New PhD students ‘facing shifting landscape on publishing’

Latest EUA doctoral council chair says open science very much on his agenda for the role

December 7, 2016
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New landscape: ‘the way in which research is done is changing, [with] a strong move towards open science,’ said the chair of the EUA’s Council for Doctoral Education

PhD students starting out now may not need conventional publications to climb the career ladder by the time they graduate, according to the chair of the European University Association’s Council for Doctoral Education.

Luke Georghiou, who took on the role in mid-October, said that it was likely there would be “significant changes” in the research publication model in the coming years.

He added that PhD students are “adept” at dealing with new models, such as online peer review.

Professor Georghiou, who is also vice-president for research and innovation at the University of Manchester, has taken over from Melita Kovačević, a professor at the University of Zagreb, who served as chair of the committee from 2012 to 2016.  

The EUA’s Council for Doctoral Education was established in 2008 to help universities develop their PhD programmes and create a voice for doctoral education in Europe and beyond. It has 238 members in 35 countries.

Professor Georghiou said that he was attracted to the position because the council is the “largest and most influential body” in Europe on doctoral education and the role offered the opportunity to “forward the agenda for this area”.

Among the issues that he hopes to tackle in the role are those surrounding research integrity, global collaboration skills and the “digital challenge”, he told Times Higher Education.

“The way in which research is done is changing, [there is] a strong move towards open science,” he said.

“At the moment, we tend to define academic careers, not necessarily correctly, by the status of journals people are publishing in. If we are in a more open model, we might see other ways of measuring that contribution to knowledge,” he added.

“The path into the career ladder may not remain in the conventional publication route by the time people starting a PhD now get to the point that they are producing their outputs. I think we will probably see quite significant changes in the publication model,” he added.

He said that PhD students are “often more adept at dealing with these new models”, such as online peer review. Doctoral candidates have access to many digital resources, and he will look at what this means for the nature of a doctoral student’s work, he added.

He is also keen to recognise the “critical role” that doctoral research plays in advancing knowledge.

“There is always an issue with managing the tension between seeing [PhD candidates] as students and seeing them as research colleague[s]. There is a lot of evidence to show they make a critical contribution to research at the highest level and we need to both recognise and foster that,” he said.

He added that at Manchester he has set about changing attitudes to doctoral researchers by looking at the contributions they made to highly cited papers for the research excellence framework.

“Once you start exposing these contributions, people start realising how important they are,” he said.

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