That’s all folks!

On December 31st 2014 the Midlands Hub will be closing its doors for the final time. Ten years have gone so fast and it has been great to have such wonderful company on the journey from Set for Success to UK GRAD through to Vitae.

In 2004, the Midlands Hub was formed and the regional office was set up at the University of Warwick. The Hub was advised by representatives from the six founding member institutions:

  • De Montfort University
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Warwick

By 2010 there were 15 member institutions supporting the Midlands Hub and by the end of 2014 all 22 universities in the Midlands were receiving Vitae news and resources to support the development of their researchers, supervisors, senior staff and researcher developers.

The next phase of the adventure will see some exciting changes but for the final post from the Midlands Hub I wanted to take you all on a trip down memory lane. Sit back and have a look through the photo albums of the Midlands Hub – remark on how young we all looked and note that like a fine wine, we have aged beautifully.

A trip down memory lane

Vitae, of course, continues after December, so please ensure you have registered to access the new Vitae website ( and find out if your university has bought a membership Vitae from January 2015.



Focus on Leadership


We have all heard stories about inspirational leaders and what they have achieved but what is your leadership story? Whether you are just starting out or have been in a leadership position for many years there are always areas for improvement. In 2015 the Midlands Hub will be offering the opportunity to 20 researchers to improve their leadership skills by taking part in a 2 day leadership course.

Preparing for Leadership for Research Staff is a course specifically for researchers who are in the first 4 years of their postdoctoral career and who are starting to take on leadership roles or who wish to take on more leadership roles in the future.

team work for success

The 2 day course will take place on the 8th and 9th of Janaury in Birmingham and will take participants though many aspects of leadership including:

  • Leading self
  • Intellectual leadership
  • Team leadership

By the end of this programme, you will be better able to:

  • Appreciate the critical situations that have led you to be successful to date
  • Consider what leadership might mean
  • Understand yourself and your preferences that will allow you to exercise leadership in a way that suits you
  • Clarify the tasks that are expected of you both now and in future roles
  • Identify the areas of competency that are required for the next steps into leadership positions
  • Create a vision and strategy to implement; decide what is important for you
  • Decide the culture you want to create
  • Decide how to get the best out of other people
  • Decide how to develop yourself to do all of these things more effectively
  • Appreciate what is important and essential in any future role
  • Develop a peer network



If you would like to know more about your leadership style take a look at The Leading Researcher; it gives an overview of different leadership styles and offers advice and guidance on how you could gain more leadership experience in your current role regardless of whether you are the boss or not.


Effective academic writing: no-one’s first language.



It is commonly assumed that postgraduate and particularly postdoctoral researchers will have already learned everything they need to know to write for scholarly publication as students. However, in a recent Vitae Midlands Hub workshop, Catalina Neculai, pointed out the fact that “academic writing is no-one’s first language”. Collaborating on Researcher Development (CoRD): Academic Writing Case Studies was a workshop held on 15th May which brought together researcher developers from across the region to look at different examples and models of inspiring academic writing support and training.

The case studies included:

  • The work of the Centre for Academic Writing (CAW) at Coventry University. CAW has a whole institutional teaching and consultancy approach to writing support: also carrying out pedagogical research to further inform their teaching and support.
  • The writing summer school offered by the University of Birmingham, addressed a gap in academic writing provision at discipline level and the differences in what can be meant by ‘academic writing’.
  • The Warwick Writing Programme of workshops, individual meetings and group away days. Along with the Thesis Writing Group for students, this provision highlighted the importance of making researchers conscious of how they write and tools/strategies for improvement.
  • The Social Writing Series at the University of Nottingham is so-called because it brings students together with a facilitator and is self-directed in a ‘shut up and write’ programme for target orientated writing.
  • The doctoral writing provision at the University of Leicester, which includes the peer review of doctoral writing.

The range of offerings certainly showed how different models have been developed by institutions to meet specific needs, but also highlighted some common considerations.

