To mark the start of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Prosper has officially launched its innovative new postdoctoral career development offering.
Its model and resources are now freely available to postdocs, managers of researchers, and research institutions across the UK – accessible via its new online hub, the Prosper Portal.
The portal contains a wealth of content designed to unlock postdocs’ potential to thrive across multiple career pathways, both within and beyond academia – with the ultimate aim of opening up the huge talent pool that exists within the UK’s postdoc community to the benefit of all.
Its resources are divided into five main areas:
- Reflect – Enabling postdocs to identify their strengths, skills, values and career goals.
- Explore – First-hand insights direct from a wide range of employers, for learning all about opportunities and career pathways open to postdocs across 12 career clusters.
- Act– Practical career skills for effectively building professional networks, pursuing job opportunities, and developing your skillset within your current role.
- Managers of Researchers – Co-created with Principal Investigators (PIs) and managers of researchers, aimed at enabling managers to support their postdocs’ career development.
- Institutions – Guidance and ready-made materials for institutional staff responsible for delivering postdoc career development, looking to implement Prosper within their own organisation.
The Prosper model is the culmination of a four-year development phase, spearheaded by The Academy at the University of Liverpool, in partnership with the University of Manchester and Lancaster University, and funded by the Research England Development (RED) fund. It forms a part of the sector-wide push to transform UK research culture for the better, and aligns with the goals of the UKRI people and teams actions plan and Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.
The UK has one of the highest postdoc populations per capita in the world, but this layer has historically been under-serviced from a people development point of view. Many postdocs struggle to access career development resources that are geared to their distinct situation, or information about their options beyond academia – Prosper was founded to help fill this gap.
During its development phase, it co-created and trialled its model through two pilot cohorts of 120+ postdocs across its partner institutions. Participant postdocs were carefully recruited to achieve a diverse and representative mix in terms of gender, ethnicity and discipline – to ensure voices from all corners of the postdoc community were incorporated.
The evaluation of its pilots showed a significant improvement in participants’ confidence levels, broadened career horizons, and proactive career-planning behaviours. Many of its pilot postdocs were able to use their newfound abilities to secure new roles both within and beyond academia – including positions within the Civil Service, NGOs, academia-industry collaborations, software companies. Participants in general reported increased confidence in their ability to pro-actively take charge of their career and take their next step.
The success of its pilots led UKRI to announce a further £450k of funding for Prosper post-launch, to support efforts to drive adoption across the UK following its roll-out. Prosper is now working with institutions across the country – a number of which have already begun early adoption in earnest – to enable local implementation and use of its resources.
Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair, UKRI, commented: “People are absolutely core to a vibrant research and innovation culture, and a major priority for UKRI and the wider sector. The UK’s postdoctoral community is a diverse pool of world-class talent. With the right support, postdoctoral researchers will play a key role in tackling the myriad social, economic, and scientific challenges of today and tomorrow, driving excellence both within academia and wherever their careers may take them.
“What Prosper has built in this regard is very impressive, and the impact it has had on postdoctoral researchers in its pilot phase is extremely promising. I believe Prosper can play a leading role in driving best practice in developing postdoctoral research careers and strongly encourage research institutions across the UK to adopt and make use of Prosper resources.”
Professor Anthony Hollander, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research & Impact, University of Liverpool, said: “It’s great to see just how far Prosper has come since its inception. All the co-creation, testing and refining has culminated in a genuinely unique offering in the postdoc career development space – a rich and comprehensive set of resources designed for postdocs as postdocs, crafted in close collaboration with our partner institutions, the wider sector, employers, and of course postdocs themselves.
“I’ve seen first-hand the transformative impact Prosper has had on the postdocs involved in our pilots. Now that offering will become freely available to postdocs and institutions up and down the country. I’m confident Prosper can act as a gold standard for the sector from the get-go.”