closely fits into at least…

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Our MOOC on Succeeding at Interviews is about to run again! Starts 16th November: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/interviews

Think Ahead Blog

MOOC

When it comes to writing job applications do you struggle to find the right words to tell the recruiter or why you think you’re the best candidate? Maybe you’ve submitted an application recently but not received that call or letter inviting you to interview and you’re wondering what, if anything, you’ve done wrong?

WE HAVE A MOOC FOR YOU! This was designed for all students but plenty of researchers have now signed up.

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This blog comes to you from the interdisciplinary Researcher Professional Development team at the University of Sheffield. We’ll be updating on researcher issues, national news and trends, key achievements for the team, and other things that research staff, and staff development professionals will find of interest.