The point of working through the Vitae Researcher Development Framework wasn’t just for me to cast a beady eye over it and comment about how it may or may not be suitable for my field – the point is to give me a roadmap to work through for my own personal development. When I went through the parallel process last year (using a document from the University of Sussex that I now can’t relocate on their website, but that outlined the skills that the Joint Skills Statement [links to PDF] from the research councils says that everyone leaving a PhD should be able to do), I had a couple of key things I wanted to improve:
- Improve my understanding of theory and its application to classics.
- Improve my awareness of issue surrounding higher education in the UK and US, and worldwide.
- Learn what the health and safety issues for humanities departments are.
- Develop my public profile as a researcher.
- Articulate the transferrable skills that I have gained through doing a Ph.D.
I think I’ve managed to do all of those things – and I also think that moving from the document based on the JSS to the Vitae framework is a good move now. I don’t feel that the JSS document has any challenges for me any more, while the Vitae version most definitely does.
In terms of where I see my professional development going next, working through the RDF has highlighted the following things that I want to think about:
- Continue with my research agenda, which is actually pretty well formed for the next few years, but keep flexibility to react to unexpected changes or new opportunities which may arise.
- Improve my German and Italian, for work in secondary literature – they’re good enough for reading now, but I’d like to get them sharper.
- Explore digital humanities options for classics, and see if any of them will work for future projects.
- Explore electronic research tools, particularly those for bibliographic work and project management.
- Maintain personal networks I’ve established in the US, and develop new ones in the UK.
- Research the current legal situation in the UK as it relates to research and my work – for instance, the Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act, Equality Act 2010, copyright laws and IPR.
A lot of things that the RDF describes about becoming nationally and internationally recognised just aren’t going to happen until I have more of my work published – which means the priority should be doing research and getting it published, which in turn boils down to ‘carry on doing what you’re doing to get better at it’. I can cope with that. A fair share of it is also just learning more about things I needed to be reminded I should learn more about – and as an academic, I can cope with that too.
One thing I noticed is that most of the rubrics seem to put a person leaving a PhD program at stage 2 of the potential development of a skill, and sometimes in stage 3. That’s fine – it’s good to have something to aim towards, as I said above. But one thing I noticed, particularly with areas C and D, was that there were a lot of rubrics where I felt I was in, for instance, stage 2, but I wanted to stay in stage 2 and do it better. I didn’t feel ready to move up to stage 3 in my planning – I wanted to get better at some of the things mentioned in stage 2. I think that’s not at all a bad thing to be able to say, but it was a reaction I wasn’t expecting and it’s not something that the rubric attached to the framework acknowledges might happen (as far as my experience went).
One significant point about the way the rubrics are constructed is that a lot of them simply are not attainable without having a faculty position. Which, at the moment, I don’t. Now, in the scheme of researcher development, getting a job would be one of those major transitional steps in developing one’s career that are an inevitable part of career development, and so it’s not surprising there should be a gap between what a PhD student can achieve and someone who has been awarded the doctorate should achieve. But I feel as if there’s a great big gap in the framework which catches those of us who have got through the PhD but don’t yet have the institutional position. So, I suppose my Big Career Development Point to take away from this right now is ‘get a job’ – so it’s nice to know I’m concentrating on doing the right thing!