• Hour glass icon28 minutes : 3 minutes reading | 25 minutes video

The valued manager? The PI-postdoc relationship,
featuring UKRI

Session details

Date: 17 November 2020

Session speakers

  • Ellen Meek, Senior Talent Programme Manager, UKRI.
  • Nikolay Ogryzko, Talent Programme Manager, R&I careers policy, UKRI.

Session overview

  • Discover shared learnings about the PI-postdoc relationship.
  • Explore practical suggestions and topics for future discussions.
  • Hear from UKRI on the important role of PI's, and how their support of postdocs recognised, valued and encouraged.

Session resources

Download here the session slides.

Shared learnings

Clear expectations and guidance from funders and institutions

Institutions need to set out the expectations of PIs with regards postdoc career development and allow time to be set aside for this. PIs should have support (from both the funder and their institution) on how to support their postdocs/research staff. This support is even more important if it is your first time overseeing a postdoc.

Funders should clearly articulate a statement of expectations within their project grants, highlighting the importance of postdoc career development, and provide clarity regarding how much time PIs are expected to spend for these activities within their project delivery planning.

Funders moving on from the ‘fund and forget’ model

UKRI is moving away from the ‘fund and forget’ model and postdoc career outcomes are a project output. How should the postdoc career outcomes best be reported or captured? Through Research Fish? REF? Or through ongoing dialogue between funder and grant holder?

Valuing and acknowledging career development support provided by PIs

Promotion and hiring criteria within institutions need to value the career development support PIs provide.

Funders should require applicants to detail what they’ve done for the career development of their junior members at the grant application stage (as the ERC do) and highlight this again at the grant award stage.

Culture change is needed

Postdocs are often focused and passionate about the project outputs and it can be challenging to get them to consider pursuing development opportunities. It can be tough to get postdocs to take ownership of their careers, but this varies a lot and depends on the individual postdoc and PI.

Practical suggestions

  • PIs can give postdocs opportunities/experience to write grant applications (supporting them and highlighting that the skills necessary to secure funding are highly transferable).
  • Have open and frequent career conversations so that it is not ‘taboo’ for postdocs to discuss careers beyond academia.
  • Encourage cross-disciplinary networks for postdocs to share experiences and broaden their exposure to future career options.
  • Heads of Departments can ensure that career development of postdocs is covered in PI annual PDRs and can articulate the expectation that supporting postdocs in their career aspirations is part of the PI role.

Possible topics for future discussions

  • What is expected of a PI with respect to postdocs?
  • How can we disseminate these expectations in a useful and practical way?
  • Is an institutional level statement of expectations sufficient?
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