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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NEW Science Council Report - The current and future UK science workforce

We were researching issues facing the medical research enterprise in the UK and came across this report from the Science Council published on the 5th September this year.

From their executive summary: "The objectives of this research were to explore the potential for expanding registration to technician and intermediate levels by developing comprehensive data on the current UK science workforce, understanding the profile of employment across the skills levels and providing a view on the future workforce and where demand is likely to be the highest"

Let us know what you think....

Also, let us know what you think of our VERY draft text which, only just begun and in need of much work! currently reads:

In their report of September 2011 Building the Ideal Environment for Medical Research, Cancer Research UK looked at means by which the government might encourage ‘the best scientists to stay in science’ as they noted various pushes and shoves which might lead talent to exit the industry:
“At various stages along the science career path, a proportion of high quality scientists leave research to pursue other careersxiii The skills that researchers are equipped with during their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are seen as being highly transferable to other sectors, including finance, banking and education.xiv

It is widely recognised that researcher salaries are not as competitive as those for other careers that would require a similar level of training or skill, and this can be seen as a considerable disadvantage at the early stages of a scientific career.xv This is compounded by the fact that competition for jobs and funding is increasingly fierce.xvi[1]

They noted that career progression within science can be unstable and unpredictable, an observation that they elicited in conversation with researchers. The structure of careers in research leads to a high level of competition for Group Leader positions and “the transition from post-doctoral research to running a research group... has been described as the most brutal step in career progression. The skills that are needed to conduct high quality research in order to gain support for a research career are not necessarily the same skills required to manage other people, to write grant applications or to meet teaching responsibilities.”[2]

Scientists, however, do not constitute the whole research workforce. There are many different roles and types of expertise required for research projects to function.

The report Managing Clinical Research in the UK highlighted a shortage of experienced trial managers and monitors and these personnel prove difficult to recruit and retain. However, the report observes that “these are the people who know how to make the systems work in practice.”[3]

One of the recommendations of the report Managing Clinical Research in the UK is that “clearer career trajectories in clinical research could help to narrow the skills gaps experienced in this sector”[4]. They call for a UK-wide strategy to identify such trajectories and for career profiles of the range of roles engaged in clinical research to be developed.

The MRC also make recommendations for skills development in their document A Strategic Framework for Health Informatics in Support of Research which addresses human capital capacity building. They state as aims:

·         “To develop a cadre of researchers and information scientists who are familiar with the research potential offered by electronic health records and are confident with new technologies and services provided
·         To ensure provision of training delivered at a range of levels: from building awareness and informal training through to professional qualifications and the development of a formal career structure.”[5]

[1] Cancer Research UK: Building the Ideal Environment for Medical Research (September 2011)
xiii The Scientific Century, The Royal Society, 2010, p14.
xiv What do researchers do? First destinations of doctoral graduates by subject, Vitae, 2009.
xv Careers of Doctorate Holders: Employment and mobility patterns, Auriol, L., OECD, 2010.
xvi Education: The PhD Factory, Nature, Cyranoski, D., Gilbert, N., Ledford, H., Nayar, A., Yahia, M., 2011, vol 472, 276.

[2] Ibid.
[3]Write-up by The Institute of Clinical Research: discussion of report by Warwick Business, School Managing Clinical Research in the UK
[4] Managing Clinical Research in the UK: Evidence on the challenges of conducting clinical research projects in the UK. December 2009, Warwick Business School.
[5] MRC: A Strategic Framework for Health Informatics in Support of Research

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