Research Futures staff workshops

Engage workshop

We offer skills and career development workshops to help you succeed in your career in research and beyond. All our workshops are run on a University-wide basis, so you will meet other staff from across the Schools here at Heriot-Watt.  Further details and dates for our current programme are available via our online booking system PDMS.  


The RDF can be used to plan your training as you can use it in discussion with your PI and colleagues around areas you want to improve on and areas at which you excel.

Each domain is built up of three sub-domains, which in turn are comprised of 63 characteristics, that are valuable skills or knowledge for researchers.

More information on the RDF is available through the Vitae website, using your Heriot-Watt University email address to log in.

Who is it for?

Academic and research staff.

The programmes

There are a number of workshops throughout the academic year. These run as part of a series of specially tailored workshop programmes for staff at different stages of their academic careers.

Details of each programme can be found below. To book onto a workshop, simply visit PDMS, our online booking system, and choose from the courses available. Booking is essential for all workshops.

Supporting our Researchers programme

‘Supporting our Researchers’ is a programme of professional development workshops for academic staff outlined in Strategy 2025, ‘Excelling in Research and Excellence Implementation Plan. This workshop programme has been designed by RFA in collaboration with leading research and professional services staff at HWU who also contribute to its delivery.

Early Career Researcher programme

Research Futures Academy provides a workshop programme designed specifically to build the capacity and career development of early career researchers (ECRs). This includes developing a wide range of skills such as leadership, project management and networking.  

Other programmes

‘The Carpentries’ programme comprises of software and data carpentry workshops which introduce researchers to foundational coding and data science skills.

The ‘How to…’ series has been developed in collaboration with Edinburgh Innovations at the University of Edinburgh. This series of workshops is design to enhance researchers' skills to be able to effectively engage with business and industry.

We also support academic leadership through the delivery of bespoke events focusing on inspiring and enhancing collaborations and networks that aim to inspire research ideas generation, build interdisciplinary research collaborations, and share best practice amongst peers.

Publishing your research

1) A Strategy for Publishing (Domain D)

The first session will help participants to gain an understanding of the various strategies in developing a research paper for publication. This workshop will cover such issues as:

  • Why publish?
  • Selecting journals.
  • Editorial decisions: criteria and their implications.
  • Contracts and legal aspects.
  • Dos and don’ts.
  • Taking it further: resources.

2) Preparing a Document for Publication, Proofreading and Referencing (Domain D)

The second session will help participants gain an understanding of the various stages involved in developing a research paper for publication.

In particular, it will cover:

  • How to tailor your work for a target journal by analysing the journal’s policies and back copies
  • The role of style guidelines and referencing styles.
  • How to make the most of the peer review process.
  • How to structure and present a paper.

The overall emphasis of the workshop is that simply doing good research is not enough: though your research does need to be strong, it also needs to be tailored and presented appropriately for publication.

3) Publishing Research: Citation and Impact (Domain D)

This third session will focus on how to maximise the visibility of your research and the impact that it makes. The session will focus on:

  • The role of peer-reviewed literature.
  • The role of grey literature.
  • Metrics including citation indices and the impact factor.
  • Developing a publication strategy.

**Please note this series will not focus on open access publishing. If you are looking specifically for that, please use the Power Hours workshops provided by Information Services.**

Enterprising Researcher Summer School

1) Introduction to Technology Commercialisation (Domain D)

Everyone is talking about 'Knowledge Exchange or commercialisation... So how come we aren't all doing it and are all rich? Let's consider the statistics of new technology commercialisation:

  • It takes about 50 ideas to generate about 5 development projects.
  • One in seven new technology projects make it through to commercialisation.
  • Only half are successful once launched.
  • In Britain and America around half of companies' development money is spent on projects which never reach the market.
  • In Britain we have a long and not-so proud history of failure to exploit our undoubted scientific expertise.

So what goes wrong? This interactive workshop examines typical failure factors in technology commercialisation projects from their inception, development, financing, market studies and market launch. Liberally spiced with anecdotes and quotations from a number of failed projects, the talk attempts to draw some wry and specific lessons from the hard-won experience of the participants. The project failure factors are usually quite independent of the science involved.

