Archives for the month of: December, 2015



Christmas – a time for reflection. Obvs.

The ability to reflect on experiences is a valuable skill, which allows you to gain insight into your personal, professional and academic development throughout the course of your career but the term “reflective practice” or “self reflection”  can sometimes seem a bit vague or off-putting. So, what is it?

Simply put, reflective practice is taking the time to think critically about your experiences, actions and feelings, and applying your understanding of them in order to inform your actions in the future.

We all think about (reflect upon) situations that have occurred or experiences we have had: what went well? What didn’t? Why? Often, we don’t do this consciously; our thoughts and feelings about something gradually emerge and we may or may not choose to act (or react) differently in future similar  situations.

Recent research from  Harvard Business School suggests that taking the time to reflect effectively on our work improves job performance in the long run. But when you’re up to your eyes in writing, teaching, marking and, ohwhat’sthatotherthing, right, research, it can be a real challenge to make the time to reflect at all, let alone effectively. But as we approach the Christmas break and the end of the year, reflecting back on your experiences in 2015 can be an important element of of getting geared up for a new year, and of finding your way out of the sluggish brain-fog of too many festive films. Read the rest of this entry »

Want to expand your networks? You should get to know your researcher developer!


There is a theoretical perspective [1] and very recent empirical evidence [2] that suggests a role for academic development colleagues in providing a distinct value to university social networks. Social network analysis (not to be confused with social networking sites) is a way of examining and understanding the links between individuals and between groups in the real world and it helps us to identify patterns in networks, and characterise the flow of people, and of information, and look at how people are connected. Read the rest of this entry »

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has just launched Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry; maintaining the UK’s leading position in life sciences, which is an update of its 2008 report on the skills sought by employers in the UK’s pharmaceutical industry.

One piece of good news from the report is that demand for people with a PhD has increased within the industry since 2008.

In particular, the report highlights a number of scientific/technical fields in which firms are having difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified people. Most of these involve the application of mathematical and computing skills (e.g. bioinformatics, health economics, health informatics, statistics). So, if you have expertise in one of these areas, now is a good time to look out for opportunities in the pharmaceutical sector

However, the report states that

~90% of respondents had found it difficult to recruit people with adequate communication and team-working skills.

In 2008 only about 70% of respondents had reported difficulties in relation to these skills. For researchers this underlines once again the importance of being able to identify the key transferable skills gained from carrying out research and being able to provide evidence of these in applications and at interview. Although this report focuses on the pharmaceutical industry, the same goes when applying to employers in any other industry.

If you haven’t yet started to think systematically about these things, two useful starting points could be VITAE’s publication The career-wise researcher and AgCAS’s University researchers and the job market. Both publications explain in depth what employers mean when they talk about particular skills and show how you can draw effectively on your experience as a researcher to provide evidence for these.

The full ABI report can be downloaded here.

SPOON.pngEvery so often someone opens their mouth in a meeting and out tumbles “but we mustn’t ‘spoon-feed’ our PhD students – they have to be independent.” Recently, I’ve been wondering in some detail what’s behind this reaction, and how, in my role, I can interpret what this means for researcher and supervisor development.

So if we say a student should ‘be independent’ – what do we mean? Some ways of interpreting independence are below and I go to the tedious point of copy and pasting the 4 options out of the Oxford English Dictionary because I wonder if the definition might be the first point of expectation-clash over what constitutes PhD supervision… Read the rest of this entry »