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PHD-DESIGN  June 2012

PHD-DESIGN June 2012

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Subject:

Re: Responsibility and PhD Supervision

From:

Tim Smithers <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 22 Jun 2012 11:05:37 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (111 lines)

Dear Terry,

I appreciate your second post to James.

I put my self with you, on the side that says PhDing
is going badly; even, very badly, as you put it.  

This is not to say that there are no good PhDs being 
done, there are! It is to say that there is far too 
much poor to bad PhDing. So much that it is, I think, 
damaging our capacity for good quality research, with 
some research fields more affected than others, and 
design research being in the more affected group.

I would further agree with you that restoring enough 
good quality PhDing will need significant change. And
I would agree that, at least in large part, this will 
need more and better critical self-evaluation of the 
quality of the research we do.

Where we might be in less agreement--I wonder?--is in
how this 'more and better self-evaluation and knowing
of the quality of what we do' is to be promoted and
made to happen. I am not in favour of prescribed 
solutions, nor top-down assessment systems, such as 
the UK RAE, now called REF. These tend to encourage
a lot of what a friend of mine calls Applied Game 
Theory activity, not better research. (And they take
a lot of researcher's time away fro doing research.)

The way I see it is that researchers, individually
or, more typically, collectively, who are doing good 
quality research know that they are doing good stuff, 
AND, they can tell you how and why they know this. 
It's this ability to tell anybody who asks how and 
why they know that they are doing good research that
marks the difference, and, I would say, a significant
difference. 

This puts the onus to know the quality of the research 
on the researchers doing it, and it leaves it up to 
the researchers to decide how to do this, which leaves
room for people to try different things and do it in 
different ways. If it convinces their colleagues, 
peers, funding sources, and clients, then it's good 
enough. If it doesn't, they need to improve how they 
assess and evaluate their research, and this will 
probably lead them to do better research too.

This may sound easy to do, at least to those who don't
do it, but of course it's not: it's one of the hardest
parts of doing good research. But I do like giving the
responsibility to work out how to do this to the 
researchers, and not to other external organisations.

Best regards,

Tim

==============

On Jun 22, 2012, at 04:53 , Terence Love wrote:

> Dear James,
> 
> Thanks  to Tim for his  guidance and sensitivity and comments. I appreciate
> it. . My apologies to you if my email was hasty and unfair. I agree, it
> pointed to the negatives rather than the benefits of having completed a PhD.
> Not as supportive as it could have been!
> 
> It is a wonderful  idea to go  out into the chaotic world and bring home
> nuggets of useful well-tested findings to help everyone make better lives
> and improve the planet. Undertaking a PhD and doing research contributes to
> this great task.
> 
> In spite of the wonderfulness of this in general , I feel more than a little
> concern about how PhD activities positively contribute to this task. 
> 
> There seems to be two ways of thinking about PhDs. One assumes that in
> general PhD education is going well with guaranteed positive outcomes. The
> other suggests PhD education is going very badly,  often with negative
> outcomes, is undergoing radical change and could get worse, especially if it
> is presumed to be going well.
> 
> For those assuming PhD education is going well, the tone of advice for its
> improvement involves minor tweaking , e.g. in candidate preparation and the
> supervision experience.
> 
> For those assuming PhD education is going badly,  then the way forward is
> the difficult task  involving deliberate care to avoid assumptions and
> careful critical review of all aspects of PhD processes; the dynamics of the
> factors acting on them, and the  outcomes during and post- PhD award. It is
> expected that improvement  must necessarily involve significant change. This
> likely will involve changes for researchers  understanding of 'the quality
> of what they do'. 
> 
> I tend to follow and draw attention to this second way of thinking about
> PhDs;  advocate a critical line and expect significant change is needed to
> improve things
> 
> My apologies again if drawing your attention to this second way of thinking
> about PhDs in my previous email was too hasty or unfair. 
> 
> Best wishes and good luck,
> Terry
> 
> ===
> Tim wrote: 
> <snip>Dear James... Thanks for your post! ...Terry is, I think, too hasty
> and unfair to come straight back at you about there being dangers and
> hazards ahead. <end>

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