Postgrad researchers take the long view

PhD students look beyond their ivory towers, demonstrated by a new survey of their engaging outside the academy. Some 58 per cent of STEM researchers and (a surprising) 44 per cent of HASS scholars say their research, “is oriented towards industry or society,” Peter Bentley, Emmaline Bexley and Mollie Dollinger  report in a new study for the Australian Council of Graduate Research, based on responses from 3700 PhD students at a representative sample of ten universities.

Overall, few of them actually engage outside the academy, while 39 per cent of all students had participated in lectures/seminars with non-university organisations just 7 per cent had either paid/unpaid work related to their research outside the university. But this does not mean they aren’t interested in a wider perspective. ACGR adds that over 70 per cent of doctoral students report “they had benefited from external contact or advice on their PhD from non-university organisations.”

Denise Cuthbert from ACGR also points to the unexpected high-level of engagement among HASS students, suggesting it is, “an opportunity for universities and the communities they serve, to work together to ensure even deeper levels of engagement and the involvement of individuals from the university.”

Overall, Professor Cuthbert says the survey provides, a chance “for universities and government to rethink the dynamics of university-end user relationships in research training.”

The research originally included eleven universities but while the University of Melbourne was part of the 2016 pilot, surveying half its PhD students, it declined to participate in the full implementation for the other half last year. This seems strange, given the authors are University of Melbourne researchers.


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