Hello Gopi and Ken,
Thank-you for this article, Gopi. It points to important changing trends.When I was looking into doing a Ph.D. back in 1999 the opposite was true. Universities were searching for new Ph.D.s in light of changing demographics - many retiring professors and few good Ph.D. candidates, especially in the art and design sectors, while in industry there was a recession and also no/little interest in people with Ph.D.s. So I guess I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, as I was working to become a professor while also a professional in the field. I was hired at my university as a professional and then I shifted my professor track when I had earned my Ph.D. For several years even I did not really know which "side" I was on, professional or research professor! Then I realized I was on the side of research and moving the discipline forward, and not a professional trying to do research while teaching. This was my choice.
Things have changed dramatically in the past ten years and much of what Ken says is the reality of the situation. Employers want people who can do research, and this even in design sectors, certainly in North America.
However, as I read this post and the concept of beyond academia, I wonder about the purpose of the Ph.D. and also about "good research" versus "bad research".This requires defining what "research" is, and from what perspective. The problem I see is confusion - about research for industry, research for a Ph.D. and research for academia, let alone researching for practice....not "good" and "bad" per se, but certainly appropriate or inappropriate. (Poldma, 2013).
However, one thing I also see as a real trend, even at universities, is the push towards relevance in industry and business for academic research.I am at , what would be considered here in North America, a "Research One" university, and there is a lot of pressure increasingly to "make the research relevant to business", and this, in particular, by the large local provincial and also the federal government granting agencies who fund major research projects. We have grants for fundamental research and grants for various types of initiatives and while the "fundamental" granting projects are decreasing or under fire, the strategic initiatives and industry-related initiatives are increasing and this just in the past 3-5 years.
I am on a large research funded project here ( Living Lab - Strategic Initiative Project funded by FRQ-S, a Quebec government granting agency; Poldma, 2013) and the funding agency requirements are as Ken suggests here. Requirements include demonstrating evaluation methods and research methods grounded in outcomes and results, no matter what the discipline or domain of research. This must be done combining evaluation and baseline data collection, both methods I was not so familiar while working on my Ph.D. However, I acquired them in part, because along the way in my Ph.D., I learned both about all forms of research and also about how to situate them from epistemological and ontological perspectives theoretically. I made choices that allowed me to earn my Ph.D. However, the knowledge I gained in learning about the diverse approaches allowed me to venture into new forms and methods, and learning to apply them when required. My Ph.D. experience gave me these tools. For example, while I do not usually use statistics in my own research, I do produce them when required for the research project, because I know how. I may not consider statistics to be the be-all and end-all of research for my purposes, but they do have their place and are used extensively.
Finally, although standards for hiring may be "higher" outside the university they are increasingly becoming "higher" inside as well. I am part of a professional faculty and we used to hire all kinds of backgrounds with and without Ph.D.s This is no longer the case. The Ph.D. is a minimum for hiring these days at our faculty and university.
ReferencePoldma, T (2013; Ed.) Meanings of Designed Spaces. New York: Fairchild Publications, a Bloomsbury Imprint.
23.3.13 Ken wrote:
> Gopiís post points to an important and growing trend, the uses and value of a PhD in careers outside the academy. While this is once again becoming important, this issue has been on the agenda several times since the 1970s.
> One issue to raise here is that the standards for employment as a researcher outside the university are often higher than university standards, at least higher than those for any position other than a post in a strong research field at an elite research university.
> Employers outside the university who hire people with a PhD need people who can really do research. They are not interested in debating whether drawing is research. They donít want to redefine research to say that practice is really a form of research. Non-university employers donít want researchers who publish in dodgy journals to create publishing statistics for government exercises, and they only send researchers to conferences that will further the organizational research agenda. Few design conferences attract researchers from the non-university sector, and those that do are not involved in practice as research.
> Universities can afford to keep people on staff with deficient PhD degrees and poor research productivity because universities can use these people as teachers and program managers. Industry, business, research-based companies, public service organizations, and government cannot afford to hire staff with deficient PhD degrees. If someone hired to do research cannot do research, they become an immediate drag on the organization. They waste funds and cripple research teams. The competition for non-academic research jobs is high, and organizations choose carefully when hiring.
> Universities sometimes hire a second-rate or third-rate choice rather than launch another search. Non-academic organizations that need research do not. They hire first-rate candidates or they donít fill the job. If they make a mistake in hiring, they fire swiftly. Both conditions also apply at first-rate research universities that develop and increase their research capacity.
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