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Ongoing work and progress

Main ongoing work and objectives for 2022-23

Some of our actions are delivered by the PDC, without a direct involvement of the  PDC Representatives' Network (but taking their feedback and suggestions into account of course!), and some actions involve direct contributions by members of the network who join specific working groups.

All actions (for 2021-24) in our institutional Researcher Development Concordat Action Plan are available on our Researcher Development Concordat page, which also includes yearly progress statements.

Here we provide some of the main objectives for 2022-23 (as well as what main projects were delivered recently in 2021-22 further down below).

Progress is updated every few months.

Reviewing and improving the PDR process for postdocs
PDC & Network action 2022-23

Main aim:

Adapting the Personal Development Review (PDR) form and guidance to research staff, in order to enable better engagement and productive career and development conversations to take place between research staff and their line managers.

Progress (December 2022):

Members of the network organised consultation with postdocs and academics within their schools to identify the main issues with the current process, and suggestions for improvement. There is a strong support to include planning and reporting on the use of the 10 career development days as part of the process, and focus the conversation on career and development and not on research progress. Main themes are being summarised and a new form and guidance for postdocs and managers will be developed in 2023, with the aim of piloting the new resources for the September 2023 PDR.

Helping research staff navigating their environment
PDC action 2022-23

Main aim:

The 'Postdoc Life' series of online information sessions will aim to highlight some of the internal and sector developments and initiatives relevant to postdocs and research staff, in order to help them better understand and navigate their direct (Queen's) and wider (UK Research and Innovation sector) environment. This is a need that was identified by the recent Research Staff survey (Sep 2022). When possible, sessions will be recorded and made available on the PDC's intranet.

Progress (December 2022):

Sessions are being organised approximately once a month from January, with topics including internal funding schemes, personal development and recognition in higher education teaching, export control and governance, open research, narrative CVs, quality outputs and citations etc.

Supporting Postdoc-led initiatives
PDC & Postdoc Society action 2022-23

Main Aim:

Bringing together research staff interested in organising community-building events for their peers as a new Postdoc Society. 'Postdoc-led' activities will provide networking opportunities amongst postdocs, ensure the provision is fresh and relevant to postdoc needs, and enable members of the society to develop their leadership and management skills.

Faculty societies previously existed, but were affected by the pandemics and stopped functioning. The introduction of the PDC enabled the creation of a more central and diverse group, which should be more sustainable and promote cross-faculty interactions.

Progress (December 2022):

After a couple of meetings facilitated by the PDC, a group of approximately 20 postdoc volunteers was assembled and is now meeting regularly autonomously. They are developing a programme of activities including social and networking opportunities for all research staff. The PDC is providing budget and administrative and advisory support to the group.

Fostering a positive local culture in Schools & Centres
Network action 2022-23

Main aim:

Ensuring research staff are welcomed in their School, Centre, or Faculty (postdoc induction, buddy scheme, meeting with a rep...) and provided with appropriate opportunities to network with peers, present their research (symposium, seminar...), receive feedback on their research and discuss good research practice (journal clubs, group meetings, networks...) and other initiatives promoting a positive experience.

Progress (December 2022):

Most PDC representatives officially feedback to their School or Centre via a School Board or Research Committee and organise a range of activities to promote a supportive culture for postdocs. This includes welcoming/buddy schemes for new postdocs, postdoc symposia, postdoc away days, regular coffee mornings, journal clubs, support networks etc.

Enhancing support for fellowship applicants
PDC action 2022-23

Main aim:

Complement existing one-to-one support for fellowship proposals' development by introducing additional training and mentoring from Fellowship Academy members (current fellows at Queen's).

Progress (December 2022):

Fellowship training: A programme of 6 workshops and writing sessions is being piloted from November 2022 to May 2023 to guide a small group of participants with the development of a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship proposal that they would submit in May.

Mentoring from Fellowship Academy members: Members of the Fellowship Academy have been invited to contribute to supporting prospective fellowship applicants in three ways, as relevant to their own career stage: i) acting as a mentor at a networking session where research staff interested in fellowships will meet them in small groups and ask questions and learn from your experience; ii) taking part in the internal peer review process (read and comment on draft applications with option for follow up 1-2-1 discussion with applicants); iii) sitting on assessment panels to aid in some internal selection processes.

This work is mainly led by the Research Development team in Research and Enterprise and Fellowship Academy.

Reviewing & updating Learning and Development offering
PDC & Network action 2022-23

Main aim:

Ensure workshop budget is used to provide the most relevant and quality offering researchers need. Following the compiling of overall core workshop provision in the past year and introduction of a few new programmes, this review will focus on feedback and needs, and involve the postdocs from the network in defining future provision by identifying workshops to keep, refresh, or introduce. 

Progress (December 2022):

Existing attendance and feedback data for all the core workshops provided by the PDC and OD (P&C) have been brought together.

Applying the maternity leave policy to research staff
PDC action 2022-23

Main aim:

Complement the resources available around the maternity leave policy with considerations specific of research staff on externally-funded fixed-term contracts.

Progress (December 2022):

A small group of people have been assembled to inform this project, with P&C already working on updating existing content and moving it to the intranet. FAQs relevant to the case of research staff have been developed and consultation with research staff and their managers is planned.

This work is a collaboration with the People & Culture Directorate and Queen's Gender Initiative.

Mentoring PhD candidates
PDC action 2022-23

Main aim:

Helping PhD candidates navigate the next step in their career while providing opportunities to postdocs to gain mentoring experience and creating a culture of support and pastoral care across the different stages of a research career.

This is part of the Research & Innovation strategy's overall goal of embedding support and mentoring 'across the research continuum', with researchers at various stages of career helping each other.

Progress (December 2022):

The PDC and Graduate School collaborated to deliver the 'What do postdocs do?' workshop in Nov 2022, half of which consisting of small group mentoring discussions with postdoc volunteers sharing their own experience. The feedback was very positive and a similar session will be organised in the second semester. In addition, postdoc volunteers shared their experience of preparing for their viva with PhD candidates at another Graduate School event.

The new Postdoc Society is planning to also engage with students (including PhDs), and some Schools have internal mentoring schemes in which postdocs mentor PhDs.

 

Recognising the supervision of UG and PGT
PDC & Network Working Group 2021-22

Main aim of the Supervision Working Group:

Identify means to enable and recognise contributions of postdocs to the supervision of undergraduate and master taught students, in a way that is consistent across the university. This would add to previous work to enable and recognise contributions to the supervision of PhD students (see Assistant Supervisor role).

Progress (December 2022):

The group has identified key areas to focus on based on an initial scoping exercise of current practices and opinions across schools, as well as a survey of postdocs. Recommendations have been drafted and consultation carried out with relevant departments, groups and committees, and approved by PROG in September 2022. A paper is now being prepared to be presented at an Education committee.

Separately from this project, but aligned with supervision in general, the PDC also processed 43 Assistant Supervisor appointments in 2021-22, recognising significant contributions to the supervision of PhD students. It was the first year this initiative was available in the EPS and AHSS Faculties, and the third year in MHLS. Following an update of Qsis (university students’ system), the PDC was able to record all appointments on the system.

Members:

  • Dr Linda Oyama, School of Biological Sciences
  • Dr Charlene McShane, Centre for Public Health
  • Dr Victoria Cairnduff, Centre for Public Health  
  • Dr Ahmed Ibrahim Osman, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 
  • Dr Georgios Karakonstantis, School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
  • Dr Philip Boland, School of Natural and Built Environment
  • Dr Lauren Cairns, Patrick G. Johnson Centre for Cancer Research 

 

 
 
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Main actions and progress from previous academic years

All actions in our institutional Researcher Development Concordat Action Plan are available on our Researcher Development Concordat page, which also include more detailed yearly progress reports.

Welcoming new research staff
PDC action 2021-22

Main aim:

Help new postdocs and research staff settle in their new environment and role to improve their experience, ensuring they are aware of the main resources, support and policies applying to them.

Progress (August 2022):

The PDC has introduced a 'New Postdoc induction' online in Mar 2022, and in person in May 2022. They received great feedback from participants (rated 5/5 and recommended by 100%), and will be organised approximately every 2 months (in person) from September 2022. A 'New postdoc welcome booklet' packed with practical information was also developed and will be updated regularly. The PDC now also holds a 'stand' (virtual so far) at all the all staff welcome events, and signposting to these resources is systematically sent to new research staff when they are recruited.

Additional resources in this space have been/ will be introduced at a more local level (Centre, School and/ or Faculty), such as welcoming buddy schemes, local inductions etc.

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Celebrating National Postdoc Appreciation Week
PDC & Network Working Group 2021-22

Main aim of the National Postdoc Appreciation Week Working Group:

Discuss and organise an event/events (and potentially other initiatives) for all Queen’s postdocs to take place during National Postdoc Appreciation Week (e.g., postdoc showcase event).

This is a postdoc-led group and members are fully in charge; the PDC provides insight and support as required by the members.

Progress (September 2022):

A one-day Postdoc Showcase event was organised for the 21st Sep at the Malone Golf Club. The showcase included 15 oral presentations by postdocs, 4 external guest speakers (and panel discussion) on the theme of 'Resilience and Innovation', in addition to presentations on internal progress for postdocs, a poster session (~40 posters) and plenty of networking. The event was attended by 80-100 people and received very positive feedback (rating 4.7/5 and recommended by 100%).

More than 60 profiles of research staff were shared on social media and the PDC website, as well as displayed in the poster room during the Showcase.

In addition to the showcase, the PDC has also coordinated the PDC Postdoc Awards, which were presented during the Showcase. A total of 88 nominations were received (59 in MHLS, 16 in EPS, 13 in AHSS), including some of them submitted on behalf of multiple individuals, and resulted in 10 winners and 11 commendations.

Members:

  • Dr Darren Conway, School of Biological Sciences (left Queen's in May)
  • Dr Claire Wright, School of Law
  • Dr Matthew Streeter, School of Mathematics and Physics 
  • Dr Ife Bolaji, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Dr Behnam Firoozi Nejad, School of Natural and Built Environment 
  • Dr Niall Byrne, School of Pharmacy

 

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Developing work-life balance guidance and advice
PDC & Network Working Group 2021-22

Main aim of the Work-Life Balance Working Group:

Identify and develop good practice guidance and advice for postdocs and their managers, in order to mitigate current issues that affect the work-life balance of postdocs (e.g., linked to working hours and other working patterns, time off, communications and “always-on” culture etc.), and improve research culture as a result.

Progress (December 2022):

The group identified the main issues that may affect the work-life balance of postdocs, and discussed recommendations, advice, and examples of good practice for postdocs and their managers. These, as well as signposting to relevant university policies, have been drafted and released as a webpage on the PDC website: Work-life policies and tips for research staff and their managers.

These will be disseminated further in 2022-23, notably in line with the introduction of a new workshop on time management, with a focus on working efficiently to enable a healthy work-life balance.

Members:

  • Dr Áine Aventin, School of Nursing and Midwifery
  • Dr Annemarie Millar, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
  • Dr Estelle Lowry, School of Natural and Built Environment
  • Dr Gillian Carter, School of Nursing and Midwifery (left the Network and Working Group in August 2022)
  • Dr Paul Toner, School of Psychology
  • Dr Sara Lorimer, School of Psychology

 

 
 
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Reviewing Learning & Development offering
PDC action 2021-22

Main aim:

Identify and comprehensively regroup and advertise Learning and Development opportunities relevant to postdocs across Queen's, as well as identify and fill gaps in the provision.

Progress (August 2022):

relevant opportunities were collected from multiple departments around Queen's and added to the PDC website, both as a list of core workshops and in thematic development pages. A gap analysis was carried out, highlighting that additional provision around leadership development, career progression (academic or not) and supervision. New core workshops were introduced as a result by the PDC and Organisational Development (see details below).

