The most important things you should know about Research Staff Associations (RSAs)

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Vitae recently organised their annual Research Staff Conference. This year the event drew researchers from across the world! We heard from those who had carved out a career in academia and from those who had moved out in to research related opportunities in senior government roles. The Midlands Hub was involved in running a discussion based workshop on Research Staff Associations.  

The Midlands Hub Manager was joined by a panel of researchers actively involved in running local RSA and also involved in the UKRSA (Alex Tarr, Midlands Research Staff Association Chair; Rebecca Elvey, University of Manchester; Patrick Hadoke University of Edinburgh)

So, what are the most important things I should know about RSAs?

There are many benefits for members and for organising committees of RSAs, these include

    • Networking and finding people to work, discuss and collaborate with from outside of you department/school
    • Potential interdisciplinary opportunities
    • Professional Development opportunities
    • Opportunity to find a formal or informal research mentor
    • Ability to take control of your own future
    • Being involved in a grassroots organisation
    • Being involved in an association that has access to senior committees and members of staff at university management level
    • A greater understanding of formal committees and how to change things through a committee organisational structure
    • Develop skills in event organisations, networking, budget management, people management and striking the balance between work/other work/ home life

These benefits seem great I hear to say, so how do I get a RSA started at my university?

The overwhelming piece of advice was to start small (or at least not worry if you start small!) then it was important to:

    • Find out the issues and identify topics that will engage research staff
    • Invite members to suggest areas and themes for the RSA
    • Find a dedicated group of ‘doers’ to help push things forward – but don’t ask them to do everything, rotate their roles
    • Bring people together to talk about their issues but always remember to advise that an RSA is not a HR union or counseling service – signpost to other departments and organisation that offer this support
    • Make the benefits clear to members to encourage them to promote the RSA in their departments and networks
    • ‘Sell’ the benefits of committee members to encourage them to remain and recruit new members
    • Remember that an RSA is a communities, therefore, it should not take over just one persons life – share the responsibility with other community members

 

Some helpful organisations and places to find further information

UKRSA

www.ukrsa.org

A Guide to Research Staff Associations

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/CMS/files/upload/UKRSA_Guide2010_Dec13.pdf

Midlands Research Staff Association

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/policy-practice/596901/Midlands-Research-Staff-Association.html

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