By Katharine Reibig, Researcher Development Policy Officer

On September 12 & 13 2016 myself, Stephanie Colvan and Lynne Barrett attended the International Vitae Researcher Development conference in Manchester.  This event brings together people involved in the development of all researchers – from postgrads to professors.

Attendees ranged from the incoming CEO of CRAC, the Head of Vitae, senior academics and people like me, who are responsible for researcher development opportunities within institutions. There were a range of key themes at the conference: open science, doctoral issues, research staff issues, gender, unconscious bias, and the development of the developers.

The plenaries, workshops and special interest sessions were many and various, and interesting. You can have a look at the #vitae16 hashtag on twitter to get an idea of what went on, and what generated the most interest and chatter.

Of particular interest to me where sessions around HR Excellence in Research Award, Athena SWAN and gender issues – did you know that crash test dummies are male? A very thought provoking talk from Elizabeth Politzer @portiawebb on the how sex and gender impact on research outcomes –covering topics as diverse as honey bees and drug trials.  Matt Lambon Ralph gave a great talk on his work in the Manchester Doctoral Centre – how to create an environment where people can develop both themselves and their research.  They also allow post-contract electronic access – a great idea which generated a lot of interest. There were also talks on the stark realities on the availability of academic positions, and the suggestion that as researcher developers we should acknowledge that working outwith academia post-PhD/post-doc is in fact the norm.  We talked about the reality of mobility issues for researchers.  There was a very interesting presentation from Fiona Colligan (PIIRUS) on academic career breaks – PIIRUS and have done research on this and looked at the differences between genders, the impact of a career break and if it was seen as a positive experience/not.  The report is available on the website here.

I attended 6 workshops/special interest sessions, which were all interesting.  A few things stand out: the Kardashian Index – researchers that are very high profile on Twitter, but that don’t actually generate much/any research outputs – they are famous for being famous.  Follow wisely… A session from Karen Jones (University of Reading) on a new resource she is creating to tackle sexism – great resource, but so sad that this is required in 2016.  The resource will really highlight how sexism is pervasive across all aspects of life, not just in the classroom/lab. Benevolent sexism and reverse discrimination were also discussed.

I went to a workshop around schemes/systems to develop research talent, and a final workshop on Athena SWAN & HR Excellence in Research Award and how to deal with the overlap between the two efficiently.

Finally, one of the highlights of the conference was the 3MT final – if you don’t know, this is the three minute thesis competition – there were 6 incredibly talented finalists and you can watch their presentations here.

If you are interested in hearing more about the Vitae conference, or researcher development more generally, please get in touch –