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.
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The US National Science Foundation conducts nowadays four different surveys tracing careers of doctorate graduates: The Survey of Doctorate Recipients, the Survey of Earned Doctorates, the Early career doctorates and the Survey of Postdocs at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (NSF: https://www.nsf.gov).
Information regarding the UNESCO-OECD-EUROSTAT CDH project may be found at: http://www.oecd.org/innovation/inno/oecdunescoinstituteforstatisticseurostatcareersofdoctorateholderscdhproject.htm.
POCARIM was a 7th Framework Programme project of the European Commission. It focused on mapping the population, careers, mobilities and impacts of advanced research degree graduates in the social sciences and humanities. More information may be found at: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/101868_en.html.
Of course, there are also models or maps of career stages that are implicit to much of the empirical work on research careers, usually based on sequences of jobs and promotions.
This is similar to Bourdieu’s conception of the ‘stakes of the game’ (Bourdieu 1975) that structure scientific fields.
An example of ‘aggregation’ of two RISIS datasets is provided by Lepori et al. (2015) who link ETER and EUPRO (Database on European Framework Programmes) to address the link between the characteristics of higher education institutions and their participation in European Framework Programmes.
Developing a new model of career stages and defining these could also be facilitated by the RCCF, whether this proceeds from a conceptual or an empirical starting point.
See for example http://www.vitae.ac.uk.
The degree to which mixed and hybrid research careers are prevalent in any national research system is itself an empirical question that requires attention.
Of course, the RCCF does not try to prescribe a rational choice model of maximizing or satisficing on the decision-frame calculation (though this may be a relevant heuristic in some cases). It is perfectly possible that career defining choices are made without foregrounding the possible benefits and costs, or even without particularly well-informed consideration. Some careers ‘choices’ can also be colloquially described as ‘pushing on the only open door’.
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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.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Careers of Doctorate Holders (OECD Project)
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
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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Cañibano, C., Woolley, R., Iversen, E.J. et al. A conceptual framework for studying science research careers. J Technol Transf 44, 1964–1992 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-018-9659-3
- Research careers
- Open data
- RISIS platform