The CASRAI-UK community has identified a number of issues related to the lack of an accurate and consistent way to classify researchers and scholars by the stage they are at in their academic career. In short, how does the community denote ‘research age’? There is fragmentation in the level of information - across research institutions, research funders, disciplines and countries. A classification taxonomy is needed in multiple stages of research information collection: eligibility for funding opportunities, Athena Swan and the Race and Equality Charter Mark. This activity looked at what definitions are currently in place in the UK context (REF, ECR, HESA categories, etc.) and what commonalities exist across these contexts. The output is a list of 7 terms that we propose as an international standard for classifying “academic stage” in a research career. This taxonomy draws heavily on the excellent work undertaken by the Medical Research Council for their Interactive Careers Framework: https://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/interactive-career-framework/
See this post for background on the Open Review. This review is open until June 30, 2017. The proposed standard taxonomy is NOW READY for review below.
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The purpose of the proposed “Academic Stage” standard taxonomy is to inform/assess academic research career stage for an individual. Various competencies and characteristics for each stage across a range of areas of activity are described. These sub-areas are to support identifying the core competencies an individual is likely to have acquired at a given stage of their career, and as they transition between stages. An individual may not meet all competencies across all sub-areas, and so individual judgement will still need to be used. This taxonomy is a guide to support individuals and leaders in assessing level of independence, external reporting activities (e.g. REF) and if an individual might be eligible for certain funding schemes which have a career stage criterion.
Stage 1 - EDUCATION
Up to undergraduate degree level. Working towards a recognised qualification up to completion of an undergraduate degree. Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: Developing firm knowledge-base in the fundamentals of a field; fundamental core skill-awareness.
- Funding: n/a.
- Mentoring: n/a.
- Management: n/a.
- Engagement/Impacts: n/a.
Stage 2 - TRAINING
Includes those undertaking postgraduate research - masters/doctorate. Could also be an individual with a period of work as a research assistant but without undertaking a Postgraduate Research (PGR) degree.
The individual will be acquiring initial skills in presenting work to external audiences and defending research to peers and the research community. Attending first conferences and presenting work in poster format. Potential early outputs from research (e.g. papers etc.). Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: Developing firm knowledge-base in the fundamentals of a field; fundamental core skill-awareness. Developing core technical competencies and having projects developed for them by other more established researchers for them to deliver. Developing self-management of time and resources.
- Funding: May have competed successfully for student focused funding e.g. conference funding.
- Mentoring: By end of this stage may begin to train others in technical skills acquired.
- Management: Initial building of awareness of research landscape and connections and potential collaborators.
- Engagement/Impacts: Initial awareness of research impact and purpose of stakeholder/public engagement and understanding of potential stakeholders for research.
Stage 3 - CONSOLIDATION
May be those in a first post-doctoral appointment. The individual will be acquiring additional technical and other skills (writing publications etc) and consolidating those acquired during TRAINING stage. They may be developing their own research projects. For those entering from a teaching route, it may be staff who are aiming for full academic status and carry out research but are not required to do so in their job description. Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: Contributing to the design and operation of research projects, but not Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Investigator (Co-I). Projects are still reviewed, vetted and agreed by another. Demonstrable number of outputs based on expertise acquired (e.g. papers, blogs, books). Significant contribution to the development of the output, not simply executing projects developed by others.
- Funding: May have competed successfully for local internal funding.
- Mentoring: Some developing experience in training others.
- Management: Day to day management of own tasks, with the support of the line management.
- Engagement/Impacts: Recognition of how own research fits with non-academic impact. Participation in small scale local knowledge mobilisation activities (e.g. local outreach, cultural events, local media) and early development of associated skill set. Building connections with stakeholders of their research activities (e.g. by attending industry events in addition to academic events). Awareness of sector drivers for impact (e.g. funders and assessment).
Stage 4 - EXPLORATION
May be those in a second post-doctoral appointment. Expertise and skills well developed in delivering research projects, and emerging skills in proactive project design. An individual will also have developed knowledge of grant process and publications. Ability to train others in the group in technical skills. May also be highly qualified technical staff who support research projects e.g. staff who operate sophisticated laboratory or other technical resources, without which the research project could not happen who advise on the design of research projects. Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: Have a supervisor but they have defined, and are pursuing, their own project. Developing their own research visions. Moving into own research niche. Intellectual distinctiveness from previous outputs.
- Funding: Beginning to explore small scale funding awards. May hold an external fellowship. Supporting the writing of a research bid with a more experienced colleague as PI.
- Mentoring: Expected to mentor and train new students and group members in technical activities in group. Member of the supervisory team for doctoral students.
- Management: May take on some budget management activity, roles on internal working groups or organising small conferences. Registration with professional bodies. Management of tasks within a research project.
- Engagement/Impacts: Recognise the direct contribution of their research to impact. Participation in wider scale knowledge mobilisation activities (eg. regional/national outreach and events, sector-specific partnership building) or delivery of smaller scale activities with development of associated skillset. Growing network of key local and national stakeholders for research. Understand how own research specifically aligns with sector requirements.
Stage 5 - PROGRESSION
First ‘full academic’ role and required to carry out research and teaching (and admin). Still likely to be embedded or closely linked with another more established researcher or group, and rely on the resources of others to deliver projects. Where appropriate, engagement with research impact, knowledge transfer activities or evidence of engaged research (e.g. work suitable to supporting the development of a REF impact case study or consultancy). Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: May be PI or Co-I. The individual will have significant input into the design and operation of research projects. They may define a project for delivery by another individual and mentor delivery of that project. They will be developing own niche research area that is complementary to, but not the same as the PI of lab. In the case of humanities, developing their own research theme(s), may be researching towards their second monograph, may be a member of a multi-disciplinary research centre or similar.
- Funding: Beginning to explore small scale funding awards. May hold an externally awarded fellowship.
- Mentoring: Supervise PGR studnets as first/principal supervisor.
- Management: First roles on non-technical committees or internal bodies. Active Membership of professional bodies, attending events.
- Engagement/Impacts: Recognise and articulate the direct contribution of their research to specified impacts. Development and delivery of wider scale knowledge mobilisation activities (eg. sourcing funding for events, coordinating multiple smaller scale activities, planning programme) and development of related skillset. Growing strategic network of key local and national stakeholders for research. Participation in activities to deliver/comply with sector requirements (eg. contributing to REF case study, seeking grant income with impact expectations). Demonstration of specific, small scale (eg. local) impact of research, through (e.g.) contribution to a draft/submitted REF impact case study, knowledge transfer activities or other engaged research. Have developed sufficient understanding, awareness and experience of impact to support others in smaller programmes of research.
Stage 6 - INDEPENDENCE
Will be individuals who define their own projects and gather the necessary resources for their successful delivery. Recognised by others in the field and beyond as leading research in their own niche. Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: PI or Co-I, significant input into the design and operation of research projects. Lead a research group or equivalent. Senior Research Associates/technicians with long track record of supporting research, NOT PI or Co-I but input into design and operation of research projects from their specialist viewpoint. Recognised as expert in their field by peers and juniors.
- Funding: Hold large scale funding awards (within disciplinary context) or managing research projects which involve long-term >3 year projects.
- Mentoring: Some mentoring of colleagues. Sharing of known expertise. Internal peer review of publications and grant applications offering MPhil/PhD opportunities in their research areas.
- Management: Academic citizenship e.g. Departmental roles, working groups, influencing university or other policy and strategy development. Participant role in inter-institutional bodies and communities. Keynote speaker or panel member on large conferences. Some influence within and outwith the academy e.g. joint editorships.
- Engagement/Impacts: Recognise and articulate the strategic contribution of their research, and that of the department, to specified impacts. Coordination, responsibility and delivery of wider scale programme of knowledge mobilisation activities locally and nationally, and developing associated skillsets. Growing strategic network of key international stakeholders for research. Coordination of own and (eg. departmental) activities to deliver/comply with sector requirements. Demonstration of specific, larger scale (eg. national) impact of research, through (eg) co-authoring a draft/submitted REF impact case study, knowledge transfer activities or other engaged research. Contributing to impact leadership within topic / department / research group.
Stage 7 - LEADERSHIP
Established individuals who lead research groups or centres or institutes and projects and recognised on an international stage. Typical competencies at this stage:
- Research: Large research programmes, often collaborative and inter-institutional. Internationally recognised as expert in their field.
- Funding: PI on large scale funding awards or managing research teams and project which involve long-term >3 year projects and consortia bids.
- Mentoring: Mentoring of colleagues beyond own research group - external peer reviewing and advising on departmental research performance.
- Management: Significant levels of leadership e.g. heads of department, senior roles in faculty or university, mentoring colleagues. Roles in infrastructure grants that have scope beyond the direct research interests of the individual. External inter-institutional and national roles, development of the discipline. Strategic driving role in professional bodies. Major influence within and outwith the academy and e.g. major editorships, government adviser, Peer review/editorial boards of publications and grants for funders, prestigious journals and/or major publishers. Research Track - directors/managers of specialist units who allocate resources for many research projects.
- Engagement/Impacts: Recognise and articulate multiple impact pathways within a programme of research, strategically contributing to impact nationally and internationally. Lead planning, coordination and delivery of wide scale knowledge mobilisation programme nationally and internationally, and associated skills development. Strategic network of key international stakeholders to deliver impact at scale (eg. charities, NGOs, government departments, cultural organisations). Leadership of own and team activities to deliver/comply with sector requirements. Demonstration of specific, largescale (eg. international) impact of research, through (eg) leading a draft/submitted REF impact case study, overseeing knowledge transfer activities or other substantively engaged research. Leading impact for department /research group and/or being recognised as a significant contributor to impact in the discipline/topic area.