Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Research Leader - New and Aspiring PI's

Research Leader programme for new and aspiring Principal Investigators (PIs). Typical programme structure, content and day by day outline.

Programme content

The programme focuses on the challenges faced by research leaders as they establish themselves as PIs and group leaders.

Topics include understanding your approach to leadership, developing and supporting a research group, and understanding the internal and external research and higher education environment.

Drawing upon the experience of senior colleagues and a range of internal and external contributors the programme will consider issues around leadership: how to recruit, manage and motivate a research team to effectively deliver research projects; decision making: how to balance competing demands, deal with difficult situations and identify the best options available; and personal advancement: publication profile, funding opportunities and career development.

Programme structure and requirements

Offered as a 3 or 4-day programme, participants are committed to attending all days. The programme is fully integrated and each day of the programme builds on the earlier content.

The course is organised by the Institute for Academic Development on behalf of, and working closely with, the 3 Colleges. It is facilitated by external development consultants and there are contributions from senior staff in the Colleges.

Example 4-day programme outline:

Day 1 - The role of the Principal Investigator

  • what does good research leadership look like - theory and practice
  • what are my strengths as a research leader?
  • what areas of leadership do I need to develop?
  • being strategic: having a research vision
  • setting personal and research priorities
  • being focussed

Day 2 - Managing research delivery

  • managing internal and external stakeholder relationships to deliver impact
  • managing stakeholder expectations
  • gaining funding
  • developing effective plans to support research delivery
  • managing budgets
  • team structures and roles
  • managing risk effectively
  • equality & diversity

Day 3 - Managing successful research projects - managing people

  • building your research team – recruitment of researchers
  • developing an effective research team culture
  • coaching staff to support development of independence
  • motivating staff
  • effective delegation
  • having challenging conversations about performance
  • resolving conflict within research teams and collaborations
  • supporting research staff development

Day 4 – Research Career Management

  • Staying motivated and resilient
  • Avoiding self-sabotage
  • Using time effectively
  • Ensuring career progression - building reputation, profile and esteem
  • Developing further collaborations
  • Post programme action planning.

Target audience

Aimed at PIs in their first appointment as an academic, especially those with less than two years’ experience as a PI.

The programme is also suitable for those research staff who are expected to take on the role of Principal Investigator in the very near future


"You might think you don't need a training like this, but believe me you do! This training will help you to manage yourself, your group and your interactions, recognise issues before they become nasty problems and manage the issues effectively and much more." 2019 Participant

This was an extremely enjoyable and informative course which allowed me to meet with other people at exactly the same career stage as myself. Excellent course tutors provided valuable information and guidance with regard to the various skills required from a research group leader. There was also lots of time for group discussion. I learned a lot and felt reassured knowing there are other people facing the same challenges posed by a role as a new Research Leader. I would highly recommend the opportunity to take part in this Programme.  2018 participant

The content was varied and interesting. It covered a wide range of issues, but all framed around the process of ‘doing’ and ‘leading’ research. This allowed us to think in the context of our work and offered opportunities to plan our own strategies for leading a big research project

The Research Leadership Development Programme was very useful in broadening my horizons, making me "think big" and providing excellent networking opportunities with colleagues at a similar career stage from across the College. The most useful thing I learned was the importance of making and taking time to think, both about my own work, ambitions and career progression, and those of junior and senior colleagues working around me. 2019 Participant 

I attended the research leadership programme from Jan-April 2019 and thoroughly recommend it. The 4 days of the course were spread over 4 months and that is a hugely important part. After each session there was time to reflect and to put into practice the things discussed. How important it is to know how my way of working is not the only way and how a diverse team bringing different dynamics is key. It gave me many pointers and suggestions including having a strategy and how to focus my work, how understanding how colleagues work and respond to you is important and to learn to say no - without a strategy you can be busy all week long but with no clear aim you will become frustrated. Key messages included the importance of finding a mentor, visualising one year/five years from now, looking at the bigger picture, creating a plan. Each session built on the previous one and the final session brought it all together and so it is important to commit to the full session to get the most out of it.  2019 Participant

How to book

This course is run at College level during Semester 2. Participants are nominated by their College, so if you are interested in attending, please speak to your Head of School/Director of Research.

Dates/Venues/Timings for Academic Year 2019/2020

The programme runs between January and April each year.   The days run from 09:30 – 16:30 at a venue in the Central Campus.