Early careers: supporting future talent

A multi ethnic group of university students are hanging out outdoors on campus.

This blog post explores the ways in which AHRC supports early career researchers, to ensure their arts and humanities training sets them up for a bright future.

In the summer of 2021, as part of scoping how the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) can better support early career researchers, we ran three focus groups with researchers who identify as ‘early career’. The conversations were honest and open.

We listened to stories of personal initiative which led to great achievements and of remarkable support offered by institutions, line managers and mentors. We were given examples of how AHRC funding for doctoral and early career projects facilitated career growth within and beyond academia.

We know that the environment is challenging, and we heard firsthand accounts of barriers faced by researchers post-PhD. The difficult climate of recent years has brought challenges to all of us and continues to have an impact on the job market.

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) recently published five-year strategy acknowledges that skills can be undervalued, and narrow measures of success restrict career paths across roles, sectors, and disciplines. However, we also firmly believe in the importance of a skills-based knowledge economy, with creativity at its heart.

This is why we are looking closely at the ways in which we support our early career researchers to ensure their arts and humanities training sets them up for a bright future.

Supporting world-class arts and humanities research talent

It was a privilege to have such informative and constructive conversations with our community and their feedback and honesty has informed our thinking about future support.

We have been looking holistically at the skills provision across the arts and humanities research system and thinking carefully about where we can add most value.

AHRC currently offers support in skills development for early career researchers (ECRs) in a range of ways, including:

Newly published guidance on training and development of ECRs in the arts and humanities

View the AHRC guidance on training and developing early career researchers in the arts and humanities.

This resource aims to provide early career researchers and their mentors with a framework for developing skills for the future.

At the heart of this piece of work is the mission to ensure that every early career researcher in our community feels supported to develop their career.

The guidance emphasises the importance for research organisations and their staff to adhere to good practice in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and for ECRs to do the same.

It outlines the need to equip managers of ECRs with EDI awareness, to enable them to recognise when additional EDI support may be needed, and to know how to provide this support to ECRs.

New Generation Thinkers scheme

We’ve just announced the cohort for 2022, a group of ten early career researchers who will access training from BBC Radio and other partners. It will equip them with media skills to extend the reach of their research beyond the academic community.

We can’t wait to hear their essays broadcast on BBC Radio 3 over the next year!

The next chance to apply for the 2023 scheme is just around the corner, launching this summer.

Engaging with Government training

Our Engaging with Government training is offered jointly with the Institute for Government.

This offers training in policy for ECRs and is provided as a three-day course. It develops the knowledge and skills researchers need to engage effectively with government and parliamentary bodies at all levels, along with the other organisations involved in the policy-making process.

New fellowships hosted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

This scheme offers the opportunity to develop your career and enhance your understanding of applying research in policy contexts through a secondment based with DCMS. It aims to create deeper engagement between academia and policy.

Supporting early career routes

Supporting early career routes within our grant schemes such as research grants and research, development and engagement fellowships.

These schemes allow ECRs to carry out high-quality innovative research that moves significantly beyond doctoral projects, in any area covered by AHRC. They provide the opportunity to undertake innovative and collaborative development activities.

Exploring opportunities for a new, career-bridging scheme

Exploring opportunities as per our Statement of Commitment to the Researcher Development Concordat.

This includes developing our pilot early career fellowships working in cultural institutions that has already been mentioned by AHRC Executive Chair Professor Christopher Smith.

Talent and skills offer

Working jointly with colleagues from across UKRI on our talent and skills offer, recognising we must redefine outdated views of a ‘traditional’ research career path, making more visible the full range of careers available in research and innovation and creating exciting opportunities to attract a new generation of talent.

Unleashing cultural and creative value

It is a core part of AHRC’s mission to support the career development of arts and humanities researchers in the UK. We hope opportunities such as New Generation Thinkers and initiatives such as our newly released guidance, will help all early career research to reach their full potential.

Working with the arts and humanities community, we hope to unleash the UK’s cultural and creative value. This is vital for academia and crucial to wider sectors of the economy, such as the creative industries, the cultural sector and policy.

Arts and humanities ECRs have a wealth of transferable skills and we strive to enable their careers within and beyond academia.

Look out for upcoming opportunities

We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our community to understand the needs of ECRs.

Through our funding, training provision and guidance we hope to equip a diverse range of talented researchers with skills that will empower them for the future and sustain a pipeline of world-class arts and humanities research in the UK.

Follow us on social media at @ahrcpress to stay up to date with our latest updates or subscribe to gov delivery where you will be notified of the latest funding opportunities as they go live.

Please share our guidance with your networks and on social media. If you have any comments or queries about support for this career phase, we are happy to receive feedback which we will consider through relevant routes. Please email researcher.development@ahrc.ukri.org

Top image:  Credit: FatCamera, E+ via Getty Images

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