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Reflections on how C-DICE can help postdoctoral researchers meet their career development needs

Reflections on how C-DICE can help postdoctoral researchers meet their career development needs

By Dr Madalina Stalniceanu, Impact Hub Development Officer, C-DICE

The Centre for Postdoctoral Development in Infrastructure, Cities and Energy (C-DICE) has hosted a series of workshops this year to introduce the C-DICE programme to academics, postdoctoral researchers, research managers and late-stage PhD students in the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) partnerships.

These workshops, which brought together around 120 participants, aimed to raise awareness about C-DICE in the ERA and UKCRIC communities, to explore opportunities and barriers to engagement with the programme, and to identify synergies between ERA and UKCRIC that could be exploited. The small discussion groups enabled postdoctoral researchers working in the Infrastructure, Cities and Energy areas to shape the C-DICE programme by identifying the different aspects of the programme that they were most interested in and by exploring how the C-DICE strands and activities can met their needs.

Many postdoctoral researchers expressed their interest in the activities and the opportunities under the 4 C-DICE strands:

  • training programme – postdoctoral researchers were interested in both attending and providing training to peers
  • development pathway – participants would like to take up development opportunities including secondments, industrial placements and ‘sector swapping’
  • problem-led sandpit series – many attendees would like to apply to join the teams that will be created around solving research challenges related to net zero
  • Impact Hub – participants wanted to attend some of the activities, showcase events and conferences that the Impact Hub will organise in the next few months

Postdoctoral development priorities

One of the top priorities that participants identified during the three workshops was engagement and collaboration with postdoctoral researchers working at other Universities in fields related to Net Zero. Many participants also expressed an interest in learning more about engagement with industry representatives and policymakers at local, national or international levels, and in having the opportunity to interact with these stakeholder representatives. Some participants requested support on commercialisation of research, while others wanted to learn more about how to increase the impact of their research.

Barriers to participation in the C-DICE programme

Many participants maintained that one of the major barriers to developing current skills and to engaging with the C-DICE programme is the lack of time as in many cases postdoctoral researchers need to balance competing priorities regarding their research, their personal development and job hunting due to the prevalence of fixed-term contracts. Other barriers that were identified include limited support from principal investigators, lack of training opportunities in managing projects, and the language barriers between research, industry and policy.

Suggestions regarding future activities

Many participants indicated that C-DICE could contribute to their professional development by offering mentoring and shadowing opportunities both in academia and industry, and by collating current and future opportunities and circulating them via the C-DICE newsletter, social media channels and LinkedIn.

Novel ways of engagement that postdoctoral researchers suggested include an ‘unconference’ on the topic of Net Zero in which participants determine the agenda on the day, stand up comedy, speed dating with industry representatives and ‘walk and talk’ type events.

Next steps

The C-DICE team members are extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to meet members of the postdoctoral community working in Net Zero areas and to receive their input into the future shape of the programme. If you would like to find out more about news, and the events and activities that C-DICE is planning for the future, please subscribe to our monthly C-DICE newsletter here. Also register on our postdoctoral development app, Inkpath, where you will be able to sign-up for all of our forthcoming activities.

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