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Development of research management training for doctoral research students

Final Report Summary - REMAT (Development of research management training for doctoral research students)

REMAT is a compact form of research management training for PhD students and early-career researchers. Developed as a Specific Support Action (SSA) with Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) funding during 2007-2008, the project addresses the need for complementary skills training in doctoral education and its take-up in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Since the SSA was funded as part of the Life Sciences Priority in FP6, the target group comprised young scientists studying for research degrees in the biosciences.

REMAT was conceived and developed by a partnership comprising the Brussels Office of the Hermann von Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Science Enterprise Centre at Oxford University's Sa?d Business School and TuTech Innovation GmbH, the knowledge transfer arm of Hamburg University of Technology. The content of REMAT has been developed through consultation with focus groups comprising experienced and early-stage researchers, senior industrial research managers, entrepreneurs and PhD programme directors. The workshops have been piloted at various locations in Europe, with both participants and external observers providing feedback. Overall, 126 participants representing 27 nationalities from 58 institutions took part.

The core of the REMAT project was the development and execution of pilot workshops. Before piloting the workshops, the concept was discussed with a focus group. Another focus group was asked to review the experiences after the four workshops had been held. In addition, the project team regularly sought the advice of persons who are strongly engaged in PhD education in higher-education institutions. These persons formed the informal advisory board, which consisted of heads of graduate schools and leading representatives of university and student associations from different European countries. The advisory board provided the project team with insights on the needs of research institutions and supervisors as well as PhD candidates in doctoral education.

The overarching objectives of REMAT are to expand the availability and access to high-quality complementary skills training, provide a model for delivering research management training and establish complementary skills training as an integral part of doctoral education throughout Europe. The two-year REMAT project has been able to make considerable progress towards realising these objectives, but there is obviously still quite a way to go before research management training and other forms of complementary skills training will be readily available to doctoral students everywhere.

The need and the educational concept underlying REMAT have been proven, but obstacles remain to establishing complementary skills training as a standard component of doctoral education. Some of these have to do with divergent cultural attitudes that affect conceptions of doctoral education in general and thus the take-up of complementary training in research and knowledge management in doctoral curricula. Many other obstacles can be ultimately traced to financial constraints that limit the priorities and activities of universities and doctoral programme directors. In both cases, it might be possible to counteract these obstacles by encouraging the exchange and analysis of best practice as well as facilitating the development of new concepts that identify the specific strengths and competences of educational institutions and take into account local circumstances.

As a step in this direction, the REMAT partners plan to continue REMAT after the end of the project in December 2008. It will be offered as an in-house course on a cost covering basis at the request of research institutions, universities or graduate schools. Host organisations are expected to provide facilities for conducting the workshop. The delivery can be tailored and adapted to meet specific requests and circumstances. The project team will also offer 'train-the-trainer' workshops to assist institutions in creating their own research management training courses based on the REMAT model.