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The University of Southampton
Working as a Researcher

The Researcher Development Concordat

The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers often referred to as the Researcher Development Concordat is an important national document that ‘sets out the conditions we believe are required to create the very best culture for our researchers to thrive.’

The Researcher Development Concordat aims to improve the research environment, career and professional development opportunities for researchers across the UK. It was revised in 2019 to ‘[provide] a fresh impetus to drive the agenda forward through systemic change, share good practice and ensure that the highest standards are consistently applied throughout the UK.’

There are three defining principles of the Concordat with key responsibilities for four main stakeholder groups across each of the principles (Figure 1).

A diagram showing the three principles of the Researcher Development Concordat (Principle 1: Environment and Culture; Principle 2: Employment; Principle 3: Professional and Career Development) with arrows pointing to a circle containing the key stakeholde
Figure 1 Principles and key stakeholders of the Researcher Development Concordat

The University of Southampton has been implementing the Researcher Development Concordat since 2009. By implementing the Researcher Development Concordat, the University is aligning with the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for their Recruitment . We participated in the HR Excellence in Research (HREiR) award between 2012 and 2024, and became a signatory to the revised Researcher Development Concordat in November 2020.

Research staff are essential to the University’s core mission, with early career researchers our largest single cohort of staff. Our researchers make vital contributions to wider society through their work.

Our vision is to empower our research staff to be engaged in the University and better connected within it, so that they can participate fully in institutional life and be recognised and rewarded for the valuable contributions they make. Our aim is to enable research staff to take control of their professional life, to be aware of the range of opportunities available to them both internally and externally, and to encourage researchers to build their skills and experience and develop sustainable careers.

Our Researcher Development Concordat action plans are aligned with the University's Research, People, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise, and International strategic plans and priorities.

All action plans and progress reports for the Researcher Development Concordat and HREiR can be found below.

Why does the Researcher Development Concordat Matter?

The University is committed to delivering world-class research and to creating a community that values independent thought and encourages originality and innovation among its staff and students. It is through our staff that the University has distinguished itself internationally as a hub of invention, creativity and research leadership. We will attract, reward, nurture and retain staff of the highest academic ability, working to create a dynamic, exciting and profoundly interconnected research environment in which they can flourish.

The Concordat is a key policy driver and enabling document for ensuring we place researchers at the heart of realising our strategic ambition. The Concordat requires us as employers and employees to take our policies, procedures, rights and responsibilities seriously. The Concordat has important implications for the following groups:

  • Researchers
  • Researcher managers/Principal Investigators (PIs)
  • Senior managers and management teams in Faculties and Professional Services
  • HR Specialists
  • Staff developers
  • Careers specialists

The Vitae Researcher Development Concordat webpage contains lots of useful information, including briefing notes for all of the above groups, strategy, news and events.

What is the University doing about the Researcher Development Concordat?

The University has:

  • Created Researcher Development Concordat Champion roles in each Faculty to ensure greater research staff representation at Faculty and institutional levels, and support the local implementation of the principles;
  • Established the Concordat Advisory Group (CAG), which has oversight of the implementation of the Researcher Development Concordat;
  • Conducted an institutional ‘gap’ analysis and identified areas for action, which we continue to monitor and discuss at CAG and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee;
  • Aligned Researcher Development Concordat governance with other institutional awards, such as the Technician Commitment, Athena SWAN, Race Equality Charter, Mental Health Charter and Disability Confident under the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee;
  • Aligned the Researcher Development Concordat and HREiR action plans with University strategic plans;
  • Invited researchers to participate in the biennial Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey (CEDARS);
  • Periodically reviewed our recruitment processes against the Open, Transparent and Merit Based Recruitment of Researchers (OTM-R) checklist;
  • Committed to an ongoing programme of continuous improvement of our research culture, with regular action planning and reporting (see plans and reports above) that has enabled us to maintain our signature to the Researcher Development Concordat since 2009.

What is my role within the Concordat?

All staff connected with research should:

  • Familiarise themselves with the principles of the Researcher Development Concordat
  • Be aware of the University and their Faculty’s Action Plans
  • Apply existing HR processes and procedures to researchers

PIs/line managers of researchers should:

  • Have a specific responsibility to ensure HR policies and procedures are always applied to researchers
  • Enable researchers to build their CVs and develop their professional careers
  • Ensure that researchers are enabled to take their 10 days per annum (or pro rata) of professional development, including costing for this in grant applications where feasible.

Research staff are encouraged to:

  • Join their local research staff group or post-doc association, to participate in the implementation process in their Faculty, School and/or Department
  • Be pro-active e.g. raise issues, vocalise concerns and share examples of good practice
  • Participate in the CEDARS survey and other opportunities to provide feedback about career support and development
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