Tag: research

Widespread opposition to cuts in EU research budget

EUEurope has been struggling with financial crisis in recent years. One of the latest initiatives has been the introduction of EFSI – European Fund for Strategic Investments. After being put forward in late November, the principal plan received political backing in the December meeting of the European Council. The funding available would have its aim to target projects that would boost European economy, as outlined in the press release “to get Europe growing again and get more people back to work“.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commissions president stated that “If Europe invests more, Europe will be more prosperous and create more jobs – it’s as simple as that. The Investment Plan we are putting forward today in close partnership with the European Investment Bank is an ambitious and new way of boosting investment without creating new debt.” More investment without new debt sounds like a great idea. However, this means that the funds for this initiative need to be found from another place.

In this proposal, funding for this investment fund would be partially re-channeled from current European research funding. In a speech to the Parliament, Juncker argued that this would not be an issue as money from EFSI could also be used for research and that this would be “maximizing input”. This claim can be taken with some caution, as the secretary general of LERU noted, there are no earmarked funds, so the funding that is drawn from research can go for any kind of projects in EFSI. Initial overviews show that most of the projects would in fact have a different character.

The plan has been faced with considerable opposition in the university/research sector, where one sector representative called described the proposal as Cutting Horizon to improve the competitiveness of Europe equals cutting off your nose to spite your face’. LERU, the League of European Research Universities also quickly reacted on the proposal, arguing that EFSI was a “vague and highly uncertain project”. They also refer to the frequent attempts to squeeze European research funding: “It should be clear for the EU institutions and the member states that Horizon 2020 is not a lemon which can be squeezed according to the flavour of the day!”. Euroscience, an association for researchers and research professionals, has highlighted how the basic idea is unproductive as the very idea of investing in European research is based on the principle of creating growth. However, despite initial opposition, the plan has moved forward. 

Guest blogger: Just started your PhD? Time to start writing your thesis…

Dr. Siân Lindsay  (University of London)

Dr. Siân Lindsay
(City University of London)

This guest entry is written by Dr. Siân Lindsay who shares some tips on PhD dissertation writing. She works as a lecturer in educational development for the department of Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) at City University London. Siân is module leader on LEaD’s MA in Academic Practice programme, and is co-convenor for the SRHE Newer Researchers network and conference. Siân holds a PhD in Molecular Biology from Royal Holloway University of London and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Siân’s current research focuses exploring and supporting the PhD student experience and her recently published research on thesis writing can be found here

Siân can be found on Twitter @sianylindsay or emailed sian.lindsay.1@city.ac.uk

Back in late 2003, as a first year PhD student, the thought of producing a 100,000 word thesis was unimaginable and overwhelming. I consoled myself by promising that as long as I worked as hard as possible in collecting lots of data to analyse then writing my thesis would be easy. I would only start writing properly once I had all my data together and could take a holistic view of it all. But that was my mistake, because actually I didn’t get all the data I needed until the final few months of my PhD studentship. I’d left much of the thesis writing until the end and was now facing a colossal and highly stressful task ahead of me. Somehow I did manage to write my thesis in less than 6 months and then passed my viva. But, the stress in doing so had a significant impact.

My experience in part propelled me to undertake some research into the PhD student experience of thesis writing. The other factor was motivated by a need to understand why PhD students can take longer than is ideal to complete their PhD.  In the UK, full-time PhD students should complete their doctorate within 4 years (this includes writing and submitting their thesis), whereas part-time students are allowed up to 7 years. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) publishes research degree qualification rates (RDQRs) for HE institutions running PhD programmes to largely demonstrate how well the 4 or 7 year deadlines are being adhered to. Notably, HEFCE positively discriminates institutions with higher rates with better funding opportunities than those with less than ideal rates. It is important to note that RDQRs are adjusted according to the particular nuances of an institution (e.g. its size, locale, number of PhD programmes etc). As an additional impetus – the stress of letting a PhD run on for too long also has really significant implications on the student: mentally, emotionally as well as financially. Based on several discussions with Senior Tutors for Research at my university, I had hypothesised that thesis writing may represent a significant hurdle in slowing down progression of the PhD (or sometimes even stopping it altogether).

