CPD for researchers. 5 researchers discussing.

Navigating Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for Researchers: A Global Perspective

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for researchers is the lifeblood of scientific progress, ensuring that professionals remain at the forefront of their fields.

Research and best practice are by their very nature constantly evolving concepts as knowledge and experience grows. Thus, if we are honest with ourselves the only way to keep up to date is for us to undertake some level of education or training on a regular (continuous) basis.  A commitment to staying abreast of the latest evidence and developments through CPD is something that unifies research scientists globally. It applies irrespective of career stage, geographical location, and disciplinary differences. However, the landscape of CPD requirements, expectations and provision for researchers varies significantly from one country to another. This presents both challenges and opportunities for scientists worldwide. In this blog we’ll embark on a journey to explore CPD requirements for scientists in different countries, delving into statistics and data to illuminate the diverse approaches taken across the globe.

Who sets CPD requirements for researchers?

Globally, minimum training standards and a requirement for CPD are often mandated within national legislation. Good practice requirements or recommendations for CPD are more commonly specified by professional organisations and/or research funders. Some private and commercial research organisations also have their own mandated or expected in-house requirements for CPD. Such a system provides a mechanism for standards to evolve more quickly outside of the legal framework and with by-in from the research community.

For example, in the United Kingdom (UK), professional organizations play pivotal roles in setting CPD standards for their respective disciplines. Such organisations include, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Royal Society of Biology (RSB) and British Pharmacological Society(BPS). Researchers using animals in scientific procedures are also subject to mandatory training and ongoing CPD requirements as set out within the Animals in Scientific Procedures Act (ASPA). Adherence to ASPA is assessed by the relevant governmental department, in this case the Animal in Science Regulation Unit. Across the Atlantic in the United States, CPD requirements for scientists vary widely depending on the field and state regulations. But like in the UK, researchers conducting experiments on animals are required to undergo training as outlined in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Training and ongoing CPD are a requirement of receiving Public Health Service (PHS) funding and enforced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW).  Similarly, in Canada the Canadian Council for Animal Care have national oversight of animal-based scientific activities. This function includes checking compliance with training and CPD requirements within academic, government, and private organizations.

 What counts as CPD?

There is huge variation in the CPD available to researchers globally. In Australia, the Australasian College of Physical Scientists & Engineers in Medicine encourages engagement in a wide variety of CPD activities, including certified training programmes, as well as attending, speaking or presenting at professional conferences, courses, workshops and meetings. Their CPD scheme also includes attending or presenting at in-house educational or clinical meetings, plus publishing, self-directed learning, and other professional services such as committee or working group membership and event organising. The Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) also encourages and recognises a broad range of activities for CPD purposes with points awarded according to the type of activity and time spent undertaking it. For example, CPD points are awarded for attending lectures, meetings, workshops & conferences, as well as teaching, publishing, and presenting. Also recognised are higher education courses and qualifications, personal studies plus professional activities such as peer reviewing, committee, board and working group membership.

How is CPD recorded?

This is one of the easier questions to answer, but again there is no one solution. To be able to record any CPD requires some form of evidence of completion. Generally, for professional events, conferences, training courses, webinars and meetings this will take the form of a certificate of attendance (CoA). For example, attendees of our Responsible Research Webinar Series (free to register and attend) can request and pay a nominal £5 fee to receive a certificate of attendance. The certificate contains the title/topic of the webinar, the number of hours CPD completed, the date the CPD was undertaken (live or on-demand), the attendees name and a signature to confirm that attendance has been checked and verified. Participants completing any of our training courses, workshops or programmes (online or in-person) will automatically receive a certificate of attendance upon completing the training. In addition, many of our Responsible Animal Research training courses are also accredited meaning that attendees are eligible to receive a CPD certificate confirming that a number of CPD points have been awarded to them by the accrediting body. We provide a mix of CoAs and CPD certificates but accredited courses, training programmes or events will often issue CPD certificates only.

How much CPD is required?

The answer to this question very much depends on where in the world we look. In many countries globally there is no fixed requirement for hours spent undertaking CPD. In those countries that do have requirements there is little agreement as to how much is the right amount. A survey of 15 member organisations conducted by FELASA in 2006 found that the required time for CPD ranged from 8—16 hours per year. But in Germany, veterinarians specialising in lab animal science and animal welfare were required to complete up to 25 hours of CPD per year (Guidelines for Continuing Education of Persona involved in Animal Experiments – 2010). Elsewhere it has been reported that life science researchers in China are required to complete an average of 20 hours of CPD activities annually to maintain their professional qualifications. However globally, in some sectors there is a growing trend towards more rigorous CPD requirements, with some suggestions that up to 40 hours per year may become more common.

What are the benefits of CPD for researchers?

By undertaking CPD individuals are demonstrating to those around them that they value the opportunity to develop and grow both personally and professionally. They are not afraid of challenge or change and are open to new ideas. CPD also provides good level of awareness and understanding of best practice empowering individuals to work at a level that is both efficient and exceeds legal minimum standards. In a competitive world, engagement with CPD demonstrates a level of cognitive flexibility, as well as a desire to succeed for the benefit of science and Society. CPD can also increase employability and opportunities for career progression. Indeed, the concept of CPD aligns perfectly with the pursuit of scientific advancement and technological innovation irrespective of your field of research and location globally.

Opportunities for CPD

It is now clear that as far as CPD for scientific researchers is concerned there is a huge variability in terms of what counts, how it is recorded and how much is required. There is also a significant challenge faced by many researchers in terms of access to CPD globally. In many westernised countries, researchers benefit from well-established channels for accessing CPD. In-house training provided or paid for by employers or host organisations are often free for individuals to access. Some research funders also provide grant holders or awardees with free access to CPD. Similarly, scientific societies will often provide CPD opportunities to their members for free, with places also available to non-members for a fee. At Responsible Research in Practice, we provide our global research audience a mix of free and paid-for CPD opportunities. Our professional training services – courses, workshops and programmes can be tailored to client requirements and delivered in-person, live online & on-demand for a fee. Our free to attend Responsible Research Webinar Series can be accessed live online, or at any time on-demand.

Final thoughts on CPD for researchers

CPD is not and should not be viewed as merely a checkbox exercise on your professional to-do list. It is a cornerstone of scientific excellence and innovation for scientists worldwide who share a common commitment to lifelong learning and growth through CPD. In this interconnected world, where knowledge knows no borders, embracing the diversity of CPD requirements will help foster a culture of collaboration. A cross-pollination of ideas is needed to keep propelling scientific progress to new heights. So, as we look to the future, let us move forward together, championing CPD as a beacon of excellence, empowering scientists to push the boundaries of human knowledge and transform the world for generations to come.

Time to reflect – what CPD personality type are you?

The CPD Champion. Are you a naturally driven, hugely energetic and positive individual who likes to “seize the day” and truly believes that “every day is a learning day”? If so, the continuation of your professional development is likely seen as essential to your personal growth and success rather than a nice to have optional extra. For you, CPD will be a key consideration and regularly feature when planning out your goals for each week, month or the year ahead.

The CPD WiP (work in progress). Do you recognise the value of continuing your professional development, but vary in your commitment to achieving it? Maybe you find that life or work can get in the way and despite having the best intentions you find yourself rushing to fulfil annual CPD requirements as another years reporting deadline approaches. For you CPD is not the top priority. You want to grow and be successful but can struggle to find the time for CPD. You promise yourself that you’ll be more organised next year, but another year flies by and you find yourself searching for ways to quickly fulfil your CPD requirements again.

The CPD deflector. Perhaps the suggestion or expectation that you should continue your professional development triggers feelings of anger, frustration or resentment? You know what you are doing, feel no need to grow personally or change anything professionally and for you there are always other more pressing priorities. CPD is bottom of the list when you need to secure future research funding, conduct or manage complex research projects and then publish, share or otherwise disseminate your findings. None of this happens by itself and you don’t believe that allocating time to CPD is going to help you survive in a highly competitive research environment.



What CPD personality type most closely reflects you?

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