Researchers can and do learn a great deal about writing FOR their disciplinary peers FROM their disciplinary peers. However, if someone lacks knowledge or confidence in their academic writing abilities, support from the wider network of university experts can be very valuable. From structured workshops to facilitated ‘space’, time to work on academic writing skills can give someone the confidence to develop their ‘writing language’.   An improved skill-set will give an individual confidence in presenting their work back in a disciplinary setting, but in a time when the majority of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers are increasingly making their longer term careers outside academic research, confident writing is a real asset.

If you’d like to find out more about the presentations, discussions and recommendations from this CoRD meeting, please contact

If you are interested in this topic you may like to attend ‘Future Directions in Academic Writing’ – the 15th biennial Writing Development in HE Conference. The event is being held at CAW, Coventry University this year, on 9th – 11th July. For further details visit:

What is Unconscious Bias?

people around the globe

‘Unconscious Bias’, sometimes known as implicit bias, has become quite a buzz-phrase in training recently: a thought-provoking consideration in any working environment, including higher education and research. Issues pertinent to equality and diversity have found new focus with the Athena SWAN award ( ) links to funding in STEMM subjects, plus the more recent trial by the Equality Challenge Unit of the Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM) for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences ( ). ‘ Unconscious bias’ looks at how we think and how we act.
This month’s blog aims to highlight some of the key considerations and tips, plus sign-posting to further information.
So, what is unconscious bias?
In psychological terms it is a bias we are unaware of, or is outside of our control, triggering automatic judgements and assessments influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. This can have an effect at work, not least in recruitment, interviews, appraisals and promotions. We all have such biases but their effects can be reduced by positive awareness on a personal level and positive strategies in the workplace.
Be aware.
By understanding the existence of our unconscious biases we can mitigate their impact. On an individual level for example, if you are being interviewed but feel that a disability of situation in your life may count against you, volunteer the information to overcome any assumptions that may be made by the panel. In the wider workplace, processes, policies and procedures can be reviewed to mitigate shared or potential biases. For instance, build in diversity as a requirement on recruitment panels or even research project advisory groups.
Take action.
To find out more you may wish to visit the ‘Teaching Tolerance’ website: . This is linked to ‘Project Implicit’ and Harvard’s Hidden Bias Tests. If you’re interested in taking one of the tests on a range on topics visit: … they can be an eye-opener.
Ultimately, even if you are aware of your biases, and those of the people you work with, it is up to the individual WHAT action they choose to take.
Vitae have a programme of resources linked to equality and diversity issues in the HE research environment. ‘Every Researcher Counts’ materials can be found at: , primarily for use by researcher developers to support research staff and academics leading projects. Please register (free) with Vitae to see the full range of resources available, or contact the Midlands Hub manager ( ) for ideas on how best to use the case studies and other programme material, to further the understanding of equality and diversity issues at your institution.

Getting Started in Research


If you are new to research or just overwhelmed with what makes a successful researcher you may like to consider using one of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework lenses. Vitae recently published a Getting Started in Research lens to help those who are new to research begin their development journey. The lens focuses on the descriptors required to start out in research and to begin developing as a researcher.

Using the Getting Started in Research lens,  or our other lenses, may also help to alleviate the sense of complexity that some researchers experience when they first encounter the RDF.

Are you looking for something new?


Did you know that Vitae has a number training courses for you to use with your research staff?

Whether you are looking for a one or two day course, or are looking for something you could run over a number of sessions,  this is your opportunity to come and hear more about the range of courses on offer, and in particular to get a taste of a newly developed course:

Making your Mark – Introduction to Impact and Engagement

To book your FREE place go to

Equality and Diversity for Researcher Careers

people around the globe

As many of you will know, the Equality Act 2010 replaced previous anti-discrimination law consolidating and streamlining it into a single act. The Act recognises that different treatment is necessary to ensure equality and recognises nine protected characteristics: age, disability (including carers of disabled people), gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation.

