Professor Shelda Debowski: Lead advisor

Shelda is a higher education consultant with experience as a Deputy Vice Chancellor. As Winthrop Professor of Higher Education at the University of Western Australia, she developed a range of innovative programmes to support university leaders and researchers. A long-term advocate for improving development strategies for researchers, Shelda has guided a number of major development projects, including The Future Research Leaders Program, an online programme in operation in Australia and New Zealand. In 2011 Shelda visited the UK, USA and New Zealand to explore research development practices while completing a Churchill Fellowship.

Her book, The New Academic: A Strategic Handbook, draws on many years' experience in helping academics and researchers to build their professional skills. As President of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) and the International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED), Shelda took an active interest in promoting the need for improved mentorship and development of university researchers. She has presented on these issues in various forums across the world.

Professor Peter J. Bruns, PhD: Author

Peter Bruns is Professor of Genetics Emeritus, Cornell University, and retired Vice President for Grants and Special Programs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he oversaw one of the US's largest private funds for science education. For his educational efforts, he was named a US National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences, and received the Elizabeth Jones Award from the Genetics Society of America and the Bruce Alberts Award from the American Society for Cell Biology. Peter helped create Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty and is currently creating a web-based journal of educational resources for HHMI. In his research career, Peter pioneered methods to genetically manipulate the single-celled organism Tetrahymena thermophila.

Professor Peter McCaffery, PhD: Reviewer

Peter McCaffery is Deputy Vice Chancellor at London Metropolitan University. Formerly Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive at the University of Cumbria and Pro Vice Chancellor at London South Bank University, Peter is a historian and Professor of Educational Leadership with over thirty years' teaching, research and management experience across a range of institutions from community college to US Ivy League. An Idlewild Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Peter pioneered new research modes of enquiry into political corruption in the American city. He has been a member and co-ordinator of various research groups and is currently the institutional lead with strategic responsibility for research across his university. Peter is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Chartered Management Institute.

Wilma Alexander: Accessibility advisor

Wilma Alexander is part of the Learning Services team at the University of Edinburgh, supporting the use of online tools and technologies across the University. She has a special interest in usable and accessible digital practice, tutors on usability and accessibility for the University's Masters in Digital Education, and promotes the use of online activities for inclusive teaching and learning in the context of staff development.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you will be better equipped to:

  • Assemble a research team with the right mix of people and set the vision and tone for that team
  • Recognise your team members' individual needs, in order to direct and support them appropriately
  • Motivate your team members, encouraging them to work towards their own goals while contributing to the team's output and practising effective communication.

Course structure

The bullet points below explain the chronology of the course and give a breakdown of each of the sections you will encounter.


The Orientation section introduces you to the content and aims of the course. There is an opportunity to assess your current knowledge, to help you evaluate your learning at the end of the course.

  • Introduction

Course files

The course files contain the core course content. The content is divided into modules and screens.

  • Module 1: Effective teams, effective managers
  • Module 2: Establishing your team
  • Module 3: The four M's for leadership: Mission, motivation, meetings and mentoring
  • Module 4: You as manager
  • Module 5: Organizing your time and workload


The Application section gives you the chance to apply the course content to practical examples.

  • Practice scenario


The Closing section summarizes what you have learned and provides reference materials for further study.

  • Course summary
  • Resource bank
  • References

Learning assessment

The Learning assessment section allows you to assess and consolidate what you have learned in the course.

  • Course quiz


Course highlights include:

  • Video interviews with research leaders describing their own experiences of hiring and interviewing, including tips on avoiding bias
  • A series of activities which explore what different team members (e.g. undergraduates, postdocs, technicians) will expect from you as a leader
  • Interactive activity inviting participants to reflect on the attributes of effective leaders and managers.

Supporting universities

The Professional Skills for Research Leaders program has been developed in conjunction with the following institutions:

  • Anglia Ruskin University, UK
  • Brunel University, UK
  • Dublin City University, Ireland
  • Durham University, UK
  • Indiana University, USA
  • Macquarie University, Australia
  • Michigan State University, USA
  • Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • NUI Galway, Ireland
  • Queen's University Belfast, UK
  • Sheffield Hallam University, UK
  • The Open University, UK
  • Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • University College Cork, Ireland
  • University College Dublin, Ireland
  • University College London, UK
  • University of Greenwich, UK
  • University of Kansas, USA
  • University of Leicester, UK
  • University of Liège, Belgium
  • University of Limerick, Ireland
  • University of Sheffield, UK