THE GROUP implementing the new concordat to improve career management for university contract research staff identified key themes for investigation when it met for the first time this week.
Sir Gareth Roberts, chairman of the 19-strong Concordat Implementation Group that includes members of universities, research councils, unions and the Office of Science and Technology, said he had been "pleasantly surprised".
"Pulling together people with such a range of responsibilities across the higher education system is unusual and unpredictable, and I wondered if the chemistry would work," he said. "But it did - we are talking the same language."
Professor Roberts said that among the areas for investigation by sub-groups were career guidance for researchers, in-service training and development and career progression and procedures.
He added that a database of existing relevant initiatives was needed. "There is quite a lot going on, but it is often fragmented." The group had much to learn from work already done in Scotland, where the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has piloted a number of initiatives, he said.
The meeting examined policy in other parts of the UK. Professor Roberts said: "The messages were mixed. Institutions are making laudable efforts to implement the concordat at a corporate level. We are not convinced that these are always working down into the system and to departmental level. That is something which our initiative, and the sector, is going to have to crack."
The group will meet three more times before reporting next autumn.
The concordat is intended to operate as a framework within which research funders and higher education institutions can better manage research staff and their careers.