Creating a thriving and inclusive environment
Research leaders have a responsibility to create inclusive and safe environments where the quality and integrity of research and innovation is not compromised. An emotionally safe and open group culture can only enhance your team’s ability to thrive, take risks, build trust and be honest and open with one another. All too often, the statistics show that this is not always the case in research environments. As a research leader, you are a role model and are contributing to the culture in the sectors. Here, we give you some resources and signpost to establish good practices, starting with your own team and colleagues.
We have curated resources below to link to support and training available at Imperial and elsewhere that will enable you to be an inclusive and supportive leader.
Tips and guidance
Creating a positive culture for your group and your community – tip sheets
- Tip sheet - five tips for creating a positive research culture (pdf) including advice on citizenship, legislation, inclusive research design, learning opportunities and community responsibility.
- Tip sheet - five tips for cultural inclusion (pdf). The UK attracts researchers from around the world. Be aware of how to make your international researchers feel included and welcome. Our tip sheet includes some dos and don’ts to be aware of.
Communicating a positive group culture and being inclusive
How do you make sure that all lab members know what is expected of them and what they can expect from each other? Is the group being truly inclusive and do new starters feel welcome?
Creating a flexible document that outlines the ethos of your research lab or group can help with outlining the different roles within the lab, explain what is expected of all lab members, provide an overview of the culture the lab aims to create, and describe how the lab supports its members so that they can develop as researchers.
The WIN Handbook Team at The University of Oxford have created a set of resources to motivate and help you to develop your own Lab Handbook:
- Lab Handbook Video: This provides an overview of Lab Handbooks and guidance for writing.
- Lab Handbook Template: This template consists of a series of questions to build the structure of your Lab Handbook.
- Example Lab Handbook: This Lab Handbook was written by the Physics group at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging.
Managing diversity in your team
Many managers are anxious about making reasonable adjustments to working practices and environments, dealing with performance issues, or simply about doing or saying the wrong thing when they have team members with protected characteristics. Don’t avoid acting for fear of doing something wrong or to wait for things to go away. This can lead to more problems. You can request one to one support to discuss and plan your approach to managing team members with diverse needs and enabling them to work to their full potential.
- For urgent needs, HR, assisted by the EDI Centre will offer you one to one support and guidance. You can also book a micro-coaching session for managers to talk through a tricky challenge you may be facing.
- For non-urgent needs, you can contact the EDI Centre, read the College EDI strategy and attend the EDI training suggested among our resources below.
- In particular, consult the College advice on how to be a white ally, and undertake active bystander training at your earliest opportunity. Encourage your team to do the same.
- In research, autism is more common than in the general population and it is likely that you will manage researchers who are on the autistic spectrum. The College EDI Centre can work with the National Autistic Society to provide work needs assessments to ensure that you can make any recommended adjustments to enable your team member to thrive in their work.
Your obligations to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers
Imperial became a signatory to the Concordat to support the career development of researchers (pdf) (“the Concordat”) in March 2020. Progress against the Concordat action plan is published annually. You can view the current action plan and learn about progress on the Concordat webpage.
The Concordat is an agreement between funders and employers of researchers in the UK. It aims to set the “gold standard of researcher development” by committing funders, institutions, researchers and managers of researchers to create a healthy and supportive research environment and culture for researchers to realise their potential.
The Concordat specifies obligations that you, as a manager of researchers, should uphold. The PI Code of Practice incorporates these obligations and details your responsibilities as a line manager of early career researchers at Imperial.
Resources for supporting your team’s mental health and wellbeing
If a member of your team is stressed, suffering from mental health issues, physical illness or disabilities you (and they) might find some of the following blogs and resources helpful:
- Be aware of where to signpost your team to College support.
- Dr Zoe Ayres’ website on mental health in academia links to a book, articles, campaigns and social media where she shares powerful experiences and advice for managing your mental health in academia.
- Wellbeing resources for early career researchers from the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre here at Imperial College London.
- Let’s help ‘stressed PhD Students’ – A blog from The Supervision Whisperer.
- Academic Mental Health Collective - A resource for graduate students and post-docs.
- Chronically Academic - A blog for a network of academics with disabilities and chronic conditions.
- Our video on ‘Challenging relationships and conversations’ provides awareness of emotional responses in conversations and relationships.
- Sections in ‘Managing Self and Your Career’ are equally as relevant to your team as they are to you:
- Wellbeing and resilience - includes advice about imposter syndrome and dealing with rejections
- Time management
- Managing flexible working and caring responsibilities
Internal resources and guidance
The PI Code of Practice details your responsibilities as line manager of Early Career Researchers at Imperial.
Relevant training provided by People and Organisational Development:
- Online course: Imperial Values and Behaviours
- Equality training:
- The College’s Inclusive Leader materials include online modules and advice on creating an inclusive environment that has a positive impact on productivity and wellbeing.
- To support team members with families and caring responsibilities, make yourself familiar with, and signpost your team to, the College pages on supporting you and your family, which includes the College’s flexible working policy.
External resources and guidance
- The Wellcome Trust’s work on reimagining research culture includes schemes, discussions and programmes to support culture change in research. Make sure to read and learn from their powerful report on What researchers think about the culture they work in.
- For a more in-depth guide to cultural differences Erin Meyer’s book “The Culture Map” provides an insightful look in to some of the areas of difference around the world.
- Chimamanda’s thought provoking TED talk on the danger of a single story is a good reminder to look past some basic stereotypes we might be holding on to.