The Value of Networking for Researchers

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Your current research may be your all-consuming focus at the moment, but it is likely that you will move on in terms of both location and research remit before long.  Thinking beyond your immediate environment now will help you to plan your future in research.

Original research – the kind that gets funded – can be as a result of ‘individual creativity’, but it is also defined as a new combination or connection between ideas – the result of positive collaboration.  This idea is explored further in ‘The Creative Researcher’ booklet, part of the Vitae Researcher booklet series, which can be found at: https://www.vitae.ac.uk/vitae-publications/guides-briefings-and-information/vitae-researcher-booklets

When you reach a certain level of seniority the value of international collaborations is perhaps more obvious, but for early career researchers a regional network can be key to your next funding step.  A recent blog post from The Researcher Whisperer included a telling quote:

“I was listening to a wise old researcher the other day when she said:
International networks are lovely, but it is your national network that will get you funded … we don’t often talk about the importance of building a local network.”

Some practical reasons for networking to support future collaborations:

  • Funding opportunities are increasingly inter-disciplinary and across institutions. As just one example, RCUK has six priorities for funding which draw across the spectrum of academic disciplines and EXPECT collaboration to address the priorities.
  • REF and Impact. With ‘impact’ set to have an increasing place in the REF, wider networks can be invaluable in increasing your research profile in new areas.  Impact also looks increasingly at collaborative research with industry and the public sector.

Vitae’s training programme on ‘The Collaborative Researcher’ includes exercises focusing on how to approach planning for networking and collaboration.  In considering how ready you are to network effectively, how easily and succinctly could you answer the following questions to someone from outside your area of research?

  • What’s the focus of your current research/area of research interest?
  • What are your plans for developing/disseminating your work?
  • Do you have any ideas or opportunities for collaborating on future research?

Or, to what extent could you respond to these points positively about your research?

Provide clarity – could you or someone in your department (not your supervisor) describe your research in simple accurate terms?

How visible are you? – Does your name or work come up in a web search for your research topic?

Translate – Have you described your research in interesting and relevant terms to someone from a different faculty in the last 6 months?

Be interested – Do you make a habit of talking to other researchers about their work and do you find them interesting?

Create opportunities – Can you think of three possible applications for your expertise outside your current project … do you know where to start looking?

Tune in  – What do you think the main research questions will be in your field in five years time … how would you know?

The Midlands Research Staff Association (MidsRSA) is building on its mailing list of 100+ research staff to set up a self-sustaining forum for networking to discuss shared issues and explore future collaborations.  If you’d like to know more, or join the MidsRSA please contact midlandshub@vitae.ac.uk

If you’d like to find out more about the national Research Staff Association (UKRSA), visit: https://www.vitae.ac.uk/communities/uk-research-staff-association

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Are you looking for something new?

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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 www.vitae.ac.uk/researcherfuturestaster

Have you considered what excellent research is and the impact that it can have?

Excellent researchers understand that their work can change the world. They know that how they go about the work, and talk about it, can have a huge impact on how both their work and they, are viewed. They know how to stand out from the crowd.pencil_standing out

Vitae is running a number of professional training courses across the UK to help you consider how you can make your mark, conduct excellent research and consider the impact your research will have.

The Vitae Midlands Hub is hosting one of these courses on December 5th at Keele University. The course will draw on the current agendas of research impact demonstrated by the funding bodies and grant holders, but with specific focus on you and how you work. Through discussion and practical activities you will consider both the impact of your research, and the impact you have in the research environment in which you work.

The Vitae Midlands Hub has 18 places on this course available, and unlike other courses, this professional training is free of charge. If you would like to be considered for one of these highly sought after places then please apply through the Vitae website.

Vitae National Programmes

Every year Vitae runs a national programme of courses and events for doctoral researchers and research staff. These courses are open to all researchers and have previously been funded by the Research Councils as part of the Vitae programme.  

The Research Councils continue to fund Vitae, but the new contract, from January 2013, does not include central funding of places on GRADschools or other courses. 

Research organisations are expected to encourage and support researchers in developing their career options and that the provision of professional and transferable skills will form a fundamental part of doctoral training. Universities have flexibility in the use of research training grants and are expected to draw on these to cover the costs of providing professional development opportunities appropriate for the individual postgraduate researchers whose training is funded through that grant. In June RCUK unveiled its Statement of Expectations for Doctoral Training, which sets out common principles for the support of all Research Council-funded students. 

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Vitae continue to provide a programme of high quality courses for postgraduate researchers and research staff and can advise on costs, which will vary with length and type of course. More information is available at www.vitae.ac.uk/courses. There is also a range of resources developed by and for researchers, most of which are freely available through the Vitae website. 

 

Building a Community: The Midlands Research Staff Association

Why become involved in the Midlands Research Staff Association?

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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.

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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

Coaching and Mentoring for Researchers

This month, to complement the ‘Vitae Peer2Peer Coaching’ taster sessions run in Glasgow and Birmingham in January, we have brought together a selection of Coaching and Mentoring schemes from across the region and highlighted the free downloadable resources available from the Vitae website.

Vitae Coaching Project Resources

Some examples from the region

Nottingham Trent University

NTU have created a mentoring framework which allows staff to set up mentoring schemes in their own context. For further information Lindsay Davies, Learning and Development Manager (Academic Practice) at the Centre for Professional Learning and Development would be happy to answer any questions.

We’d love to hear your experiences of coaching and mentoring schemes? What works (and what doesn’t?)