The rewarding experiences of being a Co-Chair of the Research Staff Association

Posted on: 3 July 2023 by Dr Sophie Jones in Researchers

An image of Sophie Jones
Dr Sophie Jones

Dr Sophie Jones is a postdoc in the Department of History, where she is employed on the AHRC-funded project Libraries, Reading Communities, and Cultural Formation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic.

As part of the University of Liverpool’s commitment to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, staff on research-only contracts are guaranteed a minimum 10 days per year to pursue activities to support their own professional development.

With the agreement of her PI, she uses her 10 days on a pro-rata basis throughout the year to serve her postdoc community as a member of the Research Staff Association’s (RSA) Steering Committee. Sophie initially joined the RSA core team during the Covid-19 lockdowns; recruited in Autumn 2019 as part of a team of researchers, working-from-home arrangements (combined with a partner who was working unsociable and unpredictable hours in hospitality) saw Sophie working in isolation for extended periods of time. Being part of the RSA provided an extra layer of community and structure, helping her to feel connected to the wider University community.

One of the most rewarding experiences to come from Sophie’s role with the RSA has been the opportunity to provide PostDoc representation on several prestigious University committees, both centrally and within her Faculty. She is a member of the Concordat Steering Group, the University’s Research and Impact Committee (RIC), and the RIC for HSS. She has also been approached to provide input at UK-wide associations, most recently as the sole PostDoc representative on University UK’s Research Culture & Practice Forum steering group.

Sophie thoroughly enjoys this aspect of her role and finds working with SMT and Professional Services staff incredibly inspiring. Their combined input through the above committees has led to real change, improving the working lives of her colleagues across the University. Further, it has given Sophie a much fuller understanding of how UK HEI institutions operate, and the broad scope of roles available within them. With her current contract due to end in Autumn 2023, Sophie’s experiences as a Co-Chair of the RSA have been invaluable for her professional development, allowing her to develop additional skills to those which she uses in her PDRA role and encouraging her to think broadly about the next stage of her career.

Key takeaways

Membership of university committees supports a greater feeling of connection to the wider university community and greater understanding of how HEI institutions operate

Working with different staff groups helps you to think more broadly about the next stage of your career