Research staff issues log
Introduction of the workload model for all staff, including research staff, raised a number of issues which are illustrated below.
'Research staff' definition
‘Research staff’ are taken to include all staff on research contracts. It is this rather than the source of funding, for example, which defines ‘research’ staff.
This includes staff on fixed-term and open-ended contracts. It includes staff who may be working 100% of their contracted time on a single project eg a research council or EU-funded project. It also includes staff who, over the course of a year, may work on a variety of different and overlapping projects. Research staff may undertake a certain amount of teaching, but their primary contractual responsibility is research.
Issues relating to 'research staff' and workload allocation
The following five issues were raised in in terms of the common workload model:
Issue number 1
The Governance Group discussed the proposal that research staff should have the same entitlement to time and activities outside of the 550 workload bundles assigned to other academic staff – ie research staff should be entitled to 5 weeks scholarship and 2 weeks for meetings etc over and above the time equivalent of 550 workload bundles allocated to research.
- Where research staff are contracted to work for ‘100%’ of their time eg on a research council project the 100% includes the 7 weeks of additional activity. Where they work on a ‘portfolio’ of different projects, their total project workload must again allow for these additional activities. This is in line with the ‘Research Concordat’ to which UWE subscribes.
- Overall, it is important that researchers and particularly their managers are clear as to expectations for contracted research time, time for scholarship and the overall workload of researchers."
It was accepted in principle, for TRAC compatibility, that all staff in the WLM should be on 654 bundles. Those staff not on a purely research contract would need to account for the additional 104 WLBs for TRAC purposes across research and scholarly activity and teaching-related administrative duties.
Issue number 2
There were issues around the translation of research activity into workload bundles.
- Where a percentage of a researcher’s time is devoted to a project, possibly up to 100%, this proportion of their time can be readily translated into workload bundles. Research councils and similar funders pay salary cost plus varying amounts of overheads. In other cases, researcher may be charged to projects at day rates – and these can vary considerably depending on what the client and market can bear. This raises the issue of how day rates should be translated into workload bundles.
- Day rates for a research fellow, for example, might vary from
£250 a day to £600 a day. It could be inappropriate simply to
translate days into workload bundles on an equivalent basis in both
cases, for two reasons:
- First, consultancy at high day rates is typically high intensity with high expectations from clients and typically involves time input over and above contracted days.
- Second, if days at low day rates attract the same workload bundles as days at high rates, there is no incentive to secure higher day rates – the incentive will be to maximise the number of days.
- The WLM does not generally relate bundles to income generated. There is however, a case for research and consultancy undertaken on day rates to attract a premium on grounds of equity and to incentivise income generation.
- It should be noted that in parts of the University the expectation has been that staff on research contracts should generally cover their salary over the course of a financial year plus appropriate overheads. The WLM represents a different metric which is less directly linked to income generation and financial sustainability.
It was agreed that this point 2 (differential day rates on consultancy leading to different amounts of WL bundles for a ‘day’s’ work) was not an acceptable principle.
Issue number 3
The WLM as applied to research staff needs to recognise that such staff may well start the academic year or accounting period with less than a full workload.
- This should be recognised as a necessity rather than a problem – research staff may be awaiting the outcome of bids for funding that, if successful will result in a full workload.
- Or they may be anticipating bidding for and responding to opportunities for research and consultancy with short lead-in times which arise over the course of the accounting period – unless capacity to respond is maintained it will be impossible to capitalise on such opportunities, including short-term projects with higher day rates.
- There are concomitant risks, and researchers may be overloaded and under-loaded for periods of time. In such cases, however, workload should be reviewed retrospectively rather than prospectively, with the financial risks managed and borne by faculties.
Point 3, about the retrospective review of research staff workload was accepted. Research staff in the WLM will start the year with any ‘unallocated’ capacity up to 654 bundles shown as ‘faculty funded research’. As research bids are won, then bundles will move from ’faculty funded’ to ‘externally funded’ as appropriate.
Issue number 4
Another issue arose: Two different currencies for researchers.
UWE have two different currencies for managing work: money and time, and they are not convertible. Moreover, the UWE bundle doesn't work for an external activity as the rest of the world uses the units of ‘day’ or ‘month’.
Bundles are good for resource allocation of teaching activities, because the difference in salaries between the potential people doing the work does not matter – everyone’s time is worth the same - and the actual costs are dealt with by formula. Salary differences are factored in by managers assigning appropriate staff for the task.
Bundles do not work so well for research, because they require allocators to specify right at the beginning who will be doing the work, so allocators can allocate the time very precisely according to the cost of each individual’s bundles. This can be impractical, as some research projects can come and go in extremis within a few days eg urgent policy advice to an administration.
The solution to this issue is as per point 3. Research staff in the WLM will start the year with any 'unallocated' capacity up to 654 bundles.
Issue number 5
There are staff who have a contract which includes both teaching and research – a number of examples are found in the Faculty of Environment Technology where staff in the transport field have 50:50 contracts.