The Concordat to support the career development of researchers
The publication of the original Concordat in 2008 paved the way to widespread improvements in the research environment and opportunities for professional development for researchers across the sector. However, as the recent Independent Review led by Professor David Bogle recognised, there is still much to do to create the healthy and supportive culture needed to ensure our researchers are given every opportunity to thrive and realise their potential in the increasingly diverse, mobile and global environment in which we work.
This revised Concordat recognises the critical role of research and innovation in delivering the UK’s ambitious economic and industrial strategies, and aims to set the gold standard in researcher development and use it as a competitive advantage. Two-thirds of the UK’s target to increase spend on research and development to 2.4% of GDP is expected to be achieved through investment by industry, which will necessitate the supply of well-rounded and multi-skilled researchers who can traverse the interface of academia and business. This Concordat recognises explicitly that whilst talented researchers are vital for our universities and research institutes, the majority will move on and apply their skills in highly-valued careers across a wide range of employment sectors.
The Concordat is not an end in itself. Rather, it will be a living resource that is accessible, easily updated and aligned to new strategic initiatives as they arise, and to the changing nature of research, legislation and the wider environment, which will inevitably take place over the next five to 10 years. The revised Concordat resets the expectations and provides 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.
This revised Concordat has been developed by the Concordat Strategy Group and a multi-stakeholder writing group, chaired by Professor Dianne Berry OBE. We believe that if all parties work together to ensure effective implementation of the principles, all UK researchers will be working in healthy and supportive research environments within a decade. They will be recognised and valued for their contributions in research and beyond, supported in their professional and career development, and equipped and empowered to succeed in their chosen careers.
Professor Julia Buckingham CBE
Chair of the Concordat Strategy Group
and Vice-Chancellor and President of
Brunel University London
This aspirational Concordat sets out the conditions we believe are required to create the very best culture for our researchers to thrive. We identify working practices and clear responsibilities, vital to increase the appeal and sustainability of researcher careers in the UK.
The Concordat has three defining principles covering Environment and Culture, Employment, and Professional and Career Development. For each of these principles, the Concordat outlines the key responsibilities of the four main stakeholder groups; researchers, managers of researchers, institutions, and funders. These responsibilities are cast as obligations, given the pressing need to improve standards and to ensure a consistency of experience for our researchers across the UK. Some of these obligations will take time to implement, while some may need to be adapted or, occasionally, might not be appropriate for particular signatories given the nature and mission of their organisations. It is also recognised that some of the areas of most concern to researchers, such as the prevalence of fixed-term contracts and enforced mobility, will require long term systemic changes, which can only be realised through collective action across stakeholders.
Within institutions, ownership of the Concordat and accountability at the highest level is paramount, but there also needs to be shared responsibility across the wider academic and professional communities, so that centrally agreed policies and practices are effectively and consistently implemented across all relevant units. The revised Concordat highlights the key responsibilities of those who directly manage researchers, recognising the critical role that they play. It focuses primarily on the rights and responsibilities of researchers who are employed solely or largely to conduct research, given the continuing pressing need to improve their working conditions and wider research environments. However, institutions are encouraged to apply the principles, where feasible, to other staff groups who engage in research. Finally, the revised Concordat recognises that funders are also key stakeholders, with shared responsibility for supporting the development and maintenance of healthy research cultures within the institutions they fund and for supporting the professional development of researchers. Critically, we must all hold ourselves to the principles of the Concordat at every level, and recognise our collective responsibility and accountability.
All organisations with an interest in the career development of researchers are encouraged to become signatories of the Concordat. In committing to implement its principles, signatories will undertake regular review and reporting of their progress, and contribute to sharing practice across the sector, helping to ensure ongoing improvement over the next decade.
The Concordat principles
Environment and culture
Excellent research requires a supportive and inclusive research culture
Healthy working environments attract and develop a more diverse workforce, impact positively on individual and institutional performance, and enhance staff engagement.
This Principle recognises that a proactive and collaborative approach is required between all stakeholders, to create and develop positive environments and cultures in which all researchers can flourish and achieve their full potential.
- Ensure that all relevant staff are aware of the Concordat.
- Ensure that institutional policies and practices relevant to researchers are inclusive, equitable and transparent, and are well-communicated to researchers and their managers.
- Promote good mental health and wellbeing through, for example, the effective management of workloads and people, and effective policies and practice for tackling discrimination, bullying and harassment, including providing appropriate support for those reporting issues.
- Ensure that managers of researchers are effectively trained in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion, wellbeing and mental health.
- Ensure researchers and their managers are aware of, and act in accordance with, the highest standards of research integrity.
- Regularly review and report on the quality of the research environment and culture, including seeking feedback from researchers, and use the outcomes to improve institutional practices.
- Include requirements which promote equitable, inclusive and positive research cultures and environments, in relevant funding calls, terms and conditions, grant reporting, and policies.
- Consider how funding opportunities and policies can facilitate different patterns and ways of working, and promote the wellbeing and mental health of researchers.
- Ensure that funding call requirements and selection processes offer equality of opportunity between different groups of researchers, recognise personal contexts, and promote positive research cultures and working conditions.
Managers of researchers must:
- Undertake relevant training and development opportunities related to equality, diversity and inclusion, and put this into practice in their work.
- Ensure that they and their researchers act in accordance with the highest standards of research integrity and professional conduct.
- Promote a healthy working environment that supports researchers’ wellbeing and mental health, including reporting and addressing incidents of discrimination, bullying and harassment, and poor research integrity.
- Consider fully, in accordance with statutory rights and institutional policies, flexible working requests and other appropriate arrangements to support researchers.
- Engage with opportunities to contribute to policy development aimed at creating a more positive research environment and culture within their institution.
- Actively contribute to the development and maintenance of a supportive, fair and inclusive research culture and be a supportive colleague, particularly to newer researchers and students.
- Ensure they act in accordance with employer and funder policies related to research integrity, and equality, diversity and inclusion.
- Take positive action towards maintaining their wellbeing and mental health.
- Use available mechanisms to report staff who fail to meet the expected standards of behaviour, particularly in relation to discrimination, harassment, bullying, and research misconduct.
- Consider opportunities to contribute to policy development aimed at creating a more positive research environment and culture within their institution.
Researchers are recruited, employed and managed under conditions that recognise and value their contributions
Provision of good employment conditions for researchers has positive impacts on researcher wellbeing, the attractiveness of research careers, and research excellence.
This Principle recognises the importance of fair, transparent and merit-based recruitment, progression and promotion, effective performance management, and a good work-life balance. All stakeholders need to address long-standing challenges around insecurity of employment and career progression, ensuring equality of experience and opportunity for all, irrespective of background, contract type and personal circumstances.
- Ensure open, transparent and merit-based recruitment, which attracts excellent researchers, using fair and inclusive selection and appointment practices.
- Provide an effective induction, ensuring that researchers are integrated into the community and are aware of policies and practices relevant to their position.
- Provide clear and transparent merit-based recognition, reward and promotion pathways that recognise the full range of researchers’ contributions, and the diversity of personal circumstances.
- Provide effective line and project management training opportunities for managers of researchers, heads of department and equivalent.
- Ensure that excellent people management is championed throughout the organisation and embedded in institutional culture, through annual appraisals, transparent promotion criteria, and workload allocation.
- Seek to improve job security for researchers, for example through more effective redeployment processes and greater use of open-ended contracts, and report on progress.
- Consider researchers and their managers as key stakeholders within the institution and provide them with formal opportunities to engage with relevant organisational policy and decision-making.
- Include requirements which support the improvement of working conditions for researchers, in relevant funding calls, terms and conditions, grant reporting, and policies.
- Review the impact of relevant funding call requirements on researchers’ employment, particularly in relation to career progression and lack of job security.
- Support institutions to develop policies and frameworks to promote sustainable employment arrangements and enhance job security, and provide opportunities for career progression.
- Consider the balance of their relevant funding streams in providing access to research funding and its impact at all career levels.
Managers of researchers must:
- Undertake relevant training and development opportunities so that they can manage researchers effectively and fulfil their duty of care.
- Familiarise themselves, and work in accordance with, relevant employment legislation and codes of practice, institutional policies, and the terms and conditions of grant funding
- Commit to, and evidence, the inclusive, equitable and transparent recruitment, promotion, and reward of researchers.
- Actively engage in regular constructive performance management with their researchers.
- Engage with opportunities to contribute to relevant policy development within their institution.
- Ensure that they work in accordance with, institutional policies, procedures and employment legislation, as well as the requirements of their funder.
- Understand their reporting obligations and responsibilities.
- Positively engage with performance management discussions and reviews with their managers.
- Recognise and act on their role as key stakeholders within their institution and the wider academic community.
Professional and career development
Professional and career development are integral to enabling researchers to develop their full potential
Researchers must be equipped and supported to be adaptable and flexible in an increasingly diverse global research environment and employment market.
This Principle recognises the importance of continuous professional and career development, particularly as researchers pursue a wide range of careers.
- Provide opportunities, structured support, encouragement and time for researchers to engage in a minimum of 10 days professional development pro rata per year, recognising that researchers will pursue careers across a wide range of employment sectors.
- Provide training, structured support, and time for managers to engage in meaningful career development reviews with their researchers.
- Ensure that researchers have access to professional advice on career management, across a breadth of careers.
- Provide researchers with opportunities, and time, to develop their research identity and broader leadership skills.
- Recognise that moving between, and working across, employment sectors can bring benefits to research and researchers, and support opportunities for researchers to experience this.
- Monitor, and report on, the engagement of researchers and their managers with professional development activities, and researcher career development reviews.
- Incorporate specific professional development requirements in relevant funding calls, terms and conditions, grant reporting, and policies. This should include researchers’ engagement in a minimum of 10 days’ professional development pro rata per year, and evidence of effective career development planning.
- Embed the Concordat principles and researcher development into research assessment strategies and processes.
- Acknowledge that a large proportion of the researchers they fund will move on to careers beyond academia, and consider how they can encourage and support this within their remit.
Managers of researchers must:
- Engage in regular career development discussions with their researchers, including holding a career development review at least annually.
- Support researchers in exploring and preparing for a diversity of careers, for example, through the use of mentors and careers professionals, training, and secondments.
- Allocate a minimum of 10 days pro rata, per year, for their researchers to engage with professional development, supporting researchers to balance the delivery of their research and their own professional development.
- Identify opportunities, and allow time (in addition to the 10 days professional development allowance), for their researchers to develop their research identity and broader leadership skills, and provide appropriate credit and recognition for their endeavours.
- Engage in leadership and management training to enhance their personal effectiveness, and to promote a positive attitude to professional development.
- Take ownership of their career, identifying opportunities to work towards career goals, including engaging in a minimum of 10 days professional development pro rata per year.
- Explore and prepare for a range of employment options across different sectors, such as by making use of mentors, careers professionals, training and secondments.
- Maintain an up-to-date professional career development plan and build a portfolio of evidence demonstrating their experience, that can be used to support job applications.
- Positively engage in career development reviews with their managers.
- Seek out, and engage with, opportunities to develop their research identity and broader leadership skills.
- Consider opportunities to develop their awareness and experience of the wider research system through, for example, knowledge exchange, policy development, public engagement and commercialisation.
These are defined as individuals whose primary responsibility is to conduct research and who are employed specifically for this purpose by a higher education institution or research institute. Within this group, it is recognised that these staff often have different contract types, levels of training, experience and responsibility, as well as different career expectations and intentions. Disciplinary and institutional context can also mean a broad range of job titles fall within this definition.
