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- Vitae researcher development conference 2008
- Workshop programme NEW UPDATE December 08
- D9 Workshop summary and outcomes
D9 Workshop summary and outcomes
Working with doctoral graduates and former research staff to support career development for current researchers
Dr Sharon Gordon and Robin Bowden, Skills Development Advisors, University of Aberdeen
This workshop asked how the experiences of doctoral graduates and former research staff can be used to inform and improve skills training and career development for researchers. The University of Aberdeen drew on their experience of engaging former early career researchers to determine the effectiveness of training, to investigate career pathways and discuss how the learning can be fed back into institutional programmes.
This session was an opportunity to:
- share experience of engaging former researchers or using knowledge about former researchers to develop current research students and staff
- consider where opportunities might exist for engaging former researchers further
- discuss the value and difficulties in engaging former early career researchers and identify possible solutions to optimise the process and outcomes.
In 2007 the University of Aberdeen undertook a project aiming to ‘make the best use of any contact with former researchers'. The Career Tracking Project identified a target group of over 1200 doctoral graduates and more than 350 former research staff from 2000-07. Some contact details were obtained from the alumni office but others by interviewing 124 supervisors across the university. These produced either contact details or information about place of work which could be followed up via web research. Questionnaires sent to alumni and former research staff attracted a good response, particularly from those who had been traced via the web. In all, nearly 200 career histories/profiles were collected, to support the career decision-making of current and future researchers.
Benefits of engaging former researchers include:
- maintaining a link
- sharing experiences with current researchers
- broadening career aspirations of researchers
- external endorsement of skills training
- career case studies
- report success stories - good for recruitment
- input into researcher development programmes
- broadening contacts network and links with employers
- evaluation of impact of skills training.
It was acknowledged that engaging with former researchers is time and resource intensive. Therefore be clear from the outset what you want to achieve by engaging former researchers.
There are already some metrics on career destinations like UK GRAD's 'What Do PhD's Do?' series but we also need more than the metrics. There are a growing number of career management initiatives/resources emerging, or in development, for researchers, eg:
- ‘Beyond the PhD' - University of Reading
- ‘VideoTips' - University of Aberdeen and University of St Andrews
- career case studies
- university databases of former researchers.
Could these be developed into UK initiatives/resources? - eg through regional Hubs?
Areas where former researchers can help include:
- input to skills programmes
- link with employers, possibly as part of an employer panel
- as visiting trainers/ share experience
- doctoral examining.
We need new ways to encourage researchers to engage with and make the best use of the developing career management resources.
Exit interviews with a skills development and career management focus were thought a good way of encouraging researchers to provide contact details.
Maintaining contact is difficult - encouraging academics to get their researchers to keep in touch with them would help, eg: instant list of contacts for current researchers in same field; improve academic staff perception of jobs outwith academic research; help broaden career aspirations of current researchers.
View the D9 presentation slides
[p1]Link to webpages on What Do Researchers Do
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