New workshops introduced in 2021-22:

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Introducing new leadership workshop for postdocs
PDC & Network Working Group 2021-22

Main aim of the Leadership Working Group:

Shape a new Postdoctoral Leadership Programme, providing input on the content, format, selection process and potential additional resources to enable postdocs to develop their leadership skills.

Progress (December 2022):

The content, eligibility criteria and application process have been designed by members, who also were involved in selecting participants. The new Postdoctoral Leadership Programme took place in Riddel Hall on 21 Jun and 5 Jul 2022 (the second session was moved online due to COVID. The feedback for this first iteration was very positive, with a rating of 4.6/5 and 100% of participants recommending it. Notably, all respondents felt that learning from the course could be applied to their current and future roles, and potentially other aspects of life. Further feedback was collected 6 months after the programme, in order to assess longer-term benefits. The consultation suggests it had been beneficial to participants, who reported increased confidence, putting themselves forward more for initiatives, contributing more in meetings, paying more attention to their development and how they engage with people.

The programme will thus be maintained as part of the PDC core offering.

Members:

  • Dr Prabhath Piyasena, Centre for Public Health
  • Dr Neha Mehta, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 
  • Dr Hiroki Shin, School of History, Anthropology and Philosophy and Politics
  • Dr Malcolm Brown, School of Nursing and Midwifery 
  • Dr Melissa LaBonte Wilson, The Patrick G. Johnson Centre for Cancer Research
  • Dr Gareth Robinson, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
  • Dr Amy Dumigan, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine 
  • Dr Vijay Tiwari, Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine

 

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Introducing career one-to-one support
PDC action 2021-22

Main aim:

Help individuals develop their career in a personalised manner, notably providing feedback on application and interview preparation.

Progress (September 2022):

Alice in the PDC now provides one-to-one meetings to research staff. In 2021-22, she has spent more than 60 hours personally supporting research staff, in 35 instances. These included feedback on CVs and job applications, interview preparation or other topics, and was provided via meetings, mock interview panels, or by email.

Feedback demonstrates that such support is helpful, with 100% of respondents having received interview preparation feeling more prepared to attend their real interview, and 100% of respondents having received support with their CV or application feeling it was improved as a result. All respondents recommend it and have rated interview preparation and job application support 5/5.

This new offering is added to other personalised support (career discussion with consultant for participants of the 'Developing Your Research Career' programme), and fellowship support from the Research Development team (one-to-one meetings related to funding applications, proposal feedback and fellowship mock interviews).

Promoting varied career options
PDC & Network Working Group action 2021-22

Main aim of the Career Options Working Group:

Showcase career options to postdocs in a range of disciplines, notably by linking with postdoc alumni and/or other contacts with careers in and out of academia.

Progress (August 2022):

Career Insight Interview series organised and hosted by members of the group: monthly online sessions in which two professionals share information on their role and personal experience navigating their career post-PhD (open to all). 

Sessions were held on 25 Mar, 27 May, and 24 Jun. Another interview focused on entrepreneurship was organised following advice from the group on 5 May, and complements other events from Nov 2021, and ECRday2022 organised by Dr Alison Garden in May. A school-based career event was also being organised in the School of Mathematics and Physics on 31 May. The career interviews attracted a total of 100 attendees and were well-received (average rating 4.7/5), and ECRday2022 was attended by 37 to 166 people (depending on sessions) and also a great success (rated 4.7/5).

Career interviews that have been recorded have been edited into episodes of the PDC podcast, 'The theory of the postdoc evolution'.

An 'Alumni' LinkedIn group (QUB Postdocs) was created for past and current postdocs, to promote role models and examples of career progression and destination. This was done by opening the remit of a group created in 2018 for the MHLS Faculty. It will be further promoted to extend the diversity of members across schools and already had 151 members at the end of 2021-22.

Members:

  • Dr Simon Cameron, School of Biological Sciences
  • Dr Ciaran McCoy, School of Biological Sciences
  • Dr Ryan Milligan, School of Mathematics and Physics
  • Dr David Scott, School of Nursing and Midwifery
  • Professor Gerd Wagner, School of Pharmacy
  • Dr Claire Tonry, Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine
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