In 2011 Vitae led the project ‘Every Researcher Counts: equality and diversity in researcher careers in HE‘ which was funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England with support from the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for Education and Learning Northern Ireland who see these activities as an important part of their implementation strategy for the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

This successful project achieved the following:

  • Flexible materials and resources for staff developers to embed in leadership development programmes for principal investigators
  • A network of over 100 equality and diversity champions
  • Briefing papers for staff developers; PIs, research group leaders and research managers; and senior managers and HR specialists
  • A selection of case studies providing examples of embedding equality and diversity practices in institutions.

Want to know more? The Vitae SWW Hub would like to invite staff involved in supporting researchers to the following FREE event:

Equality and Diversity in the Researcher Environment
Tuesday, June 11 at Bristol Zoo – 10.00- 15.30

The purpose of this event is to inform participants of the strategic importance of equality and diversity policy and practice for researchers, embedded in the research environment, particularly in view of the RCUK Statement of Expectations for Equality and Diversity.

Equality and diversity initiatives for researchers in HEIs are often focused on achieving parity for women, but through a new programme of activities Vitae, working on behalf of the Research Councils and funding bodies, would like to promote a broader awareness of equality and diversity issues in this area to research managers and leaders.

The event is FREE to attend, but we ask participants to pay their own travel expenses.
To book your place,and for more details of the programme  go to:

Building a Community: The Midlands Research Staff Association

Why become involved in the Midlands Research Staff Association?

researcher large

The Midlands RSA is part of the UK Research Staff Association (UKRSA), an association of researchers working to represent the interests of research staff in universities and research institutes.

The Midlands RSA aims to build a community of researchers across a wide range of disciplines, which can provide you with a support network regardless of where your next contract might take you. Every member of the Midlands RSA is encouraged to actively participate in improving their own personal and professional development, offering opportunities to engage with like-minded colleagues. The Midlands RSA will support you in developing a successful research career, facilitating networking and collaboration and providing wider access to resources. We also aim to share best practice between institutions, improving provision of career support and guidance across the region.

If you:

  • utilize social networking tools to share information
  • want to be part of a supportive community you can access regardless of your location in the Midlands
  • enjoy communicating online
  • have an interest in career development, employment rights, equality and diversity, research ethics, funding, impact, or researcher mobility
  • feel passionately about an issue that affects research staff and is not listed above
  • have a brilliant idea that must see the light of day
  • enjoy networking
  • are interested in research policy or
  • have taken the time to read every item on this list

then there is a place for you as a member of the Midlands RSA. 

Membership is free and you can join today.

All researchers and research-related organisations are welcome to participate in Midlands RSA activities. All members of research staff employed in Midlands-based institutions are eligible for membership of the Midlands RSA and the UKRSA committee, and for positions of leadership within the UKRSA. The Midlands RSA contributes to the work of the UKRSA, who work with Vitae to implement Principle 5 of The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers : ‘Individual researchers share the responsibility for and need to pro-actively engage in their own personal and career development, and lifelong learning.’ 

Other ways you can connect with the Midlands Research Staff Association

You can also join our Midlands Research Staff Association Linkedin group , like us on  Facebook ,  follow us on Twitter @MidlandsHub and subscribe to updates of the Midlands Hub Blog.


Alex Tarr from the University of Nottingham is the current Chair of the Midlands Research Staff Association. We are looking to recruit a co-chair to support the work of the association. If you would like to be considered for this position please complete the short online application form

Who supports the supporters?

This month, we are asking ‘Who supports the supporters?’

The Vitae Midlands Hub has an active network of Researcher Developers who meet twice a year to share practice, swap experiences and network with other staff from neighbouring universities. 

