AHRC commitment to support the career development of researchers

Statement of Commitment to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

Vision

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is committed to continuing our contribution to the development of arts and humanities researchers at all career stages, and to implementing the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers. Our vision is of a supportive and inclusive research culture where arts and humanities researchers can grow.

The vision is closely linked to the following objective and long term-ambition in the AHRC Delivery Plan 2019: ‘to train the next generation of researchers in the arts and humanities and support skills development throughout the career cycle’ and ‘to increase dedicated support past the doctoral level to early career researchers and beyond’.

This vision aligns with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and can be found on the second page of the Funder Action Plan: ‘UKRI expects the research organisations in which it invests to recognise and value their researchers and nurture them in reaching their full potential. This includes supporting their professional development as members of the research and innovation community, providing working conditions that enable them to flourish, and equipping them for diverse and flexible careers across the research and innovation system, whether in the private, public or third sectors’.

Context

UKRI is a signatory to the revised Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, also known as the Researcher Development Concordat, which was launched in September 2019. The concordat is an aspirational document and its foreword states that it aims to set the gold standard in researcher development’ through principles related to improving research environment and culture, employment conditions and professional and career development opportunities and support. In July 2020, the UKRI Funder Action Plan was published, outlining how UKRI is going to implement the principles of the concordat.

AHRC would like to strengthen its role as a catalyst of inclusive research culture and researchers’ professional growth. In line with the UKRI Plan, AHRC is publishing this statement to confirm our commitment to the concordat as a funder of arts and humanities research. The statement specifies actions which will commence in 2021 to contribute to the implementation of the concordat for the benefit of the arts and humanities research community.

The statement should be read in conjunction with the UKRI Funder Action Plan. ‘Our ways of working’, which can be found on the third page, outlines UKRI’s corporate-level actions as a funder of researchers: ‘UKRI represents a diverse range of research and researchers and is aware of the shortcomings of one-size-fits-all solutions. It will give constituent research councils opportunity to develop solutions appropriate for their communities, whilst aspiring to establish a baseline expectation of researcher development and support across the sector’.

Commitment and specific actions

Our intention is to engage research organisations and the researchers we fund in co-creating AHRC’s response to the concordat. We hope that this statement will enable us to start a dialogue with our research community, and that the initial list of six actions in this statement will grow and evolve in response to community feedback, to address arts and humanities researchers’ needs.

Our commitment is as follows:

  1. As one of the key funders of arts and humanities research in the UK, we want to lead by example and highlight the importance of the Researcher Development Concordat for the Arts and Humanities (AH) community. We will engage through a range of communication channels, from our website and social media, to meetings and events with internal and external stakeholders.
  2. To achieve positive change, we will work with other members of the AH research community, from individuals, consortia and clusters holding our awards to research organisations and independent research organisations as well as other funders of AH research.
  3. We will highlight the importance of career and leadership development opportunities within our funding schemes in a more prominent way.
  4. We will follow new processes and policies introduced by UKRI. We will encourage and monitor their implementation by our award-holders. We will work with colleagues across UKRI to contribute to continuous improvement.
  5. We will deliver the actions listed below:
    • Strategic documents
      Action no Action description Timing for implementation
      1. Work with colleagues to include references to the concordat in new strategic documents issued by AHRC and in our funding calls. Simultaneously, make researcher development more prominent a criterion in the Peer Review College guidance. Medium term (action to begin May 2021)
      2. Undertake a full revision of AHRC’s Research Training Framework for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) Short term (to begin in May 2021)
      3. Develop and maintain a repository of existing AHRC good practice in supporting researchers’ development. Medium term (started in April 2021)
    • Stakeholder engagement and communications
      Action no Action description Timing for implementation
      4. Consult our early career researcher (ECR) community on AHRC actions through focus groups or consultation workshops. Medium term (second half of 2021).
      5. Produce new web content to raise awareness of the concordat’s principles in the AH community and encourage its further implementation Long term (following the focus groups, this action will start in the autumn of 2021)
    • Investment portfolio
      Action no Action description Timing for implementation
      6. Explore the feasibility of launching a new ‘career bridging grants’ scheme immediately post-PhD. For example, this could either be funding for development of research proposals and writing up publications, or a research grant scheme for researchers who have never been Principal Investigators. Long term (as above)
  6. We will produce an annual update on the progress on these actions for AHRC management. A shortened version of this internal update will be published externally on our website – we want to share it in a transparent way with our community to evidence what we do, inform the dialogue and shape future activities.

