Supporting the career development of researchers
18 September 2007
The RSC welcomes the review of the 1996 concordat. Our specific responses to the questions are detailed in the following document. However, we would recommend that the phrasing used becomes more concrete, to ensure that the concordat's principles are acted upon and become embedded within academia; words such as "encourage" and "consider" need to be replaced with stronger more proactive phrases.
The RSC believes that the original concordat has had relatively little effect and is struck by how few researchers are even aware of its existent. To have any significant effect any new concordat must have teeth. The RSC does recognise that the so-called "Roberts Money" has had an effect on the training of researchers but contends that this illustrates the need to back any principles with schemes (and money) to enable effective implementation.
In summary the RSC believes that the current draft contains too many principles and that there is too much text under each principle. The Concordat would benefit from being significantly shortened.
The overall guiding principle for the Concordat must be that contract researchers are employees and therefore they should be treated the same as other employees. Following on from that contract researchers should be included in institution appraisal, mentoring and training schemes just like other staff. The appraisal system is critical to ensure that the career development of researchers is undertaken seriously by research managers and by the researchers themselves. The RSC recognises that these schemes may well need to be adapted to suit early career researchers; for example, researchers are employed to carry out research and not to teach or administrate like the majority of permanent academic staff and consequently not all training course available for junior lecturers will be appropriate for researchers.
The RSC also believes that much of what is included in the concordat is part of what should be considered as general "good practice". For example, open and transparent appointments procedures should be the norm for the recruitment of all staff. Similarly, the text under the principle on diversity is essentially a general statement of diversity good practice and is not specific to contract research workers.
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Manager, Higher Education, Business and Industry
Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7440 3388