“As a new member of Warwick’s research student development team, this was my first Vitae Hub meeting and I found it a really productive forum for ideas and conversation with colleagues in other institutions. The meeting struck me as particularly valuable as a sounding board for new initiatives and a site for openly sharing best practice”. Dr Emma Smith Research Student Skills Programme Co-ordinator, University of Warwick

Those who regularly attend the meetings have come to see them as part of  “…an essential network on which those of us working with different institutions, have come to rely. They are the Researcher Developer Linked-In network, which allows us to share best practice, and manage our relationships across this complex and diverse sector.” Researcher Developer, Loughborough University

The Midlands Researcher Developer Forum is always open to new members and will next meet in May 2013.


If you would like an opportunity to meet other Researcher Developers before May why not come along to the Vitae South West and Wales Hub Annual Good Practice event at Bristol Zoo on Wednesday 27th February. Researcher Developers from across the South West, Wales and the Midlands will be given the opportunity to hear about new Vitae initiatives and network with like minded staff.

The keynote speaker at this year’s event is Professor Teresa Rees, Associate Director, Wales, Leadership Foundation who will be talking about leadership for researchers

Other topics include :
 PechaKucha session
20 slides, 20 secs each slide – a short sharp information input!
·        Preparing for  the HR Excellence 2 year Review
·        Digital Literacies for Researchers
·        The Socially Innovative Researcher
·        Researcher-led initiatives
·        Sharing provision across postgraduate researchers and research staff

Workshops on
·        Coaching and Mentoring
·        Engaging researchers with parliamentary impact
·        Achieving a step change in UK provision for Research Staff
·        Supporting PGRs who teach including results from the latest NUS survey
·        Equality and diversity
·        RDF Planner and Implementation
·        Vitae courses for researchers

Book your place on

Other ways that the Midlands Hub is supporting Researcher Developers is through our online community and mailing lists. If you would like join our basecamp group please contact

A date for your diary Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th September 2013 Vitae Researcher Development International Conference 2013: Realising the Potential of Researchers



PhD Potential: Peer-2-Peer Coaching Taster for Staff Supporting Researchers


A very snowy Birmingham played host to the SWW and Midlands Hub Peer2Peer Coaching Taster workshop last week. Participants from Exeter to Glasgow traveled to the Midlands to learn more about the programme which emerged from work by the Vitae coaching project group (established as an outcome from Vitae Connections2 event -November 2010). Jeff Gill and Will Medd, who have written the programme, were on hand to lead the participants through a series of taster activities and answer questions about the programme and how it has run at Lancaster University and at the University of Manchester.

*Objectives and outcomes of the Peer-2-Peer Coaching Skills Programme

The Peer-2-Peer Coaching Skills Programme has been designed to provide postgraduate researchers with core coaching skills and techniques to enable them to thrive in their doctorate while developing skills for the future. The emphasis of the programme is in enabling PGRs to use coaching skills in relationship with their peers as well as self-coaching.

The objectives of the programme are to:

  • apply coaching skills to support the performance and development of individual PGRs
  • train PGRs in peer coaching skills to enable better peer support
  • enable PGRs to self-coach in areas identified from the Vitae Researcher Development Framework

The key outcomes will be:

  • PGRs with core coaching skills that they can use to support their peers
  • PGRS with core self-coaching skills that they can apply to their PhDs performance and the development of their employability skills
  • PGRS with enhanced employability through the coaching skills learnt
  • PGRS able to maximise their learning from other training programmes

Who the programme is for?

The programme has been designed specifically for PGRs (though is adaptable to Contract Researchers). Any PGR who could improve some aspect of what they are doing or experiencing, or who wants to get more out of their work can benefit from the programme. PGRs could bring issues around wanting to improve specific skills sets (e.g. time management, presentations), improving particular areas of performance (e.g. writing, publishing), or around personal and professional development (e.g. leadership qualities, work-life balance).

*Extract from PhD Potential: Peer-2-peer coaching skills programme. Programme Leader and Facilitator Manual © 2012 The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) Limited.

If you were unable to attend this taster session, but would like to know more about the PhD Potential: Peer2Peer Coaching resources please contact or for further information.