Research fellows

School of Biology policy on the recruitment, support and retention of independent research fellows (IRFs)

What are senior independent research fellows?

Senior independent research fellows (IRFs) are those holding Royal Society University Research Fellowships, BBSRC David Phillips fellowships, NERC 5-year fellowships or ERC starter or consolidator fellowship grants. The expectation is that a senior IRF will last for 5 years or more and that the fellow is essentially acting as a principal investigator (PI). There are also a number of shorter independent fellowship schemes, which could act cumulatively, but people employed as research fellows (post docs) but not as a PI are not normally considered suitable.

Support for fellows

The School of Biology is commited to attracting IRFs and offers them the following guarantees of support:

  • Provision of adequate research facilities
  • Provision of adequate office space
  • Opportunities to supervise (or co-supervise) PhD or Masters students
  • Academic staff status
  • A mentor
  • Career development and training
  • Annual review and feedback
  • Bridging salary underwritten for up to 20% of the duration of their fellowship while renewed funding is sought
  • Feedback on grant/fellowship applications
  • Interview preparation
  • Opportunities to apply for small grants
  • A clear pathway to permanent appointment (as specified below)
  • A supportive, family friendly, inclusive culture and good quality of life

Transition from IRF to permanent academic position.

The School has a strong track record of retaining many of its IRFs as permanent academic staff. To be considered for transition onto faculty we expect the following:

  • That the IRF has a strong REF return in terms of research outputs. Contributions to Impact and Environment are a plus, but the prime REF criterion is outputs.
  • That the IRF has engaged with the School and provided service (teaching, administration) appropriate for an IRF, and shows a commitment to doing so in the future.
  • That the IRF has shown evidence of building a successful research group with the potential to go forward in the longer term. Such activities include successfully supervising or co-supervising graduate students, and applying for research funding (with a strong likelihood of future success).
  • That the IRF has appropriate career esteem measures for their career stage (such as invited seminars, invitations to editorial boards, service for academic societies).

While not a necessary condition for transition, promotion to Reader is thought to be a useful indication that the IRF is on a suitable trajectory. If an IRF wishes to propose themselves for retention, firstly a panel involving the Head of School, Director of Research and appropriate Centre Director will evaluate the case before a school-level decision being made by management group. Management Group approval would then allow an approach to the Principal’s Office. A formal interview will be required to ensure that the candidate meets the criteria.