Meeting your annual CPD standards

As a professional scientist, you are expected to meet your continuing professional development (CPD) requirements each year in order to remain registered. Failure to do so may result in you being removed from the registers.

Below we have tried to pre-empt any questions you may have about this. However if your query is not listed, get in touch and our team should be able to help.

I am already required to do CPD for other purposes - why do I have to do something different for the Science Council?

If you already record your CPD for the purposes of a professional body, employer or a regulator, it is also likely that you will have gone some way to demonstrating that you meet the Science Council standards as well.

For instance, if you work at a CPD Approved Employer, the Science Council has already determined that your professional development scheme meets our standards.

It is possible that other CPD schemes can be mapped to the Science Council standards. You should check with your licensed professional body if you think that your CPD record may already meet our standards.

The Science Council CPD standards are based on output measurements, that is to say, a focus on demonstrating a benefit from the CPD activities you have undertaken.  The fact that there are no points or hours requirements means that you determine your own development needs.

A significant proportion of our registered professionals work under Health and Care Professions Council regulation, and if you are selected for audit by the HPC and your CPD return is accepted, then your licensed professional body will also accept this as meeting the Science Council standards.

How am I supposed to show evidence of my CPD when it is confidential to my employer?

The activities that you submit are your choice - they can be anything that you gain something from that is of use to you in your professional life.  This may well not be research based - it might be to do with 'firefighting' a problem, or finding a particular way of approaching a customer need.

They could even be from outside your day to day work - examples include acting as a school governor, being a mentor, presenting to your colleagues, reading a journal article and so on.  In terms of your development, you could think about things you would like to be better at rather than specifically about the nature of your current job.

You can also think about the process involved in an activity rather than the detail of the activity itself.  So you might think about the way you approached solving a problem (e.g. thinking about occasions where you have been successful in the past, situations where you might have acted differently, brainstorming, trial and error etc) rather than the technical nature of the problem itself.  Additionally some registered professionals use euphemisms, or simply do not name the product or process in their return (it is acceptable to use 'commercially sensitive' instead of naming the activity, for example).

What happens if I am unable to do CPD, for instance because of maternity leave?

Professional scientists must confirm they meet the standards each year if they wish to remain on the Science Council Register.

The CPD standards have been designed such that registered professionals that are unemployed will still be able to engage with them; however it is acknowledged that there are times in a professional’s career that they will not be actively participating in CPD. Examples of this include those on long-term sick leave, maternity leave and those taking a career break to travel or work outside of science.

In such cases, you may request to take a career break for a period of no more than 3 years, during which they will not be required to submit a record. You can make this request through your licensed professional body.

Am I able to retain my status if I have retired from full-time employment?

Many professionals that are retired from full-time employment are unsure whether they can remain on the Register as ‘active’.

All registered scientists who remain professionally active after retirement are likely to have to participate in CPD activity in order to carry out their professional duties. The various categories of learning activities give an indication of the wide range of activity that may count as CPD.

What do you mean by the term ‘professionally active’?

The term professionally active is used to indicate that an individual is performing a role that requires them to keep their knowledge and competence up to date.  It does not need to be full-time or paid work and so members who are notionally retired but engaged in volunteering, outreach or consultancy, for example, should consider themselves as professionally active and undertake relevant CPD.

In contrast, someone who is reading journals and attending lectures out of personal interest, but is no longer actively contributing to the profession either through paid employment or volunteering of some kind would not be considered professionally active.

Because of the area in which I work, I don’t think I can demonstrate the necessary mixture of learning activities. What can I do?

Very occasionally, your work may take you to areas where it is impossible to interact with other professionals or to engage in a wide range of CPD activities.  In such cases, you may demonstrate that you have undertaken CPD in a minimum of two categories rather than the expected three. It is important to let your licensed professional body know that this is the case.

I am struggling to understand how I can demonstrate the benefit of my CPD activities. Can you help?

There are two ways that the professional development you undertake should have a demonstrable benefit, according to the Science Council's CPD standards:

  • by benefiting the quality of your practice
  • by benefiting the users of your work i.e. your employees, customers, clients etc.

This is intended to ensure your CPD becomes a valuable tool to improving practice as opposed to a box-ticking exercise for satisfying an arbitrary goal.

It may help to move away from thinking purely about ‘CPD points’ and ‘learning hours’ to focus on outputs such as development of new skills to fulfil your current role or new experiences required to progress your career.

The sorts of questions you may wish to ask yourself, or others, are:

  • Has the activity met your development objective in terms of appropriate changes in knowledge, skills, attitude and judgement?
  • What have you gained from this experience?
  • What will you do differently as a result?
  • How will this help you in your current role?
  • What benefits will it have for your clients and/or your service?
  • How does it help to prepare you for a new role?
  • Does this flag up any additional development that would be helpful for you to undertake?

Like so many things, sometimes your CPD will not have the intended outcome. But this in itself may be a valuable learning experience, identifying further learning or development needs.

Have a look through some of our articles on CPD for further advice and support.

Is there a difference between work and work-based learning?

Much of the CPD you do is likely to take place ‘on-the-job’, without necessarily involving any structured or formal learning, but that doesn’t mean that simply doing your job counts as CPD.

New skills developed on the job are of course a valuable part of professional development. Shadowing, secondments and coaching can all count as CPD if they give rise to the acquisition of new knowledge, skills or understanding that you can apply to your role now or in the future. And reflection in itself – be it alone, with colleagues or in workshops – can be a valuable CPD activity if it leads you to find ways of doing better things that you already do.

You can read a more exhaustive list of activities that constitute work-based learning here.