Developing the new research leaders
Dr Maree Gladwin brings a rich background to her role of helping Mid Career Researchers prosper within the growing research environment at Deakin University.
“I have a long term interest in the development of academic careers,” Dr Gladwin said. “It was something I was involved in during my time at the University of Melbourne”.
“I ran mentoring and leadership programs for academic staff for a number of years before being appointed to assist Melbourne University with the Research Quality Framework process. As a result of that experience I saw that there was a need for a more strategic approach to helping researchers fulfil their potential and so I developed a proposal to achieve that. This is the proposal that Deakin was keen to adopt and what I have come here to develop,
“My original proposal – the Research Mentoring Matrix – required the introduction of a university-wide, multi-disciplinary, high quality mentoring and networking program.”
In essence, Dr Gladwin has been working since March 2008 to bring Mid Career Researchers of potential under the knowing eye of some of Deakin’s highest achieving research leaders. This is being done, primarily, through introducing the Developing Research Leaders Program in each Faculty.
So why a focus on mid career researchers?
“There are a lot of reasons for focussing on Mid Career Researchers,” Dr Gladwin said.
“At this time in their career, researchers face a lot of decisions. These might involve questions about how narrow or broad their research interests should be or involve choices about the amount of effort they put in to applying for national competitive grants versus taking more time to build up their publication track record.”
“Deakin wants and needs our Mid Career Researchers to progress and develop and so has made a commitment, from the top and in the Strategic Plan, to provide the sort of support that will allow them to blossom as research leaders.”
There are other reasons for the focus on Mid Career Researchers.
“In some Faculties, the age of the professoriate is an issue. We have some very good people who are getting close to retirement. So what we are doing in those Faculties is succession planning, really.
“Like all universities there are two ways to cover for the retirement of quality researchers – recruitment or development.
“Recruitment is becoming increasingly competitive, so development from within and then retaining those people become very important.
One of the first issues for Dr Gladwin and the University was deciding what constitutes a ‘Mid Career Researcher’.
Essentially it is a broad definition that doesn’t just depend on how many years someone has been a researcher or academic. In our use of the term, it can apply to someone who is a high achieving Early Career Researcher (ie who already has a research track record like a mid career researcher) as well as to someone at level D who might need to strengthen the quality of their research or increase their research income.
The definition is probably not as important as identifying those researchers who would be able to move their research up another notch with the input of quality mentoring from an appropriate research leader, and then bringing the two together.
“Because mentoring takes time and energy, we have to make sure we use our high performing researchers to mentor those mid career researchers who will be able to make the very best use of their advice and support,” Dr Gladwin said. “All of these things are forcing us to be quite strategic in the way we approach things.”
“Already we have developed a whole range of interesting new partnerships throughout the University and also outside the University. We have some excellent external mentors too.”
Dr Gladwin said that as well as the satisfaction of helping mentees, there are other benefits for mentors.
“They get the opportunity to reflect upon and re-assess their own skills and their understanding of the research process” she said.
“I’ve found that mentors also enjoy the opportunity to meet other committed researchers across the University and extend their own networks.”
“At the end of the process that I have started with the introduction of the Developing Research Leaders Program we will have a culture of research leadership at Deakin where mentoring is recognised as an important part of becoming a research leader, and that can only benefit the whole University as a research institution.”
When not travelling back and forwards to Deakin’s campuses in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool, or searching out likely mentor/mentee partnerships, Dr Gladwin can be found at her shack in Airey’s Inlet.
Or playing her clarinet as an enthusiastic member of the Grainger Wind Symphony.
But it is the introduction of initiatives like the Developing Research Leaders Program, arrived at after years of experience in academic career development, that is Dr Gladwin’s greatest instrument for change.
Future editions of the newsletter will feature some of the mentor/mentee partnerships Dr Gladwin has created.
Source: Deakin University Research Update Newsletter