There are many other groups of individuals who actively engage in research within institutions and who would be expected to develop their research identity as part of their career progression, including postgraduate researchers, staff on teaching and research or teaching-only contracts, clinicians, professional support staff and technicians. However, whilst we encourage institutions to apply the benefits of the Concordat to as many of these groups as is feasible, the primary audience for this Concordat remains research staff.
Where institutions extend the beneficiaries of the Concordat to wider groups of researchers, they should communicate clearly to which groups the Concordat applies, and inform those communities of their rights and obligations.
Managers of researchers
This includes all individuals who have direct line management responsibility for researchers as defined above. These managers will frequently be principal or co-investigators on research grants, although it is recognised that some research staff may be grant-holders and be line-managed by another senior researcher or head of unit. Where institutions designate other researchers as falling within the Concordat, then the managers/supervisors of these individuals would also be included in this category. It is also recognised that outside of this group of direct line managers, other staff have management responsibilities that have direct and important influence on the research environment, culture and working conditions. These include heads of faculty, department, unit and research directors, all of whom play a key role in ensuring that centrally agreed policies and practices in support of the Concordat are effectively implemented within their units.
This includes higher education institutions and research institutes, as employers of researchers. There are many different types of institutions with varying missions, profiles and structures, as well as numbers of researchers. Many of the obligations outlined in this document are the direct responsibility of senior management and, ultimately, the governing body. However, it is recognised that within institutions there are different levels of responsibility and it is important that all relevant staff work together to implement the Concordat to drive the necessary change. It is also important to recognise the collective responsibilities of the wider research community for instilling and maintaining a supportive and stimulating research culture and environment. Staff within this wider community play essential roles in activities such as mentoring researchers and being positive role models.
This includes any organisation or institution which provides funding for public or private research, either through direct funding for research or through block funding. It is recognised that there are different types of funders within the research system with different missions and objectives, including public sector funders, charities, industry and businesses. Some universities and research institutes fund research directly, and may also be designated as ‘funders’. Given this diversity, different funders will need to consider how best to meet, or work towards, the responsibilities outlined in the relevant sections of this Concordat. Some responsibilities may need to be adapted or, occasionally, might not be relevant or appropriate to particular funders.
There is a range of other stakeholders interested in the successful implementation of the Concordat principles, including the academies, professional bodies, professional networks, representative and membership organisations, and researcher associations and networks. These organisations all have a role to play in achieving the aims of the Concordat and promoting its benefits across their communities. Many of these stakeholders may also wish to determine which of the principles, and associated obligations, are particularly relevant for their organisation, and set out how they will work towards meeting these.
Implementation and review
Any organisation with an interest in the career development of researchers may become a signatory of the Concordat by the head of the organisation publicly committing to implement the Concordat principles. In signing up to the Concordat, organisations are committing to the following responsibilities:
- Raise the visibility of the Concordat and champion its principles within their organisation at all levels.
- Identify a senior manager champion and associated group with relevant representation from across the organisation with responsibility for annual review and reporting on progress.
- For organisations employing researchers, ensure that they are formally represented in developing and monitoring organisational efforts to implement the Concordat principles.
- Undertake a gap analysis to compare their policies and practice against the Concordat principles.
- Draw up and publish an action plan within a year of signing up to the Concordat.
- Set up processes for systematically and regularly gathering the views of the researchers they fund or employ, to inform and improve the organisation’s approach to and progress on implementing the Concordat.
- Produce an annual report to their governing body or equivalent authority, which includes their strategic objectives, measures of success, implementation plan and progress, which is subsequently publicly available.
Within the Concordat there are systemic challenges that require the engagement of all stakeholders. Signatories are encouraged to collectively engage in initiatives to make progress in these areas. For example:
- Seeking ways to provide more security of employment for researchers, such as, through reducing the use of fixed, particularly short term, contracts, providing bridging facilities, and flexible criteria for maternity and paternity benefits.
- Sharing examples of emergent practice in implementing various aspects of the Concordat, particularly in tackling difficult and complex issues, such as insecurity of employment.
- Gathering and publishing data on the career destinations and subsequent career paths of researchers.
- Aligning the Concordat with other concordats and frameworks to minimise reporting requirements and drawing on existing data sources.
The Concordat governing body must:
- Maintain a steering group to oversee the implementation and review of the Concordat with appropriate sector representation, including key stakeholder groups and other stakeholders.
- Report annually to the relevant Minister and devolved administrations on key activities and progress in implementing the Concordat.
- Ensure that the Concordat, and strategies for communication and implementation, remains relevant to the wider research system and in line with the other research-related Concordats, relevant legislation, frameworks or other relevant external influences.
- Publish and regularly update a UK implementation plan for the Concordat, including a communications plan, to ensure a coherent and sustained approach by the sector.
- Set up specific working groups on topics where there are systemic challenges that require the engagement of multiple stakeholders, for example in seeking ways to provide more security of employment for researchers, improving the research culture, and aligning the Concordat with other concordats and frameworks.
- Work with relevant stakeholders to develop a consistent and robust way of tracking the careers of researchers to facilitate better understanding of career pathways, within and beyond academia, to inform Concordat related activities.
- Maintain the Concordat as an online living document, reflecting changes in the research system and understanding of good practice.
- Provide a platform to share practice and promote this for the benefit of the research community and its beneficiaries.
- Commission and publish a major review of the implementation of the Concordat after three years.
|10 days’ professional development training||An allowance for researchers to develop their professional competencies and gain experience to support their future career. Examples might include attending a training course or workshop, workplace shadowing, participating in a mentoring scheme (as mentor or mentee), committee membership, participating in policy development, public engagement, or knowledge exchange activities.|
|Appraisal||See 'Performance Development Review'|
|Bridging facilities||Bridging funding supports continuity of employment where current funding is ending, but there is a strong likelihood of additional funding being available in the near future.|
|Career development||The ongoing process of researchers taking responsibility for, and managing, their careers, through seeking professional advice and working towards set goals. A key element is documenting a career development plan, which is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.|
|Career development review||A regular review of a researcher’s career development, typically involving identification of opportunities to improve future career prospects, and related goal setting. This can be distinguished from a Performance Development Review which is typically more focused on performance in their current role.|
|Flexible working||A way of working to suit employee needs, which may involve working different hours each day, or weeks each year, or working from another location or in some other different way. All researchers have a right to request flexible working.|
|Gap analysis||A Concordat gap analysis is an organisational review of how it is meeting each of its obligations within the Concordat principles that identifies: whether it fully meets an obligation, and the evidence to support this; is working towards this, and how; or the obligation does not apply, and why.|
|Governing body||The group of people who have the authority to exercise governance over an organisation. In universities, this is usually called ‘The Council’. The membership normally includes a significant number of individuals independent of the institution.|
|Inclusive research culture||An open culture which encourages researchers from all backgrounds to be themselves at work, to contribute ideas, and be supported in their ongoing development.|
|Insecurity of employment||This is associated with people (e.g. researchers) who have little job security, and typically are employed on fixed-term contracts, which can impact negatively on their personal lives and opportunities, and is associated with increased levels of stress.|
|Knowledge exchange||Disseminating research to business, the charitable and public sectors and/or the wider community, for the benefit of the economy and society.|
|Mentoring||Mentoring is an ongoing, usually long-term, relationship between a more experienced or qualified person (the mentor) and a ‘mentee’. The purpose is to provide guidance to support the mentee through their career and personal development, through formal and informal meetings.|
|Mobility||Moving between different geographical locations or employment sectors in order to further career progression. Experience of different environments is seen as positive for a researcher’s career, but can also be out of necessity or not achievable for all researchers.|
|Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment||The process of ensuring that recruitment and selection processes are fair, that the selection criteria are clear and open, and decisions are based on merit and unbiased.|
|Performance Development Review (PDR)||A formal assessment of the performance of an employee over a particular period, including discussion of progress and professional goals. It can be used to identify skills gaps and training needs.|
|Performance management||Overseeing an employees’ work-related performance to ensure that work objectives are met in an effective and efficient manner.|
|Public engagement||Public engagement describes the many ways in which the activity and benefits of research can be shared with the wider public. Engagement is typically a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, aimed at generating mutual benefit which results in greater relevance, accountability and transparency.|
|Redeployment||A process that aims to give employees who are coming to the end of a fixed-term contract, or whose jobs are at risk, the chance to find a new role within the organisation.|
|Research culture||Research culture encompasses the behaviours, values, expectations, incentives, attitudes and norms of a research community. It determines the way that research is conducted and communicated and can influence researchers’ career paths and mental wellbeing.|
|Research environment||This typically refers to tangible aspects of the environment, including legal requirements, physical settings, availability of facilities and other resources, and opportunities to interact with a wide range of researchers, but it can be used to include the cultural aspects outlined above.|
|Research identity||Researchers increasing their impact by developing their professional research competencies and reputation through activities such as teaching, publishing, conference presentations/organisation, grant proposal writing, networking, managing budgets, knowledge exchange and secondments.|
|Research integrity||Demonstrating high standards in the conduct of research to maintain and enhance confidence in the ethics and rigour of research outcomes. Core elements include honesty, rigour, transparency and care and respect for all participants in research.|
|Research misconduct||Behaviour or actions that fall short of the standards of ethics, research and scholarship required to ensure that the integrity of research is upheld.|
|Signatories||Organisations that sign up to the Concordat, and thereby openly commit to implementing and reporting progress on its expectations.|
|Stakeholders||Groups and individuals with a common interest in the successful implementation of the Concordat.|
|Workload||The amount and type of work an employee is expected to do in a given period of time. In UK universities TRAC is used to allocate work activities across academic staff.|
Relevant legislation, frameworks and other guidance
Equality, diversity and inclusion
- Equalities Act 2010
- The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012
- The Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011
- Northern Ireland Act 1998: Equality of Opportunity
Charters and frameworks
- Advance HE Equality Charters (including Athena SWAN and Race Equality)
- UK workplace equality index
- LGBT Charter
- Project Juno
Advice and guidance
- Carer Positive Employer
- Disability Confident employer scheme and guidance
- Working Families
- Equality and Human Rights Commission
- Workplace bullying and harassment
- The Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002
- Working Time Regulations 1998
- Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA)
- ACAS Code of Practice on discipline and grievance at work
- Open, Transparent and Merit-based Recruitment of Researchers (OTM-R)
Advice and guidance
- CIPD Employment law fundamentals
- ACAS guidance on employment law
- UCU advice for research managers employing fixed-term staff
- UCU Joint Negotiating Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES)
Wellbeing and mental health
Charters and frameworks
- Universities UK Step Change
- Charter for Employers Positive about Mental Health
- What Works Centre for Wellbeing characteristics of a good job
- Mind ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’
Professional and career development
Charters and frameworks
- Vitae Researcher Development Framework
- LERU vision for researchers
- HE academy professional standards framework
- Academic Professional Apprenticeship
- HEA Fellowship
- Chartered Scientist
- Chartered Engineer
Research charters, frameworks and other related statements
Concordats and other commitments
- Concordat to Support Research Integrity
- Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research
- Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK
- Concordat on Open Research Data
- UK clinical academic training in medicine and dentistry: principles and obligations
- Technician Commitment
- University and College Union Researchers’ Charter
- HR Excellence in Research (HREiR) Award
- Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)
- Research Excellence Framework
Other related documents