Postdoctoral Research Associate - Reimagining Governance for a Flourishing Research Culture

Updated: about 2 months ago
Location: Durham, ENGLAND

Postdoctoral Research Associate - Reimagining Governance for a Flourishing Research Culture (
Job Number:
Vice-Chancellor's Office
Grade 7: - £37,099 - £39,347 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 24 Months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date
: 05-Jan-2024, 6:59:00 PM
Disclosure and Barring Service Requirement: Not Applicable. 

Working at Durham University  

A globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, a warm and friendly place to work, a unique and historic setting – Durham is a university like no other.

As one of the UK’s leading universities, Durham is an incredible place to define your career. The University is located within a beautiful historic city, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and surrounded by stunning countryside. Our talented scholars and researchers from around the world are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.  

We believe that inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham enables Durham people to do outstanding things in the world. Being a part of Durham is about more than just the success of the University, it’s also about contributing to the success of the city, county and community.

Our University Strategy is built on three pillars of research, education and wider student experience, but also on our keen sense of community and of inspiring others to achieve their potential. 

Our Purpose and Values

We want our University to be a place where people can be free to be themselves, no matter what their identity or background. Together, we celebrate difference, value one another and are each responsible for creating an inclusive community that is respectful and fair for all.

Find out more about the benefits of working at the University and what it is like to live and work in the Durham area on our Why Durham? information page.   

The Role and Department
The Research Culture Team at Durham University, led by Professor Jane Macnaughton Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor for Research, has been awarded £1 million from the Wellcome Trust for an action research project entitled ‘Reimagining Governance for a Flourishing Research Culture’. The PI is Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice Chancellor, who is keenly engaged in the project’s success, but it will be led by Jane Macnaughton supported by a diverse interdisciplinary team of Co-Is including academic, professional and technical staff.  The project is due to start in January 2024 with a duration of 24 months. This exciting initiative is part of a wider programme of activities to transform research culture at Durham (Flourish@Durham ) and it will investigate the effectiveness of our research governance structures across departments, research institutes, and the university itself while launching a series of interventions including Shadow Committees and co-designed pilot projects aimed at improving research governance.  

These roles offer an exciting opportunity to make an important contribution to enhancing the research culture of the university, while allowing you excellent opportunities to develop your career in an exciting and progressive institution. Alongside working as part of the research team, you will have the opportunity to continue to develop your career within your home discipline as part of our world-leading academic departments. You will have an appropriate departmental affiliation and opportunities to take part in departmental activities. Durham University is committed to the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and many of our departments hold an Athena SWAN Bronze or Silver award. Athena SWAN is a national initiative that recognises the advancement of gender equality, representation, progression and success for all in academia.     

The Role

We are very excited to be offering an opportunity to four (4) postdoctoral researchers to join our research team. The team includes the co-applicants: Professor Ari Saranandom (Department of Biosciences), Professor Fuschia Sirois (Department of Psychology), Dr Ladan Cockshut (Assistant Professor (Research) and Co-I for Evaluation), Dr Beth Upex (Senior Technical Manager, Department of Archaeology) and Andrew Moss (Research Culture Manager, Research and Innovation Services), an external consultant and a Senior Project Manager. We are a cross-departmental and cross faculty team and will be based in a collaborative space. 

Three (3) of these roles will be responsible for conducting ethnographic research into governance across selected university departments and research institutes and will co-design and deliver pilot projects aimed at improving governance structures.  One (1) of the roles will work with Dr Ladan Cockshut (Co-I for evaluation) and focus on evaluation of the entire project across all of its strands of activity and interventions. These roles will be integral members of our research team, working with colleagues from a diverse range of departments and disciplines to deliver this ambitious project.

The successful applicants will be expected to:

  • Carry out research and pilot projects (3 roles):
  • Conduct ethnographic research, including interviews and participant observation, across selected academic departments and/or university research institutes
  • Conduct literature reviews and examine documentation relating to research governance
  • Use an action research approach to deliver co-designed research governance interventions
  • Use a mixed methods approach to collect and analyse data, including ethnographic research in committees, creating and deploying surveys via Qualtrics and analysing quantitative data using SPSS
  • Conduct evaluation (1 role):
  • Contribute to the design and implementation of the evaluation strategy for all strands of this project
  •  Help to conduct a mixed methods evaluation of all strands of the project to ascertain its impact and the effectiveness of the project’s interventions
  •  Attend, observe, and document Shadow Boards and any other meetings and activities of relevance to the project

All roles will be expected to:

  • Participate in regular meetings of the research team
  • Produce and deliver periodic updates for the Project Oversight Group (POG)
  • Publish high quality outputs, including project reports, papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops
  • Pursue opportunities for professional and career development, including training opportunities and conference attendance

Key responsibilities

  • To conduct research into governance processes in departments/university research institutes through interview, participant observation and document review and survey work.
  • To participate in meetings of the Reimagining Governance research team, including preparing reports on progress.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to audiences which may include: research sponsors, academic and non-academic audiences.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Project Lead.
  • To assist with the development and delivering research objectives and proposals.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Project Lead and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To contribute to liaison with other Wellcome Research Culture projects to promote collaboration across the research culture field and develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the project and home discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes and by attending relevant training and development courses within the time constraints of the project.
  • To work with the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder and other colleagues in the research group, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To plan and manage own research activity, research resources in collaboration with others and contribute to the planning of research projects.  
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors and students as appropriate.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and assist with the assessment of the knowledge of students.
  • Any other reasonable duties.

This post is fixed term for 24 months as funding is available for this duration. The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post in January 2024.

Working at Durham 

A competitive salary is only one part of the many fantastic benefits you will receive if you join the University: you will also receive access to the following fantastic benefits: 

•    30 Days annual leave per year in addition to 8 public holidays and 4 customary days per year – a total of 42 days per year.  
•    The University closes between Christmas and New Year – please include or delete if not applicable. 
•    We offer a generous pension scheme, As a new member of staff you will be automatically enrolled  into the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).
•    No matter how you travel to work, we have you covered.  We have parking across campus, a cycle to work scheme which helps you to buy a bike and discount with local bus and train companies.
•    There is a genuine commitment to developing our colleagues professionally and personally.  There is a comprehensive range of development courses, apprenticeships and access to qualifications and routes to develop your career in the University.  All staff have dedicated annual time to concentrate on their personal development opportunities. 
•    Lots of support for health and wellbeing including discounted membership for our state of the art sport and gym facilities and access to a 24-7 Employee Assistance Programme.
•    On site nursery is available and children’s clubs in the summer holidays.
•    Family friendly policies, including maternity and adoption leave, which are among the most generous in the higher education sector (and likely above and beyond many employers).
•    The opportunity to take part in staff volunteering activities to make a difference in the local community
•    Discounts are available via our benefits portal including; money off at supermarkets, high street retailers, IT products such as Apple, the cinema and days out at various attractions. 
•    A salary sacrifice scheme is also available to help you take advantage of tax savings on benefits. 
•    If you are moving to Durham, we can help with removal costs and we have a dedicated team who can help you with the practicalities such as house hunting and schools.  If you need a visa, we cover most visa costs and offer an interest free loan scheme to pay for dependant visas.

Durham University is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are a key component of the University’s Strategy and a central part of everything we do.  We also live by our Purpose and Values  and our Staff Code of Conduct.   At Durham we actively work towards providing an environment where our staff and students can study, work and live in a community which is supportive and inclusive. It’s important to us that all colleagues undertake activities that are aligned to both our values and commitment to EDI. 

We welcome and encourage applications from those who are currently under-represented in our work force, including people with disabilities and from racially minoritised ethnic groups.

If you have taken a career break or periods of leave that may have impacted on the volume and recency of your research outputs and other activities, such as maternity, adoption or parental leave, you may wish to disclose this in your application. The selection committee will take this into account when evaluating your application.

The University has been awarded the Disability Confident Employer status. If you are a candidate with a disability, we are committed to ensuring fair treatment throughout the recruitment process. We will make adjustments to support the interview process wherever it is reasonable to do so and, where successful, reasonable adjustments will be made to support people within their role. 

Contact Information 

Department contact for academic-related enquiries 

Professor Jane Macnaughton (Project Lead): [email protected]

Professor Fuschia Sirois (Project Co-I): [email protected]

Dr Ladan Cockshut (Project Co-I and Evaluation Lead): [email protected]

Contact information for technical difficulties when submitting your application

 Lauren Gulliver- Recruitment Coordinator- [email protected] 

If you encounter technical difficulties when using the online application form, we prefer you send enquiries by email.  Please send your name along with a brief description of the problem you’re experiencing to [email protected]  

Alternatively, you may call 0191 334 6801 from the UK, or +44 191 334 6801 from outside the UK. This number operates during the hours of 09.00 and 17.00 Monday to Friday, UK time.  We will normally respond within one working day (Monday to Friday, excluding UK public holidays).  

University contact for general queries about the recruitment process 

How to Apply  

To progress to the assessment stage, candidates must evidence each of the essential criteria required for the role in the person specification below. It will be at the discretion of the recruiting panel as to whether they will also consider any desirable criteria, but we would urge candidates to provide evidence for all criteria.  

While some criteria will be considered at the shortlisting stage, other criteria may be considered later in the assessment process, such as questions at interview.  

Submitting your application 

We prefer to receive applications online.   We will update you about your application at various points throughout the selection process, via automated emails from our e-recruitment system. Please check your spam/junk folder periodically to make sure you have not missed any of our updates.

What to Submit 

All applicants are asked to submit: 

  • a CV and cover letter which details your experience, skills, and achievements in meeting (or the potential to meet) the criteria set out below. 

Next Steps 

Short-listed candidates will be invited to the University, either virtually or in-person and will have the opportunity to meet key members of the Research Team. 

In the event that you are unable to attend in person on the date offered, it may not be possible to offer you an interview on an alternative date. 

Please note that in submitting your application Durham University will be processing your data. We would ask you to consider the relevant University Privacy Statement which provides information on the collation, storing and use of data.   

When appointing to this role the University must ensure that it meets any applicable immigration requirements, including salary thresholds which are applicable to some visas.

Person Specification 

Essential Criteria:


  • A good first degree
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in a social science discipline and/or with experience of qualitative and/or quantitative research methods. 
  • Experience

  • Experience in conducting qualitative research, including interviews, participant observations and document review and / or experience in conducting quantitative research, including survey design and data analysis in SPSS.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Skills

    1.    Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.

    2.    Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research

    3.    Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.

    4.    Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, written and oral.

  • An interest in developing research culture in the higher education context.
  • Desirable Criteria 


  • Experience and understanding of research governance structures, e.g. by participation in PGR committees or other university structures.
  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Experience with conducting evaluation (for the evaluation PDRA post only)
  • Understanding of key motivation theories, and Self-Determination Theory in particular

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