Friday, 30 April 2010

Supporting early career researchers

At the JISC2010 conference earlier this month, I chaired a session on "researchers of tomorrow" - looking at how universities can best support this group.

Four projects were presented, all of which used different methodologies, and examined slightly different demographics. "Researchers of tomorrow" might be postgraduate research students who are young; or those who are just starting their research career, regardless of age; or a group who are not yet researching but still undergraduates, perhaps. Nonetheless, all researchers are undertaking similar tasks in their work, regardless of their field of study (finding and analysing data, organising information, and writing and sharing their findings), and those at the start of their research careers are likely to face similar challenges too.

Despite the differences in the approaches taken by the projects, it was very encouraging to see that common themes were emerging across all the projects.

One was the tension between competition and collaboration; whilst many early career researchers are happy to share with others in many ways, and to work together, it remains the case that competition for funding, jobs and publications is fierce.

In addition, early career researchers always seem to find out about new technologies and tools from people - whether that means colleagues, friends, family or others, online or offline. There is often time pressure, limiting willingness to take risks and try new technology that might not prove useful, Time constraints also mean that training and support systems need to fit in to research life; for instance, being offered at times and places which work for the early career researcher, and supporting learning whilst undertaking a real task with real information, so as not to waste time.

I look forward to the future results of the British Library study [4], and seeing how Esther Dingley's study fits into it all!

[1] Cambridge-lead study: commentpress site and downloadable report

[2] OCLC review of JISC VRE work

[3] OCLC other study - covered in slides

[4] British Library study (interim results only, the project runs for another 2 years)

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