Improving the career development of researchers is a long-term ambition which requires a combined effort of the whole research community and those who support them. AHRC hopes to engage with other stakeholders in this effort, and this statement is the first step towards it.

We welcome feedback which can be submitted through researcher.development@ahrc.ukri.org.

Statement signed by Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Chief Executive.

Published on 25/05/2021

Progress on actions

Updated: June 2022

UKRI has committed to supporting world-class people and careers in the research and innovation ecosystem in our strategy for 2022 to 2027, ‘Transforming Tomorrow Together’. We see AHRC activities as part of this wider commitment.

Since the publication of the AHRC Statement of Commitment to the Researcher Development Concordat in May 2021, AHRC has been successful in progressing several actions.

Action 1 progress

We have updated and extended the references to the concordat in the AHRC Research Funding Guide.

We have published a pre-announcement of the Early Career Researcher (ECR) Fellowships in cultural and heritage independent research organisations (IROs) which recommends to organisations hosting the fellows to adhere to the principles of the concordat.

We also updated the wording on the webpages for our responsive mode funding opportunities. Each of them now includes a line in the ‘What we’re looking for’ section which encourages everyone interested in these funding opportunities to follow the principles of the Concordat. The opportunities are:

Our new Strategic Delivery Plan will include skills and talent activities.

 

Action 2 progress

This action has been completed through the publication in May 2022 of the Guidance on training and developing ECRs in the arts and humanities.

We also included a reference to this guidance in the AHRC Research Funding Guide.

Based on the feedback received to date, we are pleased that our community has welcomed the guidance as a helpful tool. We would like to better assess the reach and influence of the document and identify any needs for future improvement. If you’d like to share your views, please email us at researcher.development@ahrc.ukri.org.

We have set up a process of annually reviewing this guidance and including community feedback, to ensure it remains a relevant resource for ECRs, their managers and research organisations.

 

Action 3 progress

AHRC is currently in the process of gathering examples of good practice from AHRC-funded awards for the repository. We hope to be able to launch this resource by the end of 2022.

 

Action 4 progress

Following publication of the statement we reached out to our community and recruited volunteers for focus groups. They came from a range of backgrounds and ROs, and we followed good practice in terms of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in recruitment and in running the meetings.

Three focus groups took place in the summer of 2021, each was asked the same questions, and each gave us valuable insights. We are very grateful to all the participants. We analysed the feedback, which in turn fed into our work on the new guidance and funding opportunities.

 

Action 5 progress

We have:

As this is a long-term action, we are hoping to be able to publish more inspirational content to support ECRs in the years to come.

 

Action 6 progress

Action number 6 has been addressed partially. Several new AHRC funding opportunities for ECRs have been piloted:

AHRC will continue to keep under review whether a wider scheme immediately post-PhD could be funded.

We recognise the ongoing needs of the arts and humanities ECR community, and we will continue to strive to address them. We will provide updates on progress on an annual basis.

The following pages and documents are concerned with research careers and skills development for arts and humanities researchers at the doctoral level and beyond:

  • the Research Careers and Training Advisory Group and Network provides a mechanism for AHRC to understand and discuss developments in arts and humanities doctoral training and support for early research careers
  • the partnership guide is aimed at researchers and their potential partners in the private, public and cultural sectors. It includes advice, case studies, and guidance from university Knowledge Exchange managers, research managers, AHRC staff, and others with an interest in developing partnerships
  • the Vitae Researcher Developer Statement sets out the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of effective and highly skilled researchers appropriate for a wide range of careers
  • the UK Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers is an agreement between funders and employers of research staff to improve the employment and support for researchers and research careers in UK higher education.

Last updated: 28 June 2022

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