Digital Education seminar: ‘PhD shaped jobs’ and non-academic employer
‘PhD shaped jobs’ and non-academic employers: using digital social research methods to understand PhD employability
