Memorandum submitted by the Department
of Trade and Industry and the Department for Education and Skills
1. Much research in Higher Education Institutes
(HEIs) is funded on a fixed-term basis by industry, research charities,
the European Union, Government Departments and the Research Councils.
In turn, this has led to circumstances in which HEIs employ staff,
generally known as "contract research staff" (CRS),
through fixed-term or similar contracts to carry out the research.
HEIs benefit from the use of CRS who bring fresh ideas, expertise
and knowledge, and enable HEIs to respond flexibly to the opportunities
and the needs expressed by funding bodies. CRS also benefit from
the experience and can use the period of employment to test out
their suitability for further research inside or outside academia
and to acquire a wider range of competencies and experience.
2. It is important to recognize that the
pattern of contract research and career paths vary significantly
by subject area. Longer-term contract researchers are concentrated
in the biological sciences, where the science involved causes
projects to be longer-term, as well as the projects attracting
more diverse funding. In other areas of the natural and physical
sciences, the movement of contract researchers into employment
outside academia is more marked. The pattern in the social sciences
differs again. It is also important to recognize that many contract
researchers still greatly value their jobs and the opportunity
to work, albeit through fixed-term employment, on their chosen
topic. The allure of research remains strong.
3. The Government accepts that there are
three broad CRS career aspirations as identified in the final
report of the recent review of the supply of scientists and engineers
by Sir Gareth Roberts:
career startershave the potential to become
research leaders or to obtain a longer-term HEI post which combines
teaching and research. Typically, stay CRS for only a short period;
career researchersare employed by a HEI
over the medium to long-term to work on a succession of research
projects, and wish to remain in research; and
job entrantsenter contract research as
a job, but not explicitly to make a career in research. They have
an important role to play deploying their expertise and skills
in a variety of employment, in industry, commerce, and the wider
4. The Government believes that the quality
of the experience associated with contract research is more important
than the number of CRS. There will continue to be a role for CRS
as there is for fixed-term contract staff in many sectors. Effective
support and proper status, supervision, training and career guidance
are importantwhere these are lacking, that does cause problems
for CRS careers. CRS posts can provide beneficial experience and
be of value in themselves as well as being the stepping-stones,
for some, to more senior jobs in academia. However researchers
leaving research before a contract ends to find another posting
or researchers with potential in academia or other fields of employment
who become too narrowly specialized or lose self confidence can
represent a missed opportunity and squandered investment.
5. Successive Governments have recognised
the need for more effective career management of contract research
staff, and that this would require action from the universities
and colleges and the funding bodies. Proposals were set out in
the 1993 White Paper "Realising Our Potential", and
resulted, among other things, in a gradual increase in the numbers
of Royal Society University Research Fellows and the Research
Councils amending their fellowship schemes in relation to salaries,
maternity benefit, and processing of grant applications.
6. The Concordat for the career management
of CRS was agreed between the university sector and research funding
bodies in 1996. The Concordat provides a framework within which
the universities, colleges, Research Councils and other funding
bodies have been working to achieve those objectives. The Research
Careers Initiative was set up to monitor progress against the
Concordat framework, and to encouraged best practice and its dissemination
in the career management of CRS.
7. The Government built on and encouraged
this through the 2000 White Paper "Excellence and Opportunity".
The Government believes that the advancement of knowledge, and
the people who are doing it and who can move it along, is extremely
important to the UK economy and the quality of life. We cannot
any longer afford to assumeif we ever couldthat
talented people will rush into research for altruistic reasons,
or if they do, that they will want to stay. We cannot leave the
process and their personal development to chance.
8. The RCI report in September 2001 records
a number of examples of progress with the management and development
of CRS careers. Some of the key advances has been the development
of good practice models in the provision of staff appraisal, in-service
training, personal transferable skills, and career guidance.
9. Higher education institutions are responsible
for the pay, terms and conditions of all their staff. The Government
is working to encourage improved pay and human resources practices
in higher education institutions. £330 million was provided,
over three years, in the 2000 Spending Review, explicitly for
pay and human resources development. In return for their share
of these funds, higher education institutions were required to
return human resources strategies setting out how these resources
will be used to help achieve the institution's priorities.
10. Other employers, including Research
Councils and business, have a similar responsibility to improve
the attractiveness of careers in research and development and
have continued their involvement with the RCI.
11. To some extent institutions' willingness
to use fixed-term contracts is related to the current patterns
of research funding including short-term research contracts and
prices that often do not include much of a contribution to indirect
and long-term costs. The Transparency Review, which has prompted
institutions to cost their activities more thoroughly, may as
one beneficial effect lead to more effective pricing by institutions,
the recovery of more long-term costs and more stability in institutions'
finances for research. This and other related reforms might enable
institutions to employ more junior researchers on permanent contracts.
12. The Government asked Sir Gareth Roberts
to review of the supply of scientists and engineers in the UK,
and his report was published in April 2002. The Government will
be considering the recommendations of his report in the context
of the current Spending Review which is to be announced later
EU DIRECTIVE ON
13. The UK will transpose the EC Fixed Term
Work Directive in October 2002, the directive aims to prevent
fixed term employees being less favourably treated than comparable
employees and prevent the abuse of successive fixed term contracts.
This will give CRS staff the right to equal treatment compared
to permanent staff doing the same or broadly similar work. The
Directive is not designed to eliminate the use fixed term appointments.
The regulations place no limit on the first fixed term appointment
and the statutory limit can be varied by workplace or collective
agreements. Nonetheless, the Directive is likely to improve the
quality of the CRS experience, reinforcing Government policy to
promote improved human resource management in higher education.
25 June 2002