CEC-WYS activities concerning the communication and conduct of science are aimed to prepare young researchers to take ownership of their research projects, and to develop their skills in communication and responsible conduct of research, and to provide them with the skills and reflection to develop into effective supervisors and mentors. The CEC-WYS seminars are based on the Reflexives programme.
Enhancing research training and supervision
Improving research training and enhancing the quality of supervision and mentoring of young researchers have become major issues in research and research policy. The European Commission communication entitled “Researchers in the European Research Area: one profession, multiple careers” emphasizes several ideas:
(i) the number of researchers and mobility are key to research efforts, excellence and performances
(ii) enhanced supervision and quality training are urgently needed
(iii) well defined training programmes must be implemented to structure the training of researchers in order to comply with the Bologna Process, and link the European Research Area and European Higher Education Area.
The main challenge facing the research community is to mobilize cognitive resources for the knowledge-based society to enhance the capacity to produce, transfer and utilize knowledge. Training young researchers in a transparent and efficient manner is one way to address this issue, if the scientific community is to move away from a much criticized “system of reproduction”. As Yehuda Elkana , President of the Central European University in Budapest, notes, there is a need to rethink the training of scientists and “educate the caring scientist”.
Views are changing as to what the product of research training is – a dissertation, research or an individual, a new researcher? – and as to the activities and skills involved – research in depth in a narrow area or knowledge and skills in a wider area ?
While meaningful efforts are being made to support students’ development and training through career development, skill assessment schemes or academic courses, little has been done so far to tackle the issue of supervision and have supervisors and mentors commit themselves to explicit training programmes to really improve the training they must deliver as part of their professional responsibilities.
Communication and responsible conduct of research
Training must not be confined to providing the technical skills necessary to enable young researchers to conduct their research and become independent investigators. It must also teach them the core ethical standards and norms of science as well as the principles of best scientific practice.
Research quality and Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) are indeed related topics: “Good scientific practice in research and scholarship is essential for the integrity of science at a time when the need to build trust between science and society is becoming ever more important. It is vital that the conduct of science itself is based on the highest ethical considerations.”
All participants in research activities must meet the requirements for good scientific practice in the following key areas :
1. designing research so that it has clear objectives, answers a valid scientific question or adds to the understanding of a particular event or concept
2. writing protocols and plans in clear and unambiguous terms
3. publishing the results of research and protecting Intellectual Property (IPR)
Training objectives and methods
To prepare young researchers to confront the changes and take ownership of their careers, CEC-WYS will offer training in communication and responsible conduct of research; the aim is also to provide them with the skills and reflection to develop into effective supervisors and mentors. The originality of our programme lies in the fact that we work on the two “poles” of scientific activity, project building and communication.
Designing a research project and developing research communication
PhD students and young researchers in the first years of their careers share a common challenge, that of building their scientific identity. We defend the idea that the research project plays a fundamental role in structuring thinking, knowledge acquisition and elaboration, and that it strongly contributes to developing autonomy, critical analysis and the capacity to synthesise ideas and experience. The methodological approach to structuring a research project is also key to a successful relationship between supervisors and students
Working actively and methodically on the construction of a research object and of a research project increase the chances for the young researcher to develop more quickly into a reliable and confident scientist. It also prepares her/him to effectively communicate with society.
In the same way, reporting about one’s research results must be mastered at an early stage: mastering communication is indeed key to the elaboration of knowledge. Research activity is organized around a number of communication situations which produce a variety of “intermediary objects”- scientific papers, posters, abstracts, projects, etc. We support the idea that the production of these objects form an integral part of the research and of the conceptualization processes, and that the research object is built while speech is produced.
Opening spaces of dialogue and reflective practice
In the training, courses give way to epistemology-in-practice and reflexivity : spaces are opened for debate where Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR), ethics, research quality, supervision, duties and rights of both mentors and students etc. are discussed
The spaces of dialogue are provided for participants to collectively discuss their research projects and research practices with the help of facilitators - researchers specially trained in scientific communication and facilitating techniques- using a proven methodology . Epistemology and ethics are addressed in an active, collaborative environment, and not through courses as is often the case.
We indeed do not believe that courses are sufficient to deal with such personal and behavioural issues like ethics, Responsible Conduct of Research or rights and duties. It is well known that although regulations and standards exist, and all kinds of booklets are available everywhere, there is no guarantee that all the golden rules will be implemented ; very often the literature is not read or makes little sense to the brave reader. In a widely published paper “On Being a Scientist” authors emphasize that “Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) and Ethics are not a complete and finalized body of knowledge, but that ethical issues need to be discussed, explored and debated and that all researchers have a responsibility to move the discussion forward”.
It is firmly believed that young researchers will, in turn, thanks to a “quality feedback loop”, become better researchers and better supervisors and mentors; they will also realize that achieving and maintaining excellence as a researcher requires a life-long commitment to continuous professional growth.
For more information please see the Reflexives website
To see deatils of the CEC-WYS seminars on the conduct of science, please use the menu on the right.
To see the announcement of the training event, please download the folowing document: