It is common practice to name on a grant application an individual who is crucial to the proposed project. If the application is successful the individual is appointed without the use of a competitive selection process.
These guidelines are intended to support the proper use of this practice while ensuring that it is not used inappropriately to the detriment of the University's commitment to equal opportunities.
This guidance covers the appointment to, or extension of, a University of York employment contract for individuals who are named on a Research grant application. It is not intended to cover other instances of direct appointments. The term 'Named Researcher' covers not only Research Associates but also Technicians or other support staff.
Reasons for using named researchers
There are a number of reasons why the direct appointment of Named Researchers may be an appropriate and positive practice:
- The Principal Investigator (PI) may have identified rare and highly specialised skills that are essential to the success of the project and which are held by a known individual.
- The extensive knowledge of an existing member of a PI's research group may be essential to the success of the project.
- The grant may have been written or co-written by a Research Associate (RA) who is ineligible to be Co-Investigator. Recognising their contribution by naming them on the grant is an appropriate means of supporting their career development and rewarding their contribution.
Nevertheless, the practice of naming a Researcher avoids the open recruitment processes which the University normally requires in order to attract a wide and diverse range of applicants and ensure we meet our commitment to support equal opportunities. PIs should be mindful of this and make every effort to consider whether the reasons for naming a researcher are sufficiently strong or whether an open recruitment process would be fairer and give them access to better candidates.
PIs should also consider carefully before making a commitment to name an individual on a grant. If an individual has been so named they have a reasonable expectation that they will be given the post and there is normally an obligation on the PI to offer it in the event that the application is successful. Where there are significant factors that make that no longer appropriate, the PI should seek advice from their HR Manager.
Using named researchers
PIs are expected to use the following approach when considering the use of Named Researchers on a grant application.
- Make a preliminary assessment of the skills, qualities and experience necessary for the project, compiling a job description and person specification to establish the shape of the role. This will also assist in determining the likely grade and salary of the post and provide the foundation for further processes.
- Consider whether the proposed post is suitable for an existing member of the group in terms of the skills and experience they offer, the contribution they have made to the proposal or to the work it builds on and the likely grade/salary match.
- Where only one person is suitable for the position, consider naming them on the application and costing the proposal at a level sufficient to maintain their reasonable salary expectations. This supports the continuity of employment of Researchers.
- Where more than one current member of staff is potentially suitable the PI should undertake a competitive interview process to identify the best candidate before submitting the grant application. PIs should bear in mind guidance regarding equal opportunities interviewing practice and should have undertaken appropriate recruitment training.
- Where an internal candidate is named and appointed, PIs should be mindful of their responsibility for supporting that Researcher's career progression. They should ensure that additional development opportunities are identified and enabled and may find the Researcher Development Framework helpful in this respect.
- Where there is no appropriate internal candidate, PIs should consider the advantages of an open recruitment process. This not only allows for a diverse pool of applicants but provides multiple candidates and the chance to select from the best. It also provides a speedy second candidate if the first choice falls through.
- Where, however, a PI does wish to name a Researcher who is not currently a member of University staff and has appropriate justification, they may do so without advertising and whether or not the individual currently has the right to work in the UK. If the individual doesn't have the unrestricted right to work in the UK, work permission must be obtained before they start work.
- In the event that a grant is successful and a named external Researcher accepts the offer of appointment, PIs should complete a direct appointment form and send it with the individual's CV to the Human Resources Department who will take up the references provided. Appointment will be made subject to those references being satisfactory. A normal induction process should be undertaken.
- Where a Named Researcher refuses the offer of a post it is not acceptable to offer the post to anyone else. The PI must then follow a normal recruitment process.
Monitoring the use of named researchers
It is the responsibility of the Head of Department (HoD) to put in place appropriate grant authorisation processes that will provide them with oversight of 'Named Researcher' practices. For example:
- Grant authorisation forms should include a requirement for the PI to identify that they are naming a researcher, and provide justification for doing so. This may be incorporated into existing forms or provided separately as an attachment
- Departmental Research Administrators should record totals by gender of
- all instances where a Researcher is named on a grant application
- whether the application is successful
- whether the Named Researcher is actually appointed
- If they are not appointed, what is the reason
There may be insufficient instances to make statistical analysis within Departments possible, but a summary of this information should be considered by Departmental Research Committee/Athena Committee annually.
- HoDs should investigate and address any apparent inequities in or abuse of the Named Researcher facility.