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Mapping the population, careers, mobilities and impacts of advanced research degree graduates in the social sciences and humanities

Final Report Summary - POCARIM (Mapping the population, careers, mobilities and impacts of advanced research degree graduates in the social sciences and humanities)

Executive Summary:
In the context of a globalising knowledge-based economy and increasing competition from not only the US but from Asia, as well as demographic and environmental challenges, the European Union has asserted the critical importance of producing and circulating high-level skills within a single European space. In March 2000 the European Council published the ‘Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs’, arguing that Europe must become the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment (European Council, 2000).
The emphasis on skills and innovation in Europe’s future success was renewed in the Europe 2020 strategy (European Commission, 2010b). The Innovation Union element of the 2020 strategy focuses in particular on the central role of researchers and their mobility across disciplinary, sectoral and national borders (European Commission, 2010b). In addition, there has been a turn towards collaborative research which crosses these borders as it aims to address the ‘Grand Challenges’ or the ‘Societal Challenges’ facing Europe.
However, in policy and in practice the role of the social sciences and the humanities (SSH) is often downplayed in favour of subjects in the physical sciences, technology and engineering which can have more immediate and easily quantifiable impacts. Moreover, in the wake of the recent financial crisis cuts in funding have tended to affect SSH subjects more severely. In devising policy approaches which contribute to the achievement of European goals, therefore, it is necessary to understand more fully the ways in which SSH fields are organised and can contribute to Europe’s challenges, as well as the complex career paths and working practices of SSH researchers.
In order to contribute to the understanding of SSH research and research careers teams of researchers from 13 countries came together between 2011 and 2014 to collaborate on the project ‘Mapping the Population, Careers, Mobilities and Impacts of Advanced Research Degree Graduates in the Social Sciences and Humanities’ (POCARIM). Across the 13 countries we reviewed existing statistical population data, research literature and policy, and carried out a large-scale survey and hundreds of interviews with PhD holders in SSH fields working in a range of sectors and organisations in a variety of roles.

Project Context and Objectives:
Across national settings there is an increasing expectation that higher education, and postgraduate research training in particular, is an investment that should have clear social and economic returns. This expectation is reflected in the strategies of policy makers, in Europe and beyond, who have sought to link researcher training in various ways to other sectors, especially industry and business. Of particular note is the emphasis on investing in and exploiting research in the sciences, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), resulting in a paradigm of impact that arguably underplays the contribution of the social sciences and humanities (SSH). At the same time, there is a consensus that various types of mobility – disciplinary, sectoral and geographical – can play an important role in the dissemination and creation of knowledge and innovation.

In practice, European policy makers at national and regional scales have sought to promote the mobility of researchers in these several ways through, for example, the pursuit of a number of freedoms, including the movement of persons and of knowledge. Schemes such as the Marie Curie Actions and Erasmus have funded mobility of researchers and students within the European Union and beyond; whilst the Bologna Process has initiated a harmonisation of higher education systems in order to makes such mobility increasingly possible. The ultimate goal of these strategies is to contribute to the creating of a common European Research Area and Higher Education Area to meet the demand of the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs for the “most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”.

In the context of these developments, the POCARIM study explores the practices and experiences of doctoral graduates in the social science and humanities. The target population were awarded their doctoral degrees between 2000 and 2012 in one of 13 countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK), and is conducted collaboratively between researchers from those same countries. Its core aims are to understand the SSH doctoral populations and their production in the POCARIM countries; to identify their mobilities across disciplines, sectors and borders; and to identify and understand the types of impacts that are generated, as well as how and according to what timeframes these impacts are felt.

The project was divided into a number of Work Packages, led by different national teams, each one dedicated to exploring and understanding a particular dimension of the project. Work Package 1 reviewed existing research on relevant themes at the relevant geographical scales and contexts; Work Package 2 is reviewed relevant policy, again on national and European levels; Work Package 3 reviewed available data sources that contribute to the mapping of the SSH doctoral graduate population; Work Package 4 surveyed the experiences and practices of a sample of the SSH doctoral population; and Work Package 5 consisted of a qualitative interviews with 25 respondents to the survey in each POCARIM country, 325 in total. The results of each Work Package have been analysed and synthesised in the Final Report to the European Commission.

Project Results:
In this Final Report we present the key findings and recommendations emerging from POCARIM. First we address the nature of SSH careers and movements between labour market sectors. Our research revealed that career aspirations amongst the SSH PhD population remain very much oriented towards academic and research careers. In fact, the doctoral training process appears to reinforce this tendency, with many who had not initially considered an academic career changing their minds during their studies.

Secondly, we look at the impacts of SSH PhD graduates’ work, both on their environments and on their own careers. We found a wide range of impacts coming from the work of the POCARIM population. Participants reported impacts which affected many different stakeholders at multiple scales and with a variety of timeframes. However, there was a clear perception that conventional ways of capturing and evaluating impacts did not take this complexity into account.

