The Researcher Development Concordat is an agreement between universities, research institutes and funders to support the career development of researchers in the UK. In its annual report, Julia Buckingham, Chair of the Researcher Development Concordat Strategy Group, says that it has been “heart-warming to witness the willingness of colleagues to collaborate, share good practice and discuss problems openly, recognising it is incumbent on all of us to support our developing researchers and that, without doubt, we can do it better together”.
Partnerships across the research sector
Collaboration is integral to our approach at Inkpath. The relationships we form with our clients are genuine partnerships and this is something we keep front and centre as we embark on and develop our projects with universities, Doctoral Training Partnerships, and professional associations. These close relationships have been transformative for us, our partners, and their researchers, especially when we have worked together to implement the principles of the Concordat.
The Concordat enshrines a commitment on the part of its signatories to developing a consistent and robust way of tracking the careers of researchers, facilitating better understanding of career pathways within and beyond academia. In the annual report, our partner Brunel University London discusses the use of our lifelong skills and career development platform for the central coordination of researcher development. The University describes the platform as a “one-stop shop for all researchers, enabling them to plan, book, record and reflect on their formal and informal development”.
All Brunel doctoral and postdoctoral researchers are registered on the platform with free access as part of its graduate school provision. Through the system, the University can target opportunities to different groups, teams, and cohorts. Researchers can also add self-identified opportunities to the system, helping to ensure that their development portfolio is complete and inclusive of diverse activities.
Holding institutions to account
The Concordat is a voluntary agreement, and adherence to its principles may vary across different institutions. The risk with this voluntary nature, of course, is that institutions – stretched as they are – may not find themselves able to fully prioritise or commit to its principles, perhaps resulting in inconsistent support for some researchers. Inkpath has allowed Brunel University London to hold itself to account against these principles in an efficient way, providing instant, rich data with which to assess how it is implementing the word and spirit of the Concordat across its diverse population of researchers.
The lifelong aspect of Inkpath’s platform ensures that all of Brunel’s users retain access to their accounts even after they leave the university and in perpetuity, allowing them to continue to build their development portfolios over the course of their careers. This is coupled with Brunel’s unique offering of continued access to inhouse careers support for up to three years after the end of contract for all research staff, regardless of where they go, providing a truly lifelong combination of support resources, materials and tools.
Empowering researchers to take ownership of their learning
Brunel wanted to empower its researchers to take more ownership of their learning and embolden them to participate in development activities that go beyond training courses or workshops. It’s not just about ticking boxes – reflecting on practices and articulating what skills they have gained from a range of career and professional development experiences is just as valuable. This enables them to consider what they have learnt and then plan their next steps.
The Concordat serves as a valuable framework for research institutions to assess and improve their support systems and policies for researchers. It is something we’ve aligned our platform with since the inception of Inkpath, and we’re thrilled to be the only technology provider recognised in the report.