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Purist or Pragmatist? Doctoral scientists on developing researcher identities International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education University.

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Presentation on theme: "Purist or Pragmatist? Doctoral scientists on developing researcher identities International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Purist or Pragmatist? Doctoral scientists on developing researcher identities International Conference on Developments in Doctoral Education University of Oxford, March 2015 Dr. Sally Hancock Department of Education, University of York

2 Context: the knowledge economy ‘the key motor of the knowledge economy’ (Temple, 2011) Redefining the purpose of the university? a) knowledge creation, application, dissemination b) human capital i.e. ‘future knowledge workers’ A new context for higher education and science? (e.g. Etzkowitz 1983; Gibbons et al. 1994; Marginson 2007; Slaughter & Leslie 1997; Nowotny 2002; Fuller 2003; Peters 2009; Barnett 2010; Collini 2012)

3 Implications for doctoral scientists Doctoral scientists vital to the prosperity of the ‘new economy, which trades principally in knowledge’ (Barnacle in Park 2007) Fit for purpose? Roberts Review (2002) Expectations: - leave academy in the majority after PhD (true UK and internationally, e.g. Vitae 2013; Sauermann & Roach 2012) - Political & commercial awareness (disinterestedness?) - Entrepreneurial and knowledge transfer (cf. ‘knowledge nomads’ [Bauman 2000])

4 Data collection How do doctoral scientists’ attitudes towards the knowledge economy impact upon their understanding and construction of scientific identity? Population: UK domiciled doctoral scientists at Imperial College London

5 A typology of doctoral identities

6 Introducing game theory Games occur in many contexts; game theory analyses the strategies employed by individuals to achieve their preferred outcome Analysis of: perceived nature of the game (e.g. competitive or cooperative), optimal outcome and corresponding game strategy Agentive/ subjective + structural/ objective variables + uncertainty negotiated in the formation of game strategy Pertinent to current HE policy which assumes rationality + information = student choice (cf. Rational Choice Theory)

7 Applying game theory to doctoral identities 4 identities correlate with unique preferred outcomes and game strategies Agentive and structural factors negotiated, e.g.: - doctoral motivations, scientific values, professional aspirations - information-set, calculations of risk, resources, actual or anticipated behaviour of other actors, i.e. peers, supervisors, colleagues Perceptions directly influence behaviour, e.g. approaches to academic publications, research collaborations, impactful research, professional experience, career planning

8 Identity 1) Scientific purist Anti KE; value the ‘Ivory-Tower’ model of the university; disinterested/ positivist model of science Strictly-competitive, zero-sum game : dedicated to one outcome only (becoming an academic) “I want a career in research... I don’t want to work for a private corporation. I feel this is why I’ve done the PhD.” Collaborations with strategically important actors (e.g. supervisors, other academics) and focused on traditional academic measures of success (e.g. conferences, peer-reviewed publications) “The main thing is publications, so you want research that can get published... to show that I’m worthy of having a career in research.” High-risk or risk-averse?

9 2) Social Idealist strategy Reject neoliberal capitalism of KE; promote ‘knowledge society’ (Stehr 1994) Engaged with external actors to co-produce socially-useful research (e.g. conservation, medical research) Science is a cooperative game (incorporates external actors) “Some of the biggest points of progression I’ve had have been through conversations with other people.... Speaking to my parents who they left school at they will ask ‘Well, what does this mean?’ and that’s definitely helped to develop my thinking.” Rejection of KE values “[The government] assumes that PhDs are going to make patents or go into commercial things and generate loads of money, whereas people that are actually doing PhDs are doing it because they like doing science.” Traditional academic measures of success remain important

10 3a) Weak Pragmatist strategy Academic career first choice; KE less prestigious Academia is an uneven game - ‘survival of the fittest’ “You generally start a PhD wanting to go on to academia, and then a year or so in you suddenly sit up and realise, 'hang on a minute, there's 30 to 40 people here, scrambling around for one professorship. My odds aren't great.’ ” Values before information-set : maximin strategy “Now you've got to have a plan B, C, D and E. But, the main focus is still to become a lecturer.” “I started my PhD thinking, ‘I'm going towards a research career’ and then, gradually got disillusioned with the whole thing. I did vaguely try to get an interview with a bank but it fell through because their HR department was atrocious.”

11 3b) Strong Pragmatist strategy ‘Career in research’ - broadly defined “I always used to think the PhD was preparing me for an academic career in science, I don’t think that at all anymore. I think it’s preparing me to be a researcher – someone who thinks scientifically, and works scientifically. I think it’s also preparing me to do something much more industry based.” Academia is an uneven game - ‘survival of the fittest’ Minimax strategy (diverse reasons for adoption) “Are you passionate enough about this, do you have this odd drive? Are you a broken person that will just stay in the department all the time, ignore your family? [The PhD is] freedom to stare into the abyss, face your demons and work out if you are the kind of person that can do this or not.”

12 4) Third-order capitalist strategy KE is superior to university science: career outside of academia Decision to undertake is PhD economic: offers a competitive advantage in labour market “I used to work for a bank, and [it was] very competitive... I felt I was under- qualified in my team because there were about 15 of us and I'd say 9 people had a PhD. None of those people were made redundant. I was made redundant. People pursue knowledge to strengthen their bids [for work]” Strategy is continually assessed in terms of market value “I still get bombarded by head hunters asking, 'Have you done your PhD, have you finished or are you thinking of just going back into employment?' So I have to always reassess: 'Okay, do I continue or do I just leave?’”

13 4) Third-order capitalist strategy Low regard for the rules of the academic game (academic research is abstract and irrelevant) “The fact that a PhD student spends a year finding a problem I find funny. I go into my company - there are problems every single day. [Academia is] selfish because all you actually get is your name in publications. You don't get the satisfaction of having done anything. You don’t feel happy because haven’t done anything. Nothing will come out of your work. People don't ask hard questions. They just publish what they can.”

14 Begin STEM PhD Scientific Purist Social Idealist Third-order capitalist Weak Strong Pragmatist Remain confident of an academic career? Socially useful research? Researched/ applied for non-academic jobs? Aspire to become an academic? Aspire to academic success? Y Y Y Y Y N N N N N

15 Implications for pedagogy and policy Unrealistic expectations, limited contextual understanding and prioritisation of values over information weakens each game strategy and, ultimately, doctoral scientists’ chances of achieving desired professional outcome Implications for: - raising contextual awareness - encouraging reflexive practice - information, advice and guidance (address stigma) - broadening professional experience of doctoral students (Hancock and Walsh, 2014)

16 Concluding points Contemporary doctoral experience emerges as: a) highly individual b) intensely competitive c) a time for highly-strategic decision making d) a time for trade-offs (values, aspirations, information, risk) Epistemological value: brings together subjective and objective, micro and micro level - the measure of robust social theory? (e.g. Bhaskar 1975; Giddens 1984; Archer 2000) Future research: disciplinary influence (Becher and Trowler 2001); institutional effects and associated characteristics

17 References Archer, M Being Human. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Barnett, R Being a University. Abingdon: Routledge. Bauman, Z Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Becher, T. and Trowler, P Academic Tribes and Territories. Buckingham: OUP/ SRHE. Collini, S What are universities for? London: Penguin. Etzkowitz, H Entrepreneurial Scientists and Entrepreneurial Universities in American Academic Science. Minerva 21: Fuller, S “Can Universities Solve the Problem of Knowledge in Society Without Succumbing to the Knowledge Society?” Policy Futures in Education 1 (1): 106–24. Gibbons M., H. Nowotny, S. Schwartzman, P. Scott, and M. Trow The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage. Marginson, S Prospects of Higher Education. Rotterdam: Sense. Nowotny, H., P. Scott and M. Gibbons Re-thinking science: knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press. Park, C Redefining the Doctorate. York, UK: Higher Education Authority. Peters, M. A ‘Education and the knowledge economy’. In Creativity and the Global Knowledge Economy, edited by Peters, M., S. Marginson and P. Murphy, New York: Peter Lang. Roberts, G SET for Success: The Supply of People with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Skills. London: HM Treasury. Sauermann, H and M. Roach, M Science PhD Career Preferences: Levels, Changes, and Advisor Encouragement. PLoS ONE. Slaughter, S., and L. Leslie Academic Capitalism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Temple, P. [Ed.] Universities in the knowledge economy. London: Routledge. Vitae What do researchers do? https://www.vitae.ac.uk/vitae-publications/reports/what-do-researchers-do- early-career-progression-2013.pdf.https://www.vitae.ac.uk/vitae-publications/reports/what-do-researchers-do- early-career-progression-2013.pdf

18 Acknowledgements Ms. Elaine Walsh, Dr. Gwyneth Hughes and Dr. Stephen Webster (supervision) Professor Steve Fuller and Dr. Felicity Mellor (examiners) Imperial College London (funding)


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