N8 Research Partnership unveils Statement on Support for Established (Mid-Career) Researchers


The N8 Research Partnership – the collective body for the North’s eight research intensive universities – has published a first-of-its-kind statement that sets out its collective commitment to advancing the culture and environment for established (mid-career) researchers.

The N8 has defined an established (mid-career) researcher as a researcher who has achieved an independent research reputation but has not yet attained the status of Professor.

There are approximately 10,000 such researchers in this career stage within the N8 universities, each having individual needs for career advancement and support.

The statement – the first of its type from a UK academic consortium – was developed as a response to findings from a workshop held in March 2023. The N8 had previously identified established (mid-career) researchers as the ‘forgotten middle’ and part of the research and innovation ecosystem where working together we could create more positive change than we could working independently.

While it was agreed there were examples of good practice across the N8, there was no common benchmark for supporting researchers at this career stage.

This statement, therefore, acts a collective commitment from the N8 to improve the ecosystem for established (mid-career) researchers. Commitments made in the statement include:

  • “We will ensure that promotion and progression pathways are transparent, inclusive and equitable. We will provide opportunities to enable established (mid-career) researchers to progress in their careers in a way that realises their own ambitions, as well as maximising their contribution to institutional goals.”
  • “We will work with established (mid-career) researchers in each of our universities to ensure that resources and funding opportunities are clearly signposted to them. We will ensure that internal funding schemes are designed with an understanding of their needs, and will work with funders and learned societies to support funding opportunities for researchers in this career stage.”
  • “We will enhance our targeted training and development offer for established (mid-career) researchers, taking into account the context of their needs and experiences. We will improve the visibility and communication of this offer to further enhance their careers and enable them to realise their potential.”

The statement can be read in full here.

Dr Annette Bramley, Executive Director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “Our workshop last year was an inspirational event that set the N8 on path towards redefining what support we can offer to a crucial, but often overlooked, part of the research community.

“This is not just about improving pathways and protocols but also perception. One of the key findings from our workshop was perceived negativity around the term ‘mid-career’. Not only does this term not adequately describe the wide variety of roles it might refer to – from lecturer to senior research fellow – it also brings with it negative connotations of a career that has yet to take off, when even getting to this stage within academia is a major achievement in itself.

“The N8 will therefore use the term ‘established researcher’ with the aims of talking about this career stage using the positive and aspirational language that this talented cohort deserve.

“Ultimately, this statement is our means to enable our researchers to overcome the complex and systemic challenges in the workplace that they must navigate while also finding the time and energy for responsibilities and pursuits beyond work.

“Too many talented people struggle due to the challenges faced at the established (mid-career) researcher stage. That is not only a cause of regret for the individuals involved, but collectively represents a cause of great harm to UK research culture as whole. The N8 wants to ensure that doesn’t happen at our universities – we’re committed to working with established (mid-career) researchers to enable them to achieve their personal ambitions while simultaneously advancing research culture across the north.

We are also committed to a collaboration with colleagues in the Eastern ARC universities to explore the potential for a UK-wide framework for the support of established (mid-career) researchers.”

In February, the N8 Research Partnership published its response to the TALENT Commission report. The N8’s intervention reflected its commitment to strengthening technicians’ vital role in teaching, research and development, in turn boosting the UK’s research and innovation capabilities.

Both statements form part of the N8 Research Culture campaign, which has seen case studies of best practice, toolkits and interviews with key figures across the N8 showcased across the N8’s website and social media.