In January 2010, the UK Research Staff Association (UKRSA) was set up to represent and provide a voice for researchers from academic institutions in the UK. It is a national association that speaks on common research staff (RS) issues to other national bodies and to interested international groups as well. Many institutions have their own RSAs, of varying sizes and levels of development, that all strive to bring researchers together for support, with many also providing a representative role.

What is an RSA?

RSAs come in various forms and have various roles at different institutions. They are all a formalised group of RS who meet for the purpose of supporting RS in their working lives. The simplest provide merely a social network or a structure of social events where can staff share successes, problems and tips, and have time to relax in each other’s company. Others have formal committees and representatives, and function in an advisory role in various university policy groups and other senior management bodies. RSAs provide support for development and training and/or provide a collective voice to represent researchers.

Many RSAs are not university-wide. It is quite common for groups to develop in individual departments and schools, where it may be easier to communicate with the researchers, and where gaining an advisory role to the decision-making process is made simpler by familiarity with the more senior staff involved. 

What are the advantages of an RSA?

The UKRSA survey revealed several advantages of RSAs. Researchers felt their RSAs had had an impact: RS voices were being heard on committees and policy changes had been made as a result. Other researchers reported that their RSAs had helped to coordinate training and had been consulted on the training needs of researchers. Many researchers reported that they felt happier in their working lives, and felt better about being a researcher due to feeling part of a recognised group.

Should the university have an RSA? What do you think? Post us a comment below.

To view the full article on Research Staff Associations, view issue 11 of Incite here: Incite_Issue_11