I set about testing my hypothesis by interviewing PhD students who were right in the middle of writing their thesis (or had just completed it). I also wanted to know what worked for these students in writing up (and conversely, what to avoid doing) and disseminate their ideas and advice with others.

Guest blogger: Where have all the scientists gone? Building research profiles at Dutch universities and its consequences for research

Grit Laudel  (TU Berlin)

Grit Laudel
(TU Berlin)

This guest entry is written by Grit Laudel (TU Berlin) and Elke Weyer (German Council of Science and Humanities). In their guest entry they examine how research profiles were built at Dutch universities, and analyse the impact of profile-building for both universities and scientific fields and the potential consequences of these developments for national science systems as a whole. 

This entry is based on the book chapter with the same title in: Richard Whitley & Jochen Gläser (eds.). Organisational Transformation and Scientific Change: The Impact of Institutional Restructuring on Universities and Intellectual Innovation.

The book is Vol.42 in the series of “Research in the Sociology of Organizations“.

Elke Weyer

Elke Weyer
(German Council of Science and Humanities)

New Public Management reforms in many countries include enhanced opportunities for universities to build research profiles and pressure by the government to do so. Building research profiles usually means the concentration of resources on fewer topics than before. Despite their prevalence in many higher education systems, these processes have found little attention in higher education research, and their effects are poorly understood. At the same time, concerns have been raised that profile-building might threaten the diversity of research and make some fields disappear from the national research landscape.

Our empirical study of profile-building at Dutch universities looked at micro-level processes of profile-building and their possible nation-level effects. The Netherlands provide an excellent laboratory for such analysis due to advanced New Public Management reforms and the relatively small size of the country, which makes national fields very sensitive to decisions at individual universities.

Call for papers: Workshop on organizing scholarly networks

networkWorking with topics related to academic exchange and research networks? The SRHE supported workshop on “Organizing scholarly networks” will take place on 18th of December 2014 at Department of History and Politics at Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK.

Keynote speakers for the event include Prof Louise Ackers (Salford University) and Dr Heike Jöns (Loughborough University).

The call for papers has been issued and the organisers encourage interdisciplinary contributions from researchers at all career stages.

The organisers have also set some core questions that are of particular interest: When did the idea of international scholarly exchange emerge as a pedagogic concept? What are the nature and long-term consequences of such exchange across borders? Who has benefited from such schemes, and who has been excluded from them? How have these changed over time and what is the relationship between such changes and the organisation of, and policy development associated with, formal exchange programmes?

More information on the workshop theme and focus can be found on the event homepage

To apply to the workshop

Reviewing the effectiveness of peer review process – Scirev

scirevHow efficient is peer review in scientific journals? How long time does it take to get the reviewers’ comments? Were the comments useful? What is the time period you can count with from submitting to publication? How was the review process in general?

We have information about the impact factors of the journals according to various measures and indicators, and one can check up the authors’ impact factor or the influential articles of a journal in Publish or Perish. However, these things give information about the articles that have been published.

At the same time, there is little information about the peer review processes in the various journals and the time it takes. Being a senior researcher, one usually gathers this knowledge over time through experience. However, these are questions that become more and more relevant also for PhD students (and ambitious Master graduates who want to write something from their thesis), as the article-based PhD is gaining prominence in a number of countries. As long as the dissertation is dependent on articles being published, these questions about the review process and the time it takes, can have a significant impact on the candidates writing process and time management.

This far, this kind of information passes between colleagues based on first hand experiences and maybe some good recommendations from others. You might hear that some journals are particularly slow in processing, whereas others are known for their effectiveness, and furthermore, this seems to vary from time to time. As such, the information is rather fragmented and incomprehensive.

To get some more systematic information, the website SciRev might become relevant. The ambition of SciRev is to make the review process more transparent by sharing information about the review process, its quality and the time it has taken – both for articles that have been published and those that have been rejected. By this, they hope to incentivise the journals to be more efficient and to critically examine their editorial and review processes.