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 such as the Health and Care Professions Council, it is also likely that you will have gone some way to demonstrating that you meet the Science Council standards as well.

The Science Council CPD standards are based on output measurements. They encourage you to focus on and reflect upon the benefit of your CPD activities, to the quality of your own working practice and to others.

You can determine your own development needs; all you need to do is ensure that your chosen CPD activities are spread across three, exceptionally 2, of our learning categories.

In choosing your CPD activities be mindful of points or time based monitoring systems that are in use by your Professional Body.

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

CPD should be a valuable tool for improving practice as opposed to being a box-ticking exercise. Moving away from trying to fulfil ‘CPD points’ or ‘learning hours’ and instead reflecting upon your intended outcomes, might be a helpful approach to planning CPD activities and thinking about their benefit. Your CPD can aid the development of new skills for your role and provide new experiences which may progress your career.

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.

When planning for and reflecting upon the benefit of your CPD activities the sorts of questions you may wish to ask yourself, or others, are:

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

Sometimes your CPD may not have the intended outcome. However, 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 and CPD Top Tips for further advice and support.

Can work-based learning count towards my CPD?

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 carrying out your role 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.

Reflection in itself – be it alone, with colleagues or in workshops – can be a valuable CPD activity if it leads you to find ways to improve your work.

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

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

In your CPD record you do not need to go into detail about research topics or company products if you are unable to, and you do not always need to describe the technical nature of a problem or activity.  Instead, reflect upon your approach to 'firefighting' a problem, or finding a particular way of approaching a customer or research need. Think about the processes involved in an activity rather than the particulars of the activity itself. Has this approach been successful in the past? Are there situations where you might have acted differently? Did you brainstorm, consider trial and error etc.?

See this excellent CPD example, the description reflects upon on the processes involved with the development and implementation of the new risk assessment method, rather than on the technical details of the method itself.

I became aware that a third party risk assessment service for the use of hazardous substances being used in many areas of the organisation was not effective. I therefore developed a method based on a template and guidance notes, enabling managers without a scientific education to understand the process of risk assessing the use of preparations containing hazardous substances, in line with the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002. I have introduced this process to managers responsible for the maintenance and cleaning arrangements in the organisation's buildings, vehicle depots and horticultural, estate and street maintenance activities - their feedback has also enabled me to improve the process further. The results have been very positive with staff taking ownership of the process - they also now understand when they have a higher hazard process where risks need eliminating or reducing.

Additionally, some registered professionals use euphemisms, or simply do not name the products or processes in their CPD record (it is acceptable to use 'commercially sensitive' instead of naming the activity, for example).

Activities included in your CPD record can be anything that you have gained something from that is of use to you in your professional life. CPD activities could be from outside of 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 that you would like to be better at in general and reflect upon the how this may impact your professional life and the nature of your current job.

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 scientists who remain ‘active’ on the Register will be professionally active and participating in CPD activity. Our list of learning activities gives an indication of the wide range of CPD activity that can be undertaken in retirement.

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.