We looked, thirdly, at the nature and role of networking in SSH work and careers. Our research extends and reinforces an understanding of professional networks as crucial to the career development of researchers. Networks allow access to opportunities and to impact, and are especially important in early career phases. Therefore it is important to provide funding for researchers starting out in their careers to build appropriate networks.

Fourthly, we present our findings on the degree, nature and outcomes of cross-disciplinary activity in the POCARIM population. We report that interdisciplinary activity is a feature of the work of the vast majority of our participants. However, interdisciplinarity tends to occur between fields that are relatively closely related, whilst it was less common to find collaborations between, for example, SSH subjects and the natural sciences. Interdisciplinarity was perceived positively in terms of its intellectual rewards and its potential for impact. At the same time, there was concern that professional reward systems remain strongly defined by disciplines, and that deviating from conventional disciplinary identities could adversely affect career mobility.

The fifth theme we present looks at the degree, nature and impact of international mobility and other cross-border activities. There was a high degree of impact reported across the population, much of it of short to medium duration. International activity was a core part of the work of a large number of the participants, and it was recognised across the board as an important element of a successful career and of achieving impact. However, international activity, and in particular mobility, was for some participants difficult or impossible due to lack of time or funding, or because of family commitments.

The sixth theme looks at our findings with regard to partnering, parenting and other caring responsibilities. We found that certain aspects of academic and research work, for example excessive working hours and an expectation of mobility, had a discriminatory impact on participants with family responsibilities. These were particularly problematic for women, upon whom domestic and caring duties tend to fall disproportionately. The tensions between family and career were felt most severely at crucial points in early career, when a number of female participants reported the need to postpone or forego parenthood in order to pursue their careers. Others had downgraded or adjusted their career goals in order to accommodate family demands. In contrast, for men partners and families tended to provide a supportive structure.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that many of the POCARIM findings, regarding for example career paths and mobilities, were both country and discipline specific. In addition, the interrelationships between the themes presented here generate complex pictures of, for example, the nature of impact and the ways it relates to cross-border, cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary activity across the career path.

Ultimately, POCARIM found SSH researchers to be creative, enthusiastic and engaged in a wide range of activities resulting in meaningful impacts across a host of issues. The contribution of SSH research to the social and economic challenges facing Europe emerges clearly from POCARIM. Our recommendations will serve to address some of the issues we identified which affect not only the career paths and job satisfaction of SSH researchers, but also the degrees and kinds of impact they have through their activities.

Potential Impact:
The results of POCARIM have been disseminated widely at a range of events across the 13 national contexts of the POCARIM research team and beyond. Target audiences of POCARIM outputs have included academics (conference and journal outputs), policymakers, researcher development professionals, and early career researchers and doctoral candidates. the main dissemination activiteis are itemised below:

Policy and practitioner audiences
Professor Ackers was a member of the Expert Group which reported to the European Commission on the European Research Area: (2013) Report of the Expert Group on: Recommendations on the Implementation of the ERA Communication by Member States and by the European Commission.
Ackers, H.L. (2013) New concepts of researcher mobility, presentation at Developing Research Careers in and beyond Europe, European Science Foundation Workshop, Oslo, 21 to 23 May.
Ackers, H.L. and Coey, C. (2013) Accessing Doctoral Training, in Doctoral Education Bulletin, Autumn 2013
Reale E. (2013) National projects on SSH. Final Report of the project METRIS-Monitoring European Trends in Social Sciences and Humanities, CNR, Consultation on the role of SSH in Horizon 2020, Rome, 7 June 2013

Academic audiences
Ackers, H.L. (2013) Mobility, co-presence and purpose: contextualising internationalisation in research careers, in Sociology and Technoscience, Vol 2, No 3, Special Issue ‘Women in Movement’
Ackers, H.L. (2013) From ‘partial migrations’ to mundane transnationalism: socio-legal (re)conceptualisations of contemporary intra-EU migration. Paper presented at the conference Challenges of the International Mobility of the Highly Skilled in the XXI Century: Women in Movement, Barcelona, 7th-8th February.
Ackers, H.L. (2013) From ‘partial migrations’ to mundane transnationalism: socio-legal (re)conceptualisations of contemporary intra-EU migration, in FMW – Online Journal on Free Movement of Workers within the European Union, pp. 7-20. Available here
Ackers, H.L. (2013) What is ‘Impact’? Conceptualising and capturing impact in the Social Science and Humanities. Paper presented at the 26th CHER Annual Conference, Lausanne, 9th-11th September
Ackers, H.L. (2014) Internationalisation and Equality in Academia; Mobility, Networking and Open Recruitment. Paper presented at Academic Mobility – Challenges for Internationalisation. ZIS, Mainz University. June 26-28.
Ackers, H.L. (2014) Internationalisation and Gender Equality in Academia; Mobility, Networking and Open Recruitment. Paper presented at Centre of Excellence and Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Norrköping, Sweden, April 9.
Ackers, H.L. (2014) Factors shaping the progression of women in science with a focus on mobility. Paper presented at Career Development and Gender Meeting: The European Perspective, Rome, 12th-14th February.
Bacova, Dagmara (2013). Where are career paths of PhD. graduates going? Paper presented at the conference PhD. existence III. Czech & Slovak Psychological conference (not only) for postgraduates and about postgraduates. Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, May 20th-21st, 2013
Coey, C. (2013) Beyond the academy: identifying the impacts of SSH doctorate holders outside academic careers. Paper presented at the 26th CHER Annual Conference, Lausanne, 9th-11th September
Coey, C. (2014) International mobility and knowledge in social science and humanities research. Paper to the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, UK, Session ‘Transnational Education and Careers in Glocal Knowledge Economies II’, 29th August.
Coey, C. (2014) Making Doctoral Mobility Work in and Beyond the Doctoral Phase: Lessons from Experience. Paper presented at 7th Annual Meeting of the EUA Council for Doctoral Education, Liverpool, 19-20 June.
Coey, C. (2014) Researchers and research careers crossing borders: onwards and upwards? Paper presented at Graduate School event at the University of Liverpool, 12th May.
Coey (2015) Becoming an independent researcher: Reflections on the career transitions of social science and humanities doctorate holders across Europe. Paper presented at Transition to research independence across the European Research Area: How do variations in national policies, incentives and funding mechanisms influence the success of young researchers? Sci-Generation Workshop, Ljubljana, 12th March.
Csonka, L., A. Inzelt (2014) “PhD careers in an international environment – Different chances of SSH graduates in smaller European economies” Working paper presented at the follow-up workshop of the 27th CHER Annual Conference organized by CERIS-CNR, 11th September
Inzelt, A. and Csonka, Laszlo (2013) Usefulness of SSH PhD graduation in Hungary. Paper presented at the Triple Helix XI Conference, London, 7th-10th July
Inzelt, A., L. Csonka (2014) “The Careers and Impact of Doctoral Degrees in the Social Sciences and Humanities” Paper presented at the 27th CHER Annual Conference, Rome, 8th-10th September
Inzelt, A., L. Csonka (2014) “Doctorate Careers and Usefulness of SSH PhD Graduation” Paper presented at the 5th Productivity, investment in human capital and the challenge of youth employment conference, Bergamo, 26th-27th September.
Jöns, H. (2014) Geographies of transnational career (Im)mobility in segmented European labour markets. Paper to the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, UK, Session ‘Transnational Education and Careers in Glocal Knowledge Economies II’, 29 August.
Jöns, H. (2014) Transnational career (im)mobility and labour market segmentation from the perspective of European PhD graduates. Human Geography Seminars, Spring 2014, Loughborough University, UK, 21st May.
Jöns, H. and Deakin, H. (2014) Transnational career (im)mobility among PhD graduates from German and other European universities. Paper to the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Tampa, Florida, USA, Session ‘Rethinking skilled migration 1: international student migration 10th April.
Millard, D. and C. Coey (2014) Disciplinary, sectoral and national border crossings in the careers of social science and humanities researchers: findings from a European project. Paper presented at Vitae Researcher Development International Conference, Manchester , September 8th.
Perista, H. and Perista, P. (2013) Inside and outside academia: How do views on impact change upon institutional belonging? Paper presented at the 26th CHER Annual Conference, Lausanne, 9th-11th September
Reale, E. and Marini, G. (2013) PhD doctorates in social science and in humanities: how mobility and academic quality shape impact. Paper presented at the 26th CHER Annual Conference, Lausanne, 9th-11th September
Vinck, D. (2013) Working outside the academy with a SSH PhD. Paper presented at the 26th CHER Annual Conference, Lausanne, 9th-11th September

Combined policy/academic outputs
Ackers, H.L. (2013) Mobilities, Gender and Time: A Case Study of Researcher Careers in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Paper presented at the Conference on the Critical Analysis of Migration, Labour Markets and Gender, Peripherie (Institute of Practical Gender Research), October 30th, Graz, Austria
National dissemination workshop in Budapest, at IKU Innovation Research Centre on 25th June 2014 (in Hungarian):
Inzelt, A.: A PhD fokozat hatása az egyéni karrierre és a társadalomra (The impact of PhD degree on personal career and on society)
Csonka, L.: Nemzetközi tükör a magyar doktoráltak helyzetéről – Társadalom- és humántudományok (The situation of Hungarian PhD degree holders in an international comparison – The case of social sciences and humanities)

Joint activities
Several members of the POCARIM team presented their findings at the RGS-IBG (Royal Geographical Society - Institute of British Geographers) conference in London in August 2014 (see above).
Several members of the POCARIM team presented some of their findings at the 26th annual conference of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (CHER) which took place in Lausanne on 9-11 September 2013 (see above for full list).

List of Websites: