Professional Science Researcher


The project plan of the Graduate School of the University of Lapland builds upon an educational concept that has been designed from the viewpoints of working as a professional researcher and scientific research turning into an occupation. The training concept provides skills and working methods needed in the duties of a professional researcher.

The way the project outlines researcher education differs from the traditional way. The project is based on the fact that the demand for research knowledge, especially knowledge related to social and human sciences, has expanded beyond the university establishment. Accordingly, future researchers will be working increasingly in the private sector, in business life, or in different types of specialist’s duties. More and more often researchers also receive financing for their work or projects from international and national funds that function on diverse terms, and they must combine varied types of financing systems and assignments. In this type of operating environment one can no longer become a ‘mature’ researcher with the aid of an assistant’s post or dissertation financing. On the other hand, in this type of operating environment, know-how drawn from dissertation research or advanced studies in the field is not enough anymore.

A researcher must not be satisfied with a vision of a completed dissertation or the prospect of an academic post. Therefore, the project’s vision of researcher education combines the aspects of science and occupation. In addition to knowledge about a special field of research, the researcher gains transferable and generic skills that could generally be calledknowledge production, knowledge administration, and specialist skills. The researcher education also emphasizes research-specific social and communicational skills, such as leadership in research projects, networking skills and techniques, academic professionalism and ethical practices, and the requirements of multidisciplinary practice. Therefore, the core of the project is formed by an interdisciplinary group of researchers.

 

The People Involved and the Course of Action

In spring 2004, 11 postgraduate students were selected to take part in the professional researcher project. A predilection for research was one of the central selection criteria. Three researchers were selected from each of the following faculties: Art and Design, Social Sciences, and Education. Two researchers were chosen from the Faculty of Law.

In practice, the training covers approximately 35 credits (60 ECTS credits), to which each semester contributes 5 to 7 credits. The program includes the following:

             - Methodological studies

            - Project planning and scientific leadership

            - Writing, publishing, and different audiences of knowledge

            - Internationalization and multicultural knowledge

            - Research ethics and academic professionalism

            - Epistemologies, different forms of knowledge, and contexts of usage

            - Negotiation skills and presentation

            - Assessment research concept

 

There are many ways to complete each subject entity. The chosen methods are tailored according to the researcher’s study, prior experience, and research profile. However, the bottom line is that each researcher learns 1) methodological skills that transcend the specific skills related to his or her own research, 2) skills related to knowledge, and 3) skills related to research management (financing, etc.). A method that enables international operation is also planned for everyone.

The core method of operation is to work as an interdisciplinary community focused on science and research. In practice it means that all those included in the professional researcher project will take part in a research seminar that functions as a collegial group. The group’s primary task is not to handle ‘papers’ – although it can be done when necessary. Its task is rather to practice the skills gained from the program. For example, when a researcher is about to attend a conference, he or she can first give the speech to the group, which then gives feedback on the presentation and the content. Simultaneously, the participants practice commenting, acting in social situations, etc. under supervision. The essence of the operation is that the group consists of specialists representing different disciplines, and thus different conceptions of knowledge are covered.

The program does not substitute exchange students’ personal arrangements of supervision. All supervisors are committed to the project. The supervisor is responsible for the supervision of the dissertation and the discipline-related content; the professional researcher education complements this with contents necessary to all researchers. The studies are planned individually with each student in such a way that the studies included are rational in terms of the degree and the student’s needs.

 

The Type of Professionalism We Pursue

What type of know-how is required when working as a professional researcher and what are the requirements set by the process of scientific research turning into a career?

 

Our aim is a professional researcher who

- can move from one field of research to another within certain limits

- understands information produced using varied research methods and is able to utilize various materials

- understands different interests related to forms of knowledge, levels of generality and areas of competence,
  and the associated practical research

- is competent as a specialist, is able to function as a specialist in different contexts, and knows the limits of his 
  or her area of expertise

- can operate in joint ventures, masters the requirements of various forms of financing, and knows how to make
  contracts

- is able to manage specialist organizations

- is prepared to function at various interfaces between science and practice

- is prepared for international networking

From the viewpoint of the professional researcher project, to combine scientific thinking with career thinking is one way of responding to criticism on ‘ivory tower researchers’ or to accusations of scientific knowledge having little practical value.
Research that combines the scientific and professional viewpoints surpasses simple comparisons, such as applied research vs. basic research or practical study vs. scientific research. Scientific thinking as a professional approach to knowledge will increase know-how with critical thinking as the core of knowledge. This opens up a possibility to generate practical knowledge and to understand the connection between the forms and applicability of knowledge.

 

Conclusion

The project and its practical method of implementation can also be regarded as a social response to the new challenges posed on scientific research. In practice, it consciously and systematically attempts to create a new kind of scientific researcher’s identity and a new career model for young researchers. It also attempts to set researcher education on a new track. The salient ideas and objectives of the project can be summarized as follows:

 

A scientifically competent professional researcher is an expert on knowledge and knowledge production.

 

A scientifically competent professional researcher can function at innovative interfaces.

 

A professional science researcher is a social innovation of science and research politics.

 

Combining of scientific competence with the skills of a professional researcher is a concrete way to attend to the national and international, third mission of the university.