Who ARE we?
Research staff are most often employed on fixed term contracts. They are sometimes referred to as Research Associates or Research Assistants. They are sometimes included as Early Career Researchers or ECRs but ECR opportunities are often restricted to permanent early career lecturers. Colloquially, researchers are often called Post Docs but this can belie the fact that some staff are not employed in their first post-doctoral post; they may be well past their first post doctoral appointment or previously worked in other academic posts. Researchers may be working with the intention to become a lecturer or perhaps they wish for a long, stable career in research. It is worth asking research staff about their own understanding of their identities and career paths.
The Workshop Programme
Tuning in to the Value of Research Staff was a programme of discussions, workshops and events run by 5 researchers across the faculty of Arts and Humanities and the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield (UoS) during Summer/Autumn 2015.
The programme was enabled through the Roberts Fund, facilitated by the University of Sheffield’s ThinkAhead framework “for the continuous professional development of researchers at The University of Sheffield, supporting individual career ambitions in and beyond academia”.
The aim of the Tuning in to the Value of Research Staff series of events, organised by researchers, for researchers, was to provide a platform for fixed-term research staff use creative spaces and innovative methods to explore their experiences, develop their skills and vocalise, the contribution they make to the University, in addition to forging links between researchers from different faculties.
The series comprised two skills-development workshops and a final showcase event to display outputs from the workshops, including the launch of a ‘Postcard for PIs’ which communicates how primary investigators or PIs may get the best from research staff. The programme also culminated in an exhibition of artwork and visual minutes created by Kay Aitch that reflects the discussions and ideas voiced during the workshops. During the sessions participants developed creative skills and they also supported one another to find a voice with which to vocalise the contribution they make to our University and its achievements.