We are gearing up for the launch of the set of 2017 researcher surveys. Every two years we participate in the national programme of acronyms – CROS (we call this the Research Staff Survey at Edinburgh) and PIRLS – to help us evaluate our impact in the university, understand the current concerns and situations of researchers and look ahead to future developments.
We’re now asked for our opinions about everything. It’s impossible to buy a cup of tea, walk through an airport or click on a website these days without being asked to rate services and experience. If you’ve attended any of our programmes you’ll have been sent an evaluation form (and hopefully completed it) and we spend a lot of our time meeting researchers, supervisors and support staff to ensure we’re on the right track.
These interactions give us valuable information, but the national surveys give us far, far more. They allow us (and more importantly you, our researchers) to see how we compare with other institutions. They give you the chance to explain about the whole of your experience as a researcher so we can design programmes and projects which have the greatest impact. The information you give us also helps us to develop more effective partnerships with other supportive people in the University.
As I look back at the results of the last few surveys the influence they have had on our practice is clear to see. Your calls for greater support on grant writing led to progammes for early and mid career researchers delivered by our colleagues in the Research Support Office. We’ve broadened the scope of our public engagement training to help more of you get involved in outreach and festivals. There are now courses to help researchers develop teaching skills which will be part of future job applications and created courses which count towards Higher Education Academy Fellowships for those with enough teaching experience.
We’ve introduced writing retreats to help you deliver key outputs; we run new courses on assertiveness to help you negotiate more control in your career and on networking to boost your profile and reputation.
Our next big ambition is to make our support more flexible and open by moving some materials online. This will involve a lot of decisions about which topics people are likely to engage with, which need to be available year around and which lend themselves to online delivery. Our “face-to-face” programme will also expand but we’ll need to prioritise. Please be part of this process by giving us a sense of what you need – the surveys will explictly ask about online support, so let us know what you need.
The Edinburgh surveys open at the end of this month and we will be promoting them through newsletters, meetings, at events and on social media. All our research staff, principal investigators and research leaders will receive a link to the relevant survey, once they open at the end of March. At times it may get a little wearing to receive yet another request to complete the survey, but please take it as a sign that your opinion is critical to the shape and scope of researcher development here. We’re ready to listen – are you ready to talk?