In a fast-changing world researchers need to take control of their continuing professional development. As Springer Nature’s new white paper ‘Research, Publication and Beyond’ shows, there is a need for training and support at every stage of the research process, from the conceptualization of research ideas to the communication of the final results. Bringing together the results of different surveys, the white paper explores training needs throughout the research lifecycle, and how institutions can help researchers meet their goals. Learn more about the survey findings below, and for more information - including an analysis of why papers might be rejected by a journal - download the full white paper.
Institutions and researchers widely recognize the need for support for researcher training. In the Nature Masterclasses Online Survey Report (n=485, July 2021) budget holders and researchers were asked how important different areas were to a researcher being successful, and whether the researchers struggled with those areas and would benefit from training.
In every area where respondents had indicated that an area or skill was important, the vast majority of researchers (72%-87%) thought that there would be a benefit from training, with an even larger majority of budget holders recognizing the benefits (82%-95%).
In the Nature Masterclasses Online Survey Report, the skills deemed most important were those related to the research process: ‘Interpreting your findings’ (96%), ‘Creating a research strategy’ (95%), ‘Visualising your findings’ (94%), and ‘Planning your research e.g., ideation’ (94%).
Similar findings were uncovered in other surveys, with academic writing in particular being regarded as a priority. Springer Nature’s CPD and Accreditation Survey (n=238, June-July 2021) found 92% of respondents believed that good academic writing skills were essential for their professional development, 75% had tried to improve their academic writing and style over the previous year, and 45% expressed a wish to develop them further in the next year.
A similarly high proportion was found in the larger Nature Masterclasses & Nature Research Academies Survey about research priorities in professional development (n=1,332, March-April 2021). The top four skills that were identified as essential to being a successful researcher were also shown to be the areas that most researchers felt they could benefit from training in: ‘Scientific writing and publishing’; ‘Collaboration in research’; ‘Research design’; and ‘Data management and analytics’. In each of these areas over 80% considered it to be an extremely or very important skill, and over 70% felt they would benefit from training.
The three surveys outlined above highlighted that researchers recognise the need for continued development and training, no matter what stage in their career they are at. However, institutions still need to recognize some of the differences between researchers, and tailor support appropriately. For example, it was found that senior researchers were more likely to view ‘Leadership’ as a skill to be developed and were less likely to consider ‘Data management and analytics’ as needing to be required to develop their career. Conversely, mid-career researchers were more likely to consider ‘Writing grant proposals/renewals’ as important.
The good news is that researchers not only recognise the need for their continuing professional development, but they want to take control of it. 88% agreed that they take ownership of their career development, with 79% having a clear career plan and 79% maintaining a formal record of continuing professional development activities. At first glance these numbers appear encouraging, but deeper analysis reveals that 67% of researchers who say that they maintain a formal record of their CPD activities are in fact only updating their CV and fail to keep even basic track of training courses attended and any other professional achievements and milestones.
All too often, however, while researchers feel encouraged to engage with personal and career development, there can be a disconnect between what is received and what is expected. In the CPD & Accreditation Survey, nearly a third of respondents said they felt their institution didn’t provide them with the support they needed, and 82% would like their institution to provide them with more support.
The responses show us that there is a need for institutions to review the support that they are providing to their researchers, and to determine the extent to which it is meeting their needs in today’s fast changing environment. Once the right support is in place to help researchers succeed, however, a knock-on effect can be expected on an institution’s key performance indicators.
You can read more about researcher’s training needs, and the support that they require, in the new white paper ‘Research, Publication and Beyond: the support researchers are asking for’.