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


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


A Guide to Research Staff Associations

Midlands Research Staff Association


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