What do the next generation of researchers Want?

June 18, 2014 Terri Teleen

Below, the latest in our series of posts covering this year's Wiley Executive Seminar, Terri Teleen, who chaired "The Next Generation of Researchers" panel, summarizes what we learned is important to young researchers.

Source: Goodshoot / Thinkstock

What do graduate students, young researchers and junior faculty members want, need, and expect – from their communities of learning and practice, and from their experiences of researching and publishing? We assembled a panel at our 2014 Wiley Executive Seminar to try to attack this complicated set of interrelated questions. Our guests were:

  • K. Bo Foreman, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Utah
  • Clare Kim, doctoral candidate, program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Mary-Hunter (Mae) McDonnell, PhD, JD, Assistant Professor of Strategy, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
  • R. Patrick (Pat) Weitzel, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health

Although the panelists represented a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, several key themes emerged quickly in the discussion.

First, for societies and associations, our panel offered a reassuring message: the next generation values many of the benefits societies and research communities have historically provided. Young researchers want to feel that they are a part of a community. They want opportunities to network and to develop relationships with people who share research interests – face-to-face whenever possible. If given the choice and opportunity, our young researchers said they always prefer to meet in person. There was consensus among the panel that virtual conferences have not, thus far, lived up to the hype.

However, the next generation also faces some new challenges, including changes in the way faculty appointments are being made. Our panelists reported that people increasingly enter, or continue in, graduate school understanding that they will need to cast a broad career net, focusing on a range of opportunities beyond the academy. They pointed to an emerging requirement for mentoring programs and career services – things which societies and associations are well positioned to provide but which have not historically been at the core of their services.

Quite by accident, our panelists all hailed from interdisciplinary backgrounds. This struck me as a theme in itself. Is alliance to a single discipline nearing obsolescence in this fast-paced, increasingly global, interconnected environment? Clare Kim thinks it is. With that in mind, she said she would love to see societies forge alliances with one another, so that she and her peers can have access to wider networks without having to choose one community over another. Clare also pointed to a pressing need for more research funding, particularly in the social sciences and humanities. There were many in the audience who clearly felt her pain.

On the publishing side, our panelists suggested that speed of publication is extremely important to them, as is ease of the review process. An audience member asked if they feel speed has an inverse relationship to quality, and the panelists confirmed that in their view, it does not. The panel also suggested that they expect publishing norms, formats, and technologies to keep pace with their evolving expectations. For example, Bo Foreman noted the increasing importance of making video content permanent, rather than treating it as ephemeral.

Our panel agreed unanimously that their research lives happen almost entirely online – save the occasional set of handwritten notes on a printed PDF. Pat Weitzel suggested that like many of his peers, he does not peruse journal Tables of Contents in any format. He relies on aggregation services and keyword alerts to keep on top of the latest developments. Mae McDonnell joked that she does not own enough print material to fill the shelves in the office she earned recently with her first faculty appointment.

Our Executive Seminar panel was just one point of engagement between Wiley and the Next Generation of Researchers. We recognize that the pace of change is ever increasing and believe that to grow and prosper, publishers, societies and editors must remain in conversation with those who will shape and control our organizations in the years to come.

We are grateful to our excellent panelists. Bo, Clare, Mae, and Pat: we appreciated your time, and your interest in engaging with us on these important questions.

Source: Goodshoot / Thinkstock


About the Author

Director, Editorial Operations and Communications // Terri Teleen oversees Wiley's academic journals publishing program in North America in law and social science disciplines including anthropology, criminology, geography, political science, population studies, and sociology. She works out of our Boston office.

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