When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 March 2013
What happens when staff and researchers are planning to leave their host institution? In light of the “UKOLN – Looking Ahead” announcement this is a subject which is currently preoccupying myself and many of my colleagues.
As Martin Hamilton pointed out in his post on A Tale of Two Jiscs: Reflections on CETIS13, FutureLearn and the JISC Diaspora “In many cases, JISC was farsighted enough to forsee requirements in the research and education sector that have subsequently turned into significant businesses in themselves“. But Martin then went on to describe how those benefits are about to be lost: “we are entering a new era, necessitated by funding reductions, changing student demographics and frankly an unwillingness to see “R&D” type activities (of which a large proportion can be expected to fail) facilitated through top sliced central funding“. For myself and many of my colleagues we are having to respond to the scenario depicted by Martin:”Behind the scenes, a lot of people who have been working for JISC on its various centres and services have been having meetings with their local HR departments about redundancy and redeployment“.
But what should you do if you wish to continue to make use of the skills and expertise you have developed over the years but new full-time posts appear to be in short supply? I suspect the changes in Jisc will provide new consultancy opportunities, with their current preoccupation in telling good news stories without addressing any of the underlying complexities or tensions leaving a void which can be filled by those who have a more realistic understanding of the complexities of exploiting IT to support institutional requirements.
The preparation for a new career will mean the loss of an IT infrastructure and the accompanying support which many of us will have grown accustomed to. But how can provide help and advice in the preparation for a move away from an institutional environment? One might expect the Library to provide support, especially for institutions which have a commitment to information literacy, which is defined as “the ability to find, use, evaluate and communicate information” and is “an essential skill in this digital age and era of life-long learning“. But as I will be describing next week at the LILAC 2013 conference this is not necessarily the case, with the role of librarians perhaps being to promote use of institutional rather than Cloud services. But since we will all, at some point, leave our host institution, this is not really providing staff and researchers with the life-long skills needed to thrive beyond an institutional context.
Surely it is timely for a change in focus, especially if the gloomy predictions are correct and we continue to see reductions in staffing levels in higher education institutions?
I’d welcome your thoughts and comments – especially if you have experience of leaving your host institution and continuing to work, perhaps as a consultant. My slides are available on Slideshare and embedded below: