Imperial is dedicated to creating a positive research culture and to providing sector-leading support and professional development to all its researchers. Following our ambition to equip and empower all researchers at Imperial to succeed in their chosen careers, the College became a signatory of the new Concordat to support the career development of researchers in March 2020.

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.

As part of Imperial’s commitment to the Concordat principles, we will continue to work closely with funders and other institutions to address all-important wider concerns around job security and other systemic issues.

Concordat themes

Internally, we conducted a gap analysis of our current offering against the Concordat principles, as well as commissioning an external review into the provision for postdocs at Imperial, to which over 500 postdocs and other key stakeholders from across the College contributed. The gap analysis and review have identified five main themes:

1. Wellbeing of Early Career Researchers (ECRs)
2. PI Support to deliver the Concordat principles
3. Leadership development for ECRsThe Concordat logo
4. The Personal Review and Development Plan (PRDP) process
5. How postdocs utilise their 10 development days

In setting actions against these gaps, we sought continuous input from HR, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre, the Learning and Development Centre and Senior Academics, and consulted throughout with researchers from the Imperial Postdoc Reps Network.

The subsequent recommendations have been incorporated into our 2021 Concordat action plan [pdf].

The action plan was endorsed by the Provost board in January 2021 and its implementation will be overseen and promoted by the recently established Researcher Development Committee.

Regular updates on the progress of the implementation will be published in the PFDC newsletter.

Concordat action plan themes

Wellbeing of ECRs

The situation created by Covid-19 and the Wellcome Report into Research Culture has put the wellbeing of all Imperial’s researchers, particularly that of ECRs (early career researchers), at the forefront of this action plan. The actions, which incorporate the recommendations of the external review, include taking stock of the current practices and provision at the College, as well as generating tailored resources for ECRs on wellbeing. The College wants to ensure that it supports all ECRs, particularly those with hidden or declared disabilities, and has set out a series of actions to empower these groups.

Intended outcomes:

  • College-wide evaluation of the provision for mental health and wellbeing
  • Generate ECR-specific wellbeing resources
  • Increase awareness of Report and Support
  • Review the use of open-ended contracts for long-serving ECRs to ensure the College adheres to employment practices
  • A strategy in place to support ECRs with hidden disabilities
  • Promote the support that the College offers to ECRs who have a declared disability

Actions aimed at achieving the outcomes above are listed in the 2021 Concordat action plan [pdf].

PI support

There are a range of services and support available to PIs. For example, each department at Imperial has Postdoc and Fellow Champions, which meet termly with the PFDC to advocate for their departmental ECRs and to help deliver on the Concordat principles. This action plan includes commissioning a review to gain a better understanding as to how the College’s PIs would like to be supported to deliver the Concordat principles. While the College is awaiting the outcome of this review, other actions are there to start building on the resources that are currently in place. 

Intended outcomes:

  • An evaluation into the support that is offered to PIs by the College, with an emphasis on delivering the Concordat principles
  • Establish a PI induction so that all new PIs who employ researchers are made aware of the support that is available to them at the College, as well as relevant employment legislation and codes of practice, institutional policies, and the terms and conditions of grant funding
  • Provide PFDC Postdoc Champions with additional training to facilitate constructive conversations with their departmental ECRs
  • Develop a code of practice for PIs, postdocs and departments at Imperial
  • Department-specific induction for postdocs, which can be shared with their PIs before they join their group
  • Increase the representation of underrepresented researchers at the College

Actions aimed at achieving the outcomes above are listed in the 2021 Concordat action plan [pdf].

Leadership development for ECRs

For Imperial to be successful, the College recognises that we need highly skilled ECRs from a range of different backgrounds and experiences. The actions set out under this theme will enable ECRs to have access to opportunities that will enhance their CVs and succeed in whichever career path they take. These actions include funding opportunities, exposure to senior management and skills development.

Intended outcomes:

  • Extend the postdoc collaborative funding model in the Faculty of Engineering to other faculties to provide opportunities for ECRs to form new cross-faculty research networks and collaborations, and bid for research funding separate from their main project so that they can start to show research independence
  • Leadership and management training for the next generation of fellows
  • Identify what the College needs to put in place to equip ECRs to fully realise their potential as managers in their chosen field (academic or otherwise)
  • Increase awareness and engagement with Imperial’s IMPACT development programme amongst ECRs
  • Increase representation of underrepresented groups amongst the fellows' community
  • Increase the number of ECRs from underrepresented groups who are reverse mentors, for when the scheme is extended to all senior College leaders.

Actions aimed at achieving the outcomes above are listed in the 2021 Concordat action plan [pdf].

The PRDP process

For career and personal progression to occur, there needs to be a time to reflect on past experiences. Imperial has a well-established PRDP process, but the College is taking this opportunity to review the current systems that are in place to make sure they fit the needs of the community going forward, and that there is a uniformed way of extracting data to ensure that meaningful conversations are taking place.

Intended outcomes:

  • Full review of the PRDP process for researchers at the College
  • Postdoc PRDP form guidance documents for both the postdocs and the PIs to be generated
  • An evaluation of how best to log the PRDP process at the College so that meaningful data can be later extracted for evaluation

Actions aimed at achieving the outcomes above are listed in the 2021 Concordat action plan [pdf].

The 10 development days

For over ten years, all Imperial ECRs have had 10 development days allocated in their contracts. However, the College has not monitored how ECRs use these ten days or compiled evidence-based examples of best practice. The College aims to help ECRs to better utilise these development days, first by gaining a better understanding of what they use their days for, and then develop a series of resources that will enable them to better utilise their development days’ entitlement. 

Intended outcomes:

  • A better understanding as to how Imperial ECRs use their 10 development days
  • Increase awareness of the 10 development days in all postdoc contracts: resources made available to both postdocs and PIs to inform discussions on how to use the 10 development days
  • Track how many postdocs utilise their 10 development days so that the College is able to generate data to better understand what activities they engage in, and also identify areas within the College where development isn’t being undertaken
  • By highlighting the different career paths that postdocs at Imperial take, there is the potential to inspire postdocs to use their 10 days to fill any perceived skills gaps to enable them to enter their next career
  • ECRs to be better aware of the EDI provision at the College

Actions aimed at achieving the outcomes above are listed in the 2021 Concordat action plan [pdf]