Adventures in Researcher Development 2.0

Next-gen PhDs fail to find Web 2.0’s ‘on switch’” – THES, November 2009

A THES feature article in November 2009 suggested that new-generation PhDs are slow to grasp the opportunities associated with Web 2.0 technologies.  Since the launch of the Research Information Network’s ‘Researchers of Tomorrow’ Project (http://tiny.cc/oXQsm) researchers are mapping how so-called ‘Generation Y’ students use web 2.0 technologies and the interim results suggest that few are making effective use of these in their work.  So how can those in the field of researcher development help bring about a change?

I set up this PGR Doc Blog last autumn in a bid to create a space to blog about and promote researcher skills training opportunities for Humanities PGRs at the University of Manchester.  My blog flags up items of interest and links to other sites which are of potential use to those doing their research here, distilling the information and helping PGRs to save valuable time hunting for these opportunities themselves.  Almost six months on (and almost ten months since we launched our twitter page) I wanted to reflect on how Web 2.0 technology is helping our team develop appropriate resources for early career researchers in our Faculty (see also the Research Staff blog: http://tiny.cc/V4eY7)

I have found writing the blog to be an extremely rewarding experience and, at times, it has yielded some satisfying results.  Inspired by the PG Careers Blog, established by my colleague Elizabeth Wilkinson, which has reached an incredible 40,000 hits in just two years (http://tiny.cc/qiKTo) this was an opportunity not to be missed!  So far I’ve blogged about the training sessions run by the Faculty, as well as promoting University initiatives and even completed a couple of posts about the benefits of blogging for PGRs (http://tiny.cc/FZgw8 and http://tiny.cc/Zx6aT).  Already I have had several long-distance PGRs tell me how useful this is for those unable to access resources on their doorstep.  For things such as University policies and procedures, I am also told that it is useful have these links all in one place.  Recently, Tristram Hooley of Vitae gave my blog a heads up in his blog about adventures in career development (http://tiny.cc/rCIgT) which saw my blog gain more than 30 hits in one day! Now that my blog is established I am concentrating on promoting it more.  Don’t get me wrong, it takes time for a blog to become well-established but the results so far are encouraging.

But I couldn’t have done this without Twitter.  Since the twitter craze hit our team back in the summer (http://tiny.cc/W1ta4) it’s now possible for me and my colleagues to follow several people and organisations who provide us with regular and interesting updates in researcher development.  These are opportunities which can be re-tweeted to our followers, blogged about and even our own blog posts are announced on there too.  Twitter has been so influential that I actually wrote a blog post about it in a bid to get more PGRs on board.  My opinion on Web 2.0?  I love the immediacy of it.  It may be slow to catch on for research but soon people will be wondering how they survived without it.

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