Earlier this month, I hosted my very own Skills Development Scotland (SDS) seminar. SDS seminars are recurring knowledge exchange events that bring PhD students on the ESRC/SDS collaborative studentship together with various stakeholders who are interested in their research. These include, but are not limited to PhD students from the same cohort, SDS sponsors, members of the SDS PhD team, and members of the Evaluation and Research (E&R) team. Members from other teams (e.g. Digital Services) can drop in as well, depending on the relevance of the PhD topic to their work.
Each of these parties has an important role to play in supporting the progress of SDS PhD studentships. Fellow PhD students can provide general PhD advice and academic input into the work; SDS sponsors act as a sounding board for ideas, as well as gatekeepers to resources and contacts; and members of the SDS PhD team provide administrative support and help organise events such as the SDS seminars.
Research findings from the collaborative SDS PhD programme are of particular interest to members of the E&R team. They coordinate research activity for SDS, and are well-positioned to articulate its linkages with policy. The team supports the SDS culture of learning and continuous improvement, and recognises the need for high-quality evaluation and research evidence as part of evidence-based practice. Its members often work in partnership with other agencies, as well as the Scottish Government, to deliver on joint projects.
It may come as no surprise that SDS seminars are well-attended and well-liked by PhD students and SDS staff. This is because they offer opportunities for attendees to engage with professionals who work outside of their immediate teams, and who bring varied experiences and unique viewpoints to the discussion. New ideas are proposed, and existing ideas are refined and expanded, all while ensuring that the research being conducted has real-world relevance and impact. The seminars bear some similarity to the type of knowledge exchange that we’re used to in academia, but with a twist: we get to talk about the policy relevance and pragmatic uses of research, and not just the academic merits of the work. In fact, I am convinced that policymakers and industry researchers should be present at more academic events, and vice versa, that researchers should attend more industry events.
In my SDS seminar, I presented my literature review findings from Year 1 of the PhD, and my plans for collecting data in Year 2. First, I introduced the policy context for the PhD, and explained the particulars of the interdisciplinary approach being taken. Then, I ventured into specifics about the research gaps being addressed and the research questions being employed. Finally, I went through the methodology and data collection plans for the research project. This final part was, undoubtedly, the most important part of the presentation, as it related to joint working with SDS. In it, I outlined upcoming data collection milestones, and invited suggestions on ways to coordinate efforts with SDS and work with schools in order to reach young people.
What followed after the presentation was some stimulating conversation about the possibility of developing a career information literacy model, and the peculiarities of online career information (e.g. information personalisation on social media has some drawbacks. Not only does this have implications for the creation of echo chambers and the reinforcement and internalisation of career stereotypes, but it is also difficult to understand the impact of career information since everyone sees something slightly different. It is not like 100 individuals are reading the same brochure; it is more like 100 individuals reading 100 brochures, some of which contain inaccurate or misleading information). Click through below for the seminar slides: