Darlithwyr Disglair early career academic programme
The Darlithwyr Disglair programme supported early career academics with research, teaching, and bespoke training.
In July 2019, we piloted Darlithwyr Disglair/Brilliant Lecturers: a cross-university programme that offered eighteen-month, fixed-term professional development opportunities for new early career academics to take up what would be their first- or near-first lectureship. This offered a clear transition from doctoral or post-doctoral research to a University lectureship.
Each Disglair applicant was appointed by School panels, some of which piloted interview questions explicitly embracing the principles of DORA and responsible research assessment. Rather than proxy markers of research quality, such as journal impact factors, these questions focused on the individuals’ research outputs and their research vision and ambitions. Successful applicants were appointed to areas that filled teaching and research needs in Schools where colleagues had been awarded University Research Leave, giving benefits to both early career and more established researchers as an integrated scheme of research support.
36 early-career researchers were appointed in 20 of our 24 Academic Schools as the Disglair cohort. They worked in cutting-edge research spanning subjects including bioarchaeology, novel therapeutics for eye diseases, and better use of mobile technologies to support healthy habits.
Participants received targeted development support, including a four-day leadership programme, mentor matching with a near-peer colleague, and a £3,000 personal research fund.
The Disglair team also had to rethink the content of the leadership programme to take account of the changing working practices of University life under lockdown, and what life as an early career academic might look like in a post-COVID-19 Higher Education sector in the UK.
Meet our Disglair cohort
These case studies from members of the Disglair cohort in different Academic Schools across our three Colleges provide insights into the experiences that the programme offered to early career researchers.
Dr Seán Roberts was coming to the end of his contract when he saw the advert for the Disglair scheme. He was attracted by the funding and teaching and training support, as well as the investment in individuals. The courses on teaching offered as part of the Disglair scheme also helped with his application for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.
The scheme enabled him to do some short research projects that he may not otherwise have done. Among these is Future Time Reference, which is developing a service that recognises real-time changes in risk-taking from public social media posts, and Language Evolves, which created a service that helps science fiction authors to research and develop stories based on language evolution research. He also worked with video game developers, using research on interactive conversation to improve video game dialogue systems.
For Dr Ben Mead, the appeal of the Disglair scheme was the fact he would be able to balance his research alongside teaching commitments. The collegiality amongst the Disglair cohort was an important part of the experience: “There is nobody in my School at the same level as me, so being able to share and talk with people at the same career stage has been really beneficial.”
The Disglair scheme has been career-changing for Dr Georgina Klemencic. She said,
“When I applied, I felt that it was a gamble, as I had roughly the same amount of time left on my then-postdoc contract. But I felt ready to start pushing my academic career forward, and it seemed like the best way to get the relevant experience that I needed.
“The Disglair scheme has been absolutely transformational. The bespoke training plan, spanning academic practice through to funding applications, helped me develop my teaching. I received the best module evaluations in my School, while exploring my own research interests – for which I have been awarded a prestigious EPSRC New Horizons grant. None of this would have been possible without taking a chance on the Disglair scheme and I feel very grateful for all of the opportunities that have been afforded to me – especially since it's resulted in a permanent contract!”