Support for Early Career Researchers
Guidance for Principal Investigators in the School of Technology
Heads of Department in the School of Technology are committed to providing support for early career researchers. As principal investigators you have a key role in providing guidance to these researchers and this briefing document sets out ways in which you can do so.
2. Information for New Researchers
When a researcher joins the University s/he is provided with links to the following sources of information:
ECMS: This Scheme is an important example of work to embed the principles of the Concordat in Cambridge, in a way that reflects the needs and aspirations of our research community. Clear minimum standards are set out, but the intention is that the Scheme is flexible enough for it to be adapted to address the experience, needs and ambitions of individual researchers and also to the priorities and cultures of individual departments.
Careers Service: The Careers Service offers a specialised advisory service for research staff in all subject areas and offers various tools to researchers to explore and plan their careers, within higher education and in the private and public sectors. For complete access to information, staff need to register on the website; for researchers this would be as ‘Cambridge postdocs and researchers.
Training opportunities: The University skills portal provides a gateway to training and development opportunities for research staff, including Personal and Professional Development’s (PPD) opportunities designed specifically for research staff.
3. PI Support to Researchers
The ECMS includes guidance for PI’s/supervisors on managing researchers’ careers. Practical ways in which PI’s can support new researchers to review their career options at each stage of their employment are set out below:
At your initial face-to-face meeting with your researcher, as well as clarifying details about their role and the project, you should also check their career aspirations and whether there are any skills they need to develop. In addition, refer your researcher to sources of information set out below:
Career Management Tool: Information on the ECMS is included in the file of documents accompanying the employment contract, which is sent to the researcher before joining.
Please remind your new researcher of this source of information, particularly the Career Management Tool, which has been designed as a practical guide to ways in which the researcher can manage their career.
New Research Staff Welcome: Your new researcher will be sent an invitation from PPD to attend a lunchtime session (run termly). As well as an official welcome, there are short introductions from colleagues whose principal role is to support the University’s research staff.
Please encourage your new researcher to attend this event.
New researchers should be offered a mentor in line with our mentoring guidance.
You will be holding regular meetings with researcher to discuss their role within the project and their duties, in line with probationary arrangements. This should help your researcher to settle quickly into their role, developing the skills required for their work, and to start to develop a clearer idea about their future career.
Confirmation of Appointment:
Towards the end of the probationary period you will be asked by your departmental administrator to confirm your researcher’s appointment.
When you meet with your probationer to discuss this and complete the end of probation form, this is a good opportunity to check that they have registered with the Careers Service and have reviewed the training courses available to them there and through PPD.
Career Management Review: The Career Management Review (appraisal) scheme for researchers, which comes into operation after confirmation of appointment, provides an opportunity to review career plans and associated development needs, which can be recorded in the Personal Development Plan as well as training needs arising from the current research role. There is also a tool, based on the ‘researcher development statement’ set out by Vitae, which a researcher can use to identify progress in developing transferable skills.
When you hold an appraisal meeting (preferably annually but on at least a two-yearly basis) with your researcher, it is helpful to record their training and development needs using the PDP. Please also remind your researcher that there is a tool they can use to analyse key transferable skills.
Involvement in department: Encourage your researcher to contribute to the life of the department, eg through membership of Committees, networking with other postdocs, including feeding back to academic committees, and the University, through networking with other researchers, for example through membership of Pdoc, and membership of Committees outside your department.
Skills development: Support your researcher in reviewing which skills may be transferable to their future career and in developing skills, and encourage them to attend relevant courses, workshops and conferences that are available through PPD and the Careers Service, for example on time or project management, negotiation skills etc. You should give them reasonable, paid time off from work to attend these training events.
Also, support them in taking opportunities to develop skills, knowledge and experience in your area, for example through involvement in research management, teaching, publication and conference attendant, outreach activities, preparation of research proposals, suggesting new research possibilities and sources of funding.
Experience of others: give your researcher the opportunity to learn from others, for example through talks by academics/previous postdocs, within the department or as offered by the Careers Service.
Towards end of Contract:
Redeployment: If it is not possible to extend tenure, during the consultation process (see fixed term contracts guidance and open-ended contracts guidance), encourage your researcher to think about their career options, including considering and discussing redeployment opportunities within your institution; referring them to Human Resources Division for support in applying for job opportunities throughout the University, and to the Careers Service for guidance on making job applications and on career options outside the University.
- Ensure appropriate departmental structures and communication methods are in place to enable your researcher to quickly settle into their role.
- Be clear that your researcher has a role in taking forward action concerning their future career plans.
- Ensure you understand what you can do to support a new researcher in developing their career, including pointing them to other sources of specialist advice for Cambridge research staff, such as the Careers Service and PPD.