Episode 8

Published on:

6th Feb 2023

(S1 Bonus 1) The Researcher Development Concordat - as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.......

In our weekly Research Culture Uncovered conversations we are asking what is Research Culture and why does it matter? This bonus episode is released as part of our Concordat Awareness Month at the University of Leeds (January 2023). In this episode your host Emma Spary takes you through an introduction to the Researcher Development Concordat, what it is and how it forms a key part of research culture.

The Concordat is an agreement between universities, research institutes and funders to support the career development of researchers in the UK. In this short introduction we cover everything you need to know to get involved, including:

  • One Agreement
  • Two Names
  • Three Principles
  • Four Stakeholders
  • How you can get involved
  • Why you should get involved

Emma also highlights the Researcher Development Concordat website created by Universities UK. Here you can get a copy of the Concordat and find out who has signed up.

Be sure to check out the other episodes in this season to find out more about the hosts Emma Spary, Ged Hall, Tony Bromley, Ruth Winden and Nick Sheppard with a few special guest appearances.


Follow us on twitter: @ResDevLeeds, @OpenResLeeds, @ResCultureLeeds

If you would like to contribute to a podcast episode get in touch: academicdev@leeds.ac.uk


Welcome to the Research Culture Uncovered podcast, where in every episode we explore what is research culture and what should it be. You'll hear thoughts and opinions from a range of contributors to help you change research culture into what you want it to be.


Hi, it's Emma, and for those of you who don't know me yet, I lead the researcher development and culture team at the University of Leeds and in this role I get to work on all aspects of research culture. And I'm also responsible for the researcher development Concordat. In this bonus episode that we're releasing as part of our Concordat awareness month at the University of Leeds, we're going to spend the next 10 minutes, possibly 15 if I get carried away, going through an overview of what the Concordat is, why it's important, and importantly, how you can get involved whether you are at Leeds or within your own institution. So let's use its full name, the Concordat to support the career development of researchers, but for those of us that work with it on a regular basis, that's quite a mouthful, so it's become shortened to the Researcher Development Concordat.

year review back in:

The result was a new, updated and published version in 2019. The Concordat is an agreement between universities, research institutes and funders to support the career development of researchers working in the uk. So, so far we have one agreement that has two names, and I'm now going to introduce the three principles and four stakeholder groups that make up the Concordat.

So as I just mentioned, there are three main principles. The first one is environment and culture, and this principle seeks to create and develop positive environments and cultures in which researchers can achieve their full potential. So you can expect to find actions that attract and develop a more diverse workforce, actions that impact positively on individual and institutional performance and actions to build staff engagement.

Some of the requirements within this principle include providing a supportive and inclusive research culture with equitable and transparent institutional policies and practices, initiatives to cover mental health and wellbeing that tackle bullying and harassment, and ensure that research is conducted with the highest standards of research integrity.

The second principle covers employment, and it sets out the standards by which researchers are recruited, managed, recognized, and rewarded. So it's no surprise that within this principle you can expect to find actions on open, transparent recruitment, fair and inclusive selection processes, recommendations to ensure that researchers are integrated into their community.

And the recognition of all of the efforts that our researchers make beyond their research project. So considering the full range of their contributions. It also ensures that there are processes in place to provide excellent people management. So this could include things like annual appraisals, transparent promotion criteria, and opportunities for researchers to engage in organizational policy and decision making.

The third principle is professional and career development. And this one champions the importance of continuous development to support researchers as they pursue a wide range of careers. This principle also recognizes that all careers with research are valuable and that there is no one career path that is better than any others.

In this principle, you'll find one of the most well-known actions, and that is to provide a minimum of 10 days professional development time prorata to our researchers so that they have time to explore their research careers. You will also find actions around providing training and support for researchers, helping them to create their own research identity, developing their research leadership skills, and having regular constructive career development conversations as part of annual reviews.

There are also recommendations around mentoring and actions that help to embed career development within an institution's culture. So that's the three principles done, and as you can see, there is an element of overlap and all three work together. So now it's on to the four different stakeholder groups. The first one is nice and easy,

it's the researchers. So the Concordat is primarily there to help researchers who are employed to conduct research and who are often on externally funded contracts. But some institutions, including Leeds, have decided to broaden their definitions. And as part of our governance, we have to say who falls under the remit of our Concordat,

so you should be able to find your Concordat definition on your institutional webpage. Next we have the managers of researchers, so this normally includes anyone who has direct line management and responsibility for researchers, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the principal investigator. It could be a lab manager, or it could be a head of school.

But it also doesn't stop at the immediate line manager, and the concordat recognizes the role that senior leaders play in implementing the Concordat within their institutions. This is one of the new definitions in the updated Concordat, and it recognizes that the managers of researchers play an integral role in supporting and encouraging their researchers to engage with the Concordat.

Next, we have the institution and many of the actions within the Concordat happen at the institutional level, and without this collaborative support, progress wouldn't be made. The institution is also responsible for the governance and reporting on the progress they are making against those three principles.

And just in case you've forgotten what they were, it's environment and culture, employment, and professional and career development. And finally, we have the funders, the organizations and institutions that provide research funding. Many of the funders have signed up to the researcher development Concordat and have their own Concordat implementation plans, setting out exactly how they are supporting institutions, managers, and researchers to engage across the three principles.

So now I've given you all of the background on what the Concordat actually is. I'm hoping you're starting to see why it's important. Many institutions are starting to look at the Concordat as a core part of their research culture plans. It covers employment, the environment and development, which are all fundamental aspects of a positive, inclusive, supportive research culture.

So it's no surprise that the two go hand in hand. Some institutions are looking at the recommendations within the Concordat to see where they can expand those benefits to other groups and communities. The collaborative nature of the Concordat is also key to delivering cultural change. And for any of you that have listened to my previous episodes, you'll have heard me talk about culture needing the combined effort of everybody within that research culture, whether they're delivering or supporting the delivery of research.

And that culture change is slow and it needs people and institutions to keep pushing, championing, and challenging. The Concordat is also a sector-wide agreement. So any changes in culture that happen within an institution are also playing a key role in changing the culture of our sector, whether that's through sharing of best practice, highlighting challenges that we all face, or coming together as a large group to tackle some of the bigger issues.

So I know you're all now sitting there thinking, well, this all sounds great. How can I get more involved? Well, the first place to start is getting a copy of the Concordat, and you can do that from the website created by Universities UK. And I should have said earlier on that Universities UK is the secretariat of the Concordat.

They ensure that it is a living document and they oversee the annual reports of all those institutions that have signed up. And I will put a link to their website in the show notes. The next thing you can do is find out whether or not your institution is a signatory, and there are two ways in which you can do this.

First, from the Concordat website that I've just mentioned, all institutions, including funders that have signed up, are listed. Or you can have a look on your own institutional website. When we sign up, we have to ensure that people are aware and that all of our action plans, implementation plans, and progress are publicly available.

So if your institution is signed up, then more likely than not, you will have a Concordat website somewhere. As I just mentioned, all signatories have to create an action or an implementation plan. They're essentially the same thing. It sets out a series of actions against each of the three principles for each of the three stakeholder groups, the researchers, the managers, and the institution.

We don't include the funders in our action plans because let's be honest, we can't tell the funders what to do. It normally covers a period of between two and four years, and within these action plans, you'll find out what your institution is doing, who's responsible for delivering that action, how they plan to monitor and evaluate the progress and the time scales for delivery, so they can be pretty detailed and long to read, but it's well worth it.

If you are also wondering how to get involved with the Concordat work at your institution, the action plans are a great place to head. If you are a manager, you can find actions that are relevant to you, and if you are a researcher, you'll find the ones that are relevant to you. Many, if not all institutions include researchers when they build their action plans.

This helps us to ensure that what we think is needed is actually what is needed. So there may be opportunities to engage in short surveys or focus groups, events where you can tell us what you need and those action plans then become co-created documents. The action plan will also tell you which teams are responsible for actions in your institution and how you can find out more about that particular project or piece of work.

We do tend to find that a lot of support for the Concordat comes from researcher developers. So if you do have a researcher development team in your institution, they might be a good place to start. Many institutions are also looking for researchers and managers of researchers to be part of their governance groups, either as champions or as representatives becoming the bridge between the committees and the researchers.

We hear a lot about how difficult it is to get people to be part of these groups, but if you want to make a difference and have your say in supporting researchers at your institution, become a representative and make sure that your voice is heard. At Leeds, we are always looking for enthusiastic researchers to engage with our work.

If you're listening to this as a manager of researchers, then please encourage your researchers to engage with what is on offer and also help to create opportunities for them to do so. Behavior really does feed behavior, and if your researchers see you as a research leader engaging with development and implementing the Concordat, they in turn will do this themselves.

if you're listening to this as someone who supports research or researchers, then don't think there's no role for you. If you look in the institutional plans, you will find so many of them are led by people in professional service roles, many of whom may have been a researcher in their previous career. Successfully implementing the Concordat is an institutional effort taking a combined collaborative approach from everybody engaged in delivering research. And that's where I'm going to leave it, our quick introduction to the Concordat, hoping that I haven't been more than 15 minutes, but also hoping that I've left you wanting to find out more and pointing you in the right direction.


Thanks for listening to the Research culture uncovered podcast. Please subscribe so you never miss out on our brand new episodes. And if you are enjoying the discussions, give us some love by dropping a five star rating and written review as it helps other research culturists find us and please share with a friend and show them how to subscribe.

Email us at academicdev@leeds.ac.uk. Thanks for listening. And here's to you and your research culture.

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About the Podcast

Research Culture Uncovered
Changing Research Culture through conversations
At the University of Leeds, we believe that all members of our research community play a crucial role in developing and promoting a positive and inclusive research culture. Across the globe, the urgent need for a better Research Culture in Higher Education is widely accepted – but how do you make it happen? This weekly podcast focuses on our ideas, approaches and learning as we contribute to the University's attempt to create a Research Culture in which everyone can thrive. Whether you undertake, lead, fund or benefit from research - these are the conversations to listen to if you want to explore what a positive Research Culture is and why it matters.

Unless specified in the episode shownotes, Research Culture Uncovered © 2023 by Research Culturosity, University of Leeds is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. This license requires that reusers give credit to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms. Some episodes may be licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0, please check before use.

About your hosts

Emma Spary

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I moved into development after several years as an independent researcher and now lead the team providing professional and career development for all researchers and those supporting research. I am passionate about research culture and supporting people. I lead our Concordat implementation work and was part of the national Concordat writing group. I represent Leeds as a member of Researchers14, the N8PDRA group and UKRI’s Alternative Uses Group.

Taryn Bell

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I work as a Researcher Development Adviser at the University of Leeds. My focus is on career development, with a particular focus on supporting funding and fellowships. I previously worked at the University of York as their Fellowship Coordinator, developing and growing the University's community of early career fellows. Get in touch if you'd like to learn more (T.L.Bell@leeds.ac.uk)!

Katie Jones

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I am a Researcher Development and Culture Project Officer at the University of Leeds, where I lead projects within the Researcher Development and Culture Team. My role involves managing projects that enhance the development of researchers and foster a positive research culture across the University and the higher education sector.

Tony Bromley

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I've worked in the area of the development of researchers for 20 years, including at the national and international level. I was lead author of the UK sector researcher development impact framework charged with evaluating the over £20M per year investment of UK research councils in researcher development. I have convened the international Researcher Education and Development Scholarship (REDS) conference for a number of years and have published on researcher development evaluation and pedagogy. All the details are on www.tonybromley.com !! Also why not take a look at https://conferences.leeds.ac.uk/reds/

Ged Hall

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I've worked for almost 20 years in researcher development, careers guidance and academic skills development. For the last decade I've focused on the area of research impact. This has included organisational development projects and professional development for individual researchers and groups. I co-authored the Engaged for Impact Strategy and am heavily involved in its implementation, across the University of Leeds, to build a healthy impact culture. For 10 years after my PhD, I was a consultant in the utility sector, which included being broker between academia and my clients.

Ruth Winden

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After many years running my own careers consultancy business I made the transition to researcher development leading our careers provision. My background is in career coaching, facilitation and group-based coaching, and I have a special interest in cohort-based coaching programmes which help researchers manage their careers proactively and transition into any sector and role of their choice.

Nick Sheppard

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I have worked in scholarly communications for over 15 years, currently as Open Research Advisor at the University of Leeds. I am interested in effective dissemination of research through sustainable models of open access, including underlying data, and potential synergies with open education and Open Educational Resources (OER), particularly underlying technology, software and interoperability of systems.