HDR work experience: sooner not better

The government plans to change how some of the $1bn research training programme is allocated

The idea is to use RTP funding “to reward universities” for having research PhD students take a three-month industry internship in their first 18 months.

The principle does not appear to be a problem, the Australian Council of Graduate Research and peak employer association Ai Group think linking PhD students with industry is good for both, – there’s a case for extending it to HDR masters.

But not all agree with a three-month placement in the first 12 months of study. Later could be better, ACGR suggests, “when PhD students have had a chance to develop their research expertise and transferable skills.”

“This narrow eligibility may result in unintended consequences which impact on the training of the next generation of researchers and not have the intended effect of boosting the interactions between universities and industry partners.”

Back in May the Department of Education, Skills and Employment stated the “government will be consulting shortly with the sector on implementation.”  When “shortly” will be is not stated – but research funding watchers say it has not happened yet and it needs to – the new model is set to start in January.

There might be another reason the research training community wants consultation to start soon-ish. The discussion paper for the government’s research translation inquiry asks, “would an Industry PhD programme help improve collaboration outcomes?” (CMM April 27).

If the inquiry decides it would, that could be another demand on the RTP and universities would want existing issues sorted before responding to the next bunch of bright ideas.

It would, a research translation veteran suggests, might all be easier if the McGagh review of the research training system had been adopted. At least the recommendation for a national placement for HDR students, run by an independent organisation (CMM April 14 2016).