A conceptual framework for studying science research careers

  • Carolina Cañibano
  • Richard Woolley
  • Eric J. Iversen
  • Sybille Hinze
  • Stefan Hornbostel
  • Jakob Tesch


The emergence of open science and new data practices is changing the way research is done. Opportunities to access data through purpose built platforms and repositories, combined with emerging data and meta-data curation practices are expanding data availability in many fields. This paper presents a conceptual framework for studying scientific research careers, motivated by opportunities to link empirical datasets to construct new analyses that address remaining and emerging knowledge gaps. The research career conceptual framework (RCCF) emerges from a review of relevant theories and empirical findings regarding research careers. The paper reviews existing models and develops a typology of research careers. It also compiles a list of variables drawn from the literature on research careers. Two preliminary demonstrations of linking datasets to address empirical questions are outlined. The final discussion advocates an approach to emerging data opportunities that combines theories and models with empirical research questions as being superior to an approach that produces ad hoc explanations on the basis of ‘data fishing’ exercises.


Research careers Open data RISIS platform 

JEL Classification

I23 O33 Y10 



The authors would like to acknowledge financial support from the European Commission’s project “Research Infrastructure for Research and Innovation Policy Studies” (RISIS, Grant Agreement Number: 313082). The research for this paper was conducted as part of the RISIS work package “Integrating framework and dataset for analysing research careers” (WP24). The authors would also like to thank Monica Gaughan for her advice and support in the development of the work package activities and her comments on this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.



Careers of Doctorate Holders (OECD Project)


European Commission


European Research Area


European Science Foundation


Database on European Framework Programs


The European Tertiary Education Register


Human Resources in Science and Technology


League of European Research Universities


Multinational Enterprise


Member State (of the European Union)


National Science Foundation (USA)


Mapping the Population, Careers, Mobilities and Impacts of Advanced Degree Graduates in the Social Sciences and Humanities (European Project, 7th Framework Program)


Research Career Conceptual Framework


Research Infrastructure for Research and Innovation Policy Studies


Research Performing Organization


Social Sciences and Humanities


Scientific and Technological Human Capital


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INGENIO, CSIC- Universitat Politècnica de Valencia, Ciudad Politécnica de la InnovaciónValenciaSpain
  2. 2.NIFU (Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education)OsloNorway
  3. 3.DZHW (German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies)BerlinGermany

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