Mind the gaps: A method for mapping researcher development opportunities across an institution

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

The field of Researcher Development (RD) emphasises the needs of the individual researcher, both as a corrective to the recent emphasis on their outputs, and as a way to promote the sustainability of research excellence across generations of researchers. Higher education institutions typically provide some RD resources, activities, and events even in the absence of a formal programme. For those institutions wishing to develop a university-wide RD programme, it is essential to identify and understand the RD opportunities which already exist at central, faculty, and departmental levels, and then build on these existing initiatives. This paper gives a first-hand, reflective account of the method used by one institution to map the resources, activities, and events available to its researchers. The authors collected data on RD initiatives across their institution, then using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework as a reference tool, they categorised each item according to the type of content it provided. A dual gap-and-balance analysis was then performed to show which types of competencies were nurtured by existing initiatives, and which were less well supported. This type of analysis can inform strategic thinking on how best to direct resources available for the development of research capabilities and inform the design of RD programmes. By bridging and building on existing RD opportunities, institutions can construct cohesive, co-ordinated, and strategic RD programmes to address the multiple capabilities required for the varied career pathways open to twenty-first century researchers.

Keywords: researcher development, research competencies, research training