2) Impact and Employability Skills (Domain D)

Whilst 'impact' has been part of the funding landscape for some time now, it is still something that we get a lot of confused (or bemused) enquiries about. Many see it as a ridiculous demand: their work is so theoretical as to have no real world impact and, even if it did, how can they possibly predict what it will be? This workshop looks at:

  • how researchers can draw out the things in their work that make them interesting to the outside world
  • how they can put those things in context of ‘issues and opportunities’ in the outside world
  • how they can communicate those things simply and directly without ‘dumbing down’

There is considerable overlap between the essential skills required for research impact and those required for successful commercialization – for example both are ‘team sports’ that require talking to, and working with, people from outside the organisation. Equally, these are also skills that major employers are looking for in their graduate and post-graduate recruits.

As well as the conceptual framework given above, the workshop will use several Problem-based learning (PBL) activities to enable delegates to practice the skills of problem-solving, team-working and communication essential to research impact, commercialization, and employability.

3) Building and Developing Teams (Domain D)

This half-day workshop covers the basics of business partnering, recruitment, and team building for scientists and technologists. How do you recruit people, and what does it cost? What agreements do you need before going into business?

It will feature work on team roles:

  • Are you a plant or a shaper?
  • Why should you love completer-finishers?
  • What can you do with this knowledge?
  • Will include team building exercises:
  • Can you build a spaghetti tower taller than those made by the University Architecture department?

How would you get a full bucket of water round an assault course?

4) Structuring Technology Projects (Domain C)

Want to build a new research centre? Start a company and launch a new product? Build a new Scottish Parliament? Or just want to know about Gantt charts because they’ve asked for one in your grant application or end-of-year review? This workshop examines the key skills and tools required for projects to be delivered on-time and on-budget. Poor project management has been identified as a key failure factor in many projects in the UK.

We will look at structuring and planning projects: working out what activities need to be carried out in what order.

Many projects use formal project management tools but still fail, because the managers have not identified all the tasks or do not carry out the tasks in the right order. This session looks at ways of identifying and ordering the project tasks and points out that this must be done before starting to use formal techniques.

  • We will look at management protocols such as PRINCE2 and software tools such as Project and FastTrack.
  • We will illustrate some techniques for risk management, and some of the issues around project budgeting.
  • We will finish with a multi-faceted practical PM simulation with interlocking and dependent tasks, with time and budget constraints (oh, and prizes).

5) Financial Literacy for Beginners (Domain C)

Given what’s happening in the world, isn’t it time you learned about money? This workshop is aimed at people with little or no financial background, who want to have a basic business financial literacy. We will introduce basic business finance and accounts, so that us 'mortals' can at least interact with company/organisation finance people and have half a chance of knowing what they are saying. We will signpost situations when we absolutely must use professional accountants.

You should come on this course if you:

  • are interested in understanding finance but find the arithmetic and the jargon intimidating,
  • would like to understand what the stock market is about,
  • have to deal with external suppliers and customers and want to know whether they are financially secure,
  • are thinking about applying for a job with a commercial organisation and would like to understand its accounts.

6) Budgets and Venture Finance (Domain A)

Are you interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Are you trying to raise money for a company? Or are you a researcher or manager having to 'do a budget' for the first time? We will look at the principles behind doing simple budgets and show how to use a simple Excel template to produce an operational budget. We will discuss the different types of costs (fixed, variable, etc) that go into budgets and how they are classified. We will then turn from operational budgets to capital budgets, using discounted cash flow methods, and show you how to calculate them using Microsoft Excel. You will become familiar with terms such as net present value, internal rate of return, risk-free rate and risk premium. As a side effect you will also understand more about our current banking and financial crisis!

This workshop explains how to understand the bit on 'Dragon's Den' when they say 'I'm offering 37.5% of my company for £500,000'. Where do those numbers come from and how are they calculated? As well as potential entrepreneurs, this workshop would be of interest to anyone working in areas where large capital projects are planned, costed and valued - architecture, civil and chemical engineering, aerospace, and renewable energy to name just a few.

7) Introduction to Intellectual Property (Domain C)

Would you like to patent something and make millions? Do you have a secret recipe for a drink, or a desire to write a great novel (or a pop song)? Have you an ingenious engineering design, or a new variety of rose? Then this workshop is for you! It looks at intellectual property (IP) from the perspective of the inventor or technologist. It addresses basic questions such as:

  • Why do we have intellectual property?
  • What types of IP are there?
  • How much do they cost?
  • Who owns it?

8) Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Domain A)

This workshop is for those researchers who have an idea that they don’t know what to do with, for those who want to start a business but don’t know how, for scientists who are interested in new careers paths or for those who just want to ‘make a difference’ in the ‘real world. The workshop will look at the features that make an invention of commercial interest, different ways of making money, how to do market research and how to count the money. We finish with a simulated stock market game that lets teams test whether they can beat the investment professionals and become theoretical millionaires.

Having run workshops of this kind for over 10 years, the trainers can point to ‘real people who have become real millionaires’ in the years after attending one.

All other workshops

Increasing Research Impact (Domain D)

Impact is currently the word on every funding agency’s lips. Economic pressures on government mean that public-funded research increasingly has to demonstrate value for money and impact. But what does ‘impact’ mean? What do the funders actually want? Should demonstration of impact be more important than pure intellectual curiosity? How could you maximize the impact of your work?

During the session we will:

  • Consider the rationale and purpose for examining the overall ‘impact’ of research.
  • Engage with the notion of how impact can be maximised and evidenced.
  • Discuss how, when designing research, we might build in impact in a wider range of area.

Supervising Doctoral Students (Domain D)

A doctorate is a journey towards academic independence. Doctoral students start and finish at different points, gaining different skills along the way; doctoral supervisors place different emphases on different points of the journey and have different interpretations of what supervision means. This workshop does not take a rules-and-regulations approach to supervision or attempt to instruct supervisors in one particular way of managing the complex supervisory relationship. Participants will consider the doctoral journey and the challenges that students face along the way and explore what support they might offer at which points. The workshop will introduce a number of ideas, case studies and conceptual frameworks to help participants’ thinking and practice in this area.

Supervising Masters and Undergraduate Projects (Domain D)

This session is designed to help staff who is new to supervising undergraduate projects and masters dissertations. It will explore issues of good practice for those involved in supervising and supporting students undertaking masters and undergraduate research projects.

It will cover the common problems that arise during research projects and will identify some sources of support for both the students and the supervisor.

Project Management (Domain C)

An introduction to the process of managing projects and the tools to assist in planning and tracking progress. This course is intended to be immediately applicable to planning and managing academic and research projects as well as commercial projects. It covers the theory and principles of project management within the context of the Project Management Institute.

During this 1-day course participants will:

  • Learn the basics of the project planning process and receive a set of checklists and guidelines that you can use immediately on any project.
  • Appreciate the fundamental principles of a well-led and well directed project, such as identifying and scheduling tasks, activities, milestones and understanding and managing stakeholders.
  • Be aware of the critical factors that will influence whether a project will be successful or not, including identifying and managing risk.
  • Use practical, group-based exercises to reinforce and enhance the skills learned.
  • Create work breakdown structures, network diagrams, critical path analysis, Gantt charts and other techniques that ensure robust project control.

Creating the seven secrets of highly successful research students (Domain B)

You know what your research students should be doing, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. Despite your best efforts to set up good habits for your students, it does not work. Why is this, and what can you do to make completing a research degree easier for your students and for you? This course gives you practical strategies to deal with common problems such as:

  • supervisor/student relations,
  • dealing with writer’s block,
  • attitude (or lack thereof!) in relation to the degree – it’s not a Nobel prize,
  • getting your student to seek help when they are stuck,
  • the student who never has enough time,
  • treating the degree like a job,
  • keeping on going when the going gets tough.

Writing Research Proposals (Domain D)

The topics covered during this session include:

  • Characteristics of successful research proposals.
  • Stages of the application process.
  • Sources of funding.
  • Funding Bodies' rules and guidance.
  • How applications are judged.
  • Common pitfalls of writing research proposals.

Leadership in a Research Environment (Domain D)

Do you want to develop your knowledge and skills around leadership and team working? Maybe you see yourself running your own research group and want to explore how leaders do what they do. Maybe you want to get a feel for how you can help your current team to “work” more effectively with each other. Maybe you’d just like to share some ideas with other participants about what Leadership is all about. If so, this could be the course for you. During the course, we will:

  • Experimentally practice leadership and team working.
  • Examine the core values and beliefs that define us as colleagues and leaders.
  • Develop strategies to help with our relationships with supervisors, peers, support staff and others.
  • Consider strategies for our own personal development.

Writing Research for Publication (Domain A)

A researcher’s publication record is one of their main identifiers of their standing in their field. However, many researchers find getting published a challenge. The three challenges to be explored: include:

  • Writing Technically - We’ll examine what makes for good writing. We’ll consider word choice, paragraph and article structure and readability.
  • Writing Habitually - We’ll consider how to get down to the writing and build good writing habits.
  • Writing Strategically - We’ll consider what makes a good paper, what editors look for and how to target the appropriate journals and publishing outlets.

Key information

Research Futures

Job title
Research Futures