Enabling support of early career researchers

For those whose role includes supporting early career (including clinical) researchers, this column requires you to recall three simple words. Manager, toolkit, vitae. Entering these words to Google will take you to the resource which this column details 

Dr Katie Sheehan
Dr Katie Sheehan is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and senior lecturer at Kings College London

We frequently hear from early career researchers about the increasing structural pressures faced when attempting to achieve their research ambitions, including maintaining clinical work. Many turn to those who have gone before for support, or management, when navigating these pressures. Indeed, managers of researchers are listed as a key stakeholder by the Researcher Development Concordat1 – an agreement on the expectations for the professional development and employment conditions of researchers in the UK. 

The Concordat outlines key principles and steps which stakeholders (including managers) must abide by. However, they are broad with limited formal guidance on how they may be implemented on a day-to-day basis. This absence of guidance fosters uncertainty as to what support is possible. Uncertainty is problematic as it contributes to inconsistencies and inequities of opportunities for early career researchers. 

To address this uncertainty, we partnered with Vitae to secure funding from UK Research & Innovation Development Network to generate toolkits detailing a wide range of activities that managers may take in support of early career researchers. They were developed following a desk review, survey, stakeholder workshops, and focus groups. The toolkits were not developed as checklists or to-do lists. Rather, they detail activities which may be implemented given their relevancy to an individual early career researcher considering their stage, goals, particular area of work, barriers that may be faced related to protected characteristics and circumstances, and the resource at an individual institution. 

We see the toolkits as a first draft to help provide structured equitable support of early career researchers. We hope the toolkits will spark future discussion on how we, as managers, may best serve exciting early career researchers. 

1Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers (Researcher Development Concordat)

Dr Katie Sheehan is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and senior lecturer at Kings College London. Katie is the first physiotherapist to be appointed to the UK Young Academy and the Young Academy of Europe

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