Photo legend: Nicola Dengo, Eurodoc General Board Member and Skills Officer speaks at the panel discussion on the future of doctoral training during KRECon 2022.
On November 10-11, 2022, members of Eurodoc’s Board, Advisory Board, and Secretariat (Oleksandr Berezko, Sebastian Dahle, Nicola Dengo and Joanna Rutkowska, Iryna Degtyarova, Giulia Malaguarnera, Eva Hnatkova, Mathias Schroijen, and Pil Maria Saugmann, Anna Pavelieva and Kateryna Hodik), as well as delegates from Eurodoc’s National Associations, took part in the Knowledge, Research, Education Conference KRECon 2022, which is held annually since 2010 at the National Library of Technology, in Prague, Czech Republic.
The conference was comprised of three sessions and linked panel discussions:
Session 1: Effective Doctoral Schools
Melita Kovačević spoke on contemporary challenges of doctoral education at the personal and professional levels, the evolution of doctoral education from 2005 to 2022, and the advancement of knowledge through original research as the core component of doctoral training (according to Salzburg Principles, 2005), possible priorities for policymakers and decision-makers (establishment and format of doctoral schools; structure of doctoral programs and their evaluation; removal of legislative obstacles to implementing changes; duration and funding). Melita noted the importance of diversity, speeding up changes that need to be done, and balancing the quality of doctoral education across Europe.
David Bogle emphasized that there is no single way to achieve quality doctoral education and train researchers as innovators in society: "The voice of candidates is crucial, as well as transparency. It's also essential to emphasize benefits rather than sanctions"
Pavel Doleček presented statistics on doctoral training in Czechia, and activities of the Association of Research Universities, aimed at developing cooperation and disseminating views on research, innovation, and higher education in selected areas, having paid attention to the planned reform of doctoral training by MEYS and identified structural flows in doctoral training. Pavel also gave perspectives on Doctoral Schools, namely the supported services for doctoral candidates and supervisors and the development of doctoral education/training programs, as well as discussed the outcomes of the Survey on Doctoral Schools.
Session 2: Research Careers in and beyond Academia
Dario Capezzuto joined the conference via Zoom and presented European Research Area 2020-2022, European Framework for Research Careers, the European Competence Framework for Researchers, a taxonomy of skills and occupations for researchers in ESCO and the main challenges for researchers: precarious working conditions, based on cross-border and project-based temporary contracts; the focus of skills, provided to doctoral candidates, on careers within academia; researchers’ need to seize opportunities in the broader labor market (including beyond academia); the necessity of HEIs and industry to partner in order to anticipate the skills needed.
Giulia Malaguarnera acquainted the audience with research mobility and career perspectives for early career researchers (ECRs), the history and current programs of MCAA, geographical and intersectoral mobility for ECRs, and their peculiarities.
Pavel Matějka presented to the audience the outcomes of the DocEnhanc survey, conducted in order to find out the employment situation, satisfaction with doctoral training, skills acquired and used, the added value of PhD, etc. A lot of attention was paid to the factors affecting PhD career opportunities (within the geographical area, development; sector of employment; field of research, and type of work).
Session 3: Good Practices for Doctoral Training
Conor O'Carroll presented a report on the topic “Why Doctoral Schools lead to better outcomes for PhD graduates”, where he stated that since 2007 the world population of researchers has risen by 21% to a total of 7.8 mln, while the total number of academic and research positions is much lesser, resulting in such challenges as stress and uncertainty, financial worries, mental health problems, inability to keep up with deadlines, the difficulty of maintaining work-life balance and other issues.
Lucas Zinner presented a report about contributing to a culture of effective doctoral supervision, which should include understanding the context; improving the microenvironment, PhD preparation, and selection; discussing possible career paths; clarifying expectations; avoiding paternalism; monitoring early risk detection; networking and scientific community; getting the candidates on track. To his mind, researchers’ working culture should be collaborative, inclusive, supportive and creative, safe and secure, and the researchers should have enough time to focus on their research priorities.
Stephanie Krueger talked about systematic skills development for Czech doctoral candidates, in particular, understanding science and academia, career options (academic and non-academic), systematic local, cross-administrative boundary cooperation, and others.
Panel Discussion: The Future of Doctoral Training
Panel Discussion was one of the most interesting parts of the conference, as it combined scientific discussions among the experienced experts with tricky questions from the audience.
It was led by skilled researchers and specialists in various fields: Maresi Nerad, Alexander Hasgall, Nicola Dengo (the General Board Member and Skills Officer of Eurodoc), Allen Weeks, Jan Konvalinka, Karolina Mahlerová, Eva Hnátková.
The discussion started with a statement from every panelist about their opinion on Doctoral Schools based on the content discussed in the conference thus far. Here, Eurodoc’s General Board Member and Skills Officer Nicola Dengo remarked that a general consensus exists on what is the future of doctoral training, while there is also a general problem of consistency across Europe and a lack of reliable data to monitor education quality and careers. Indeed, it is agreed that an effective doctoral training approach should be more structured, and surpass the mentor-mentee paradigm of supervision to guarantee a well-rounded and transparent formative process for doctoral candidates. On this, the panelist also remarked that any effective strategy should be also adaptive to accommodate the peculiarities of every country where it is implemented, also providing all the necessary space to protect academic freedom. The panelist representing doctoral candidates also pointed out that a general reform of doctoral training would be fundamentally flawed if not accompanied by an equally radical and equally widespread reform of the legal status and financial treatment of doctoral candidates across Europe. This is to recognize the professionality of doctoral candidates and to ensure the inclusivity of the educational process. Indeed, the choice of pursuing a doctoral title must not come at the expense of proper life balance and must not exclude potential candidates on the basis of their financial status. In the end, the discussion reaffirmed that consensus exists on what the general formula for the future of doctoral training is, while substantial improvements should be made in applying it equally across all universities and research institutions.
Eurodoc thanks Eva Hnátková (Open Science Coordinator at National Library of Technology/UCT Prague) and Martin Svoboda (Director of National Library of Technology) for the warm welcome and highly organised event.