Training Trends for Researchers
I helped co-found one of the U.K.'s first postdoc associations in Dundee University's College of Life Sciences back in 2004 and this gave me an awareness of the training needs of researchers. We worked closely with the university's then 'generic skills' department to help shape the training programme in response to the needs of the research staff and postgraduate students, and the findings of The Roberts Review published in 2002. The name of this department has since changed, as have the trends for transferable skills for researchers due to technological advancements, changing research methodologies and fields, and shifts in the broader job market. Changes are outlined below.
1. Emphasis on Transdisciplinary Research: Beyond interdisciplinary collaboration, there has been a growing emphasis on transdisciplinary research, which involves integrating knowledge and methodologies from multiple disciplines to address complex, real-world problems. Researchers who can bridge the gap between traditionally separate fields are highly sought after.
Of note, a recent workshop I contributed to through X-Net Interdisciplinary Research Network and supported by the Medical Research Council used the Vitae Researcher Development Framework to identify the cross-disciplinary training needs of the healthcare and life sciences industry. Skills required by industry included communication (visual), data and computational skills, programming and AI, problem-solving, and understanding of IP. You can read the outcomes here.
2. Data-Intensive Research Skills: The explosion of big data and advancements in data analytics have elevated the importance of data-intensive research skills. Researchers need to be proficient in handling and analysing large datasets, as well as in utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques.
3. Digital Research Tools and Reproducibility: The move towards open science and reproducibility has led to a focus on using digital tools for research, data management, and analysis. Researchers are expected to adopt tools and practices that enhance the transparency and reproducibility of their work.
4. Science Communication Evolution: The need for effective science communication has evolved with the proliferation of digital platforms and social media. Researchers now need to navigate a variety of communication channels, adapting their messaging for different audiences while maintaining accuracy and accessibility.
Micro-learning has emerged as a solution for life on the go on a phone, so students who learn like this also need to know how to create this content if they remain in education.
5. Remote Collaboration Skills: The COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the adoption of remote work and collaboration tools. Researchers have had to adapt to virtual teamwork, online conferences, and remote data collection, which require strong digital communication and collaboration skills.
6. Ethical and Social Considerations: The ethical implications of research have gained more attention, particularly in fields like artificial intelligence, genomics, and biotechnology. Researchers are expected to navigate complex ethical considerations and engage in public discourse about the societal impacts of their work. Regulation of certain AI tools is ongoing.
7. Focus on Mental Health and Well-being: The demanding nature of research has led to increased awareness of mental health and well-being among researchers. Institutions are recognizing the importance of providing support and resources to help researchers cope with stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
8. Reskilling and Upskilling: The pace of technological change has led to the need for continuous reskilling and upskilling. Researchers are encouraged to embrace lifelong learning and stay updated on emerging technologies and methodologies relevant to their field.
9. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in research have gained momentum. Researchers are expected to develop cultural competence and contribute to creating inclusive research environments that value diverse perspectives.
10. Global Collaboration: The interconnectedness of the global research community has grown, leading to increased cross-border collaboration. Researchers need to navigate cultural differences, time zones, and communication challenges while working on international projects.
In summary, since the Roberts Review, the trends in transferable skills for researchers have expanded to include more advanced digital skills, a stronger emphasis on ethical considerations and responsible research, increased reliance on virtual collaboration tools, and a heightened awareness of mental health and diversity. These trends reflect the evolving landscape of research, where adaptability, multidisciplinarity, and a holistic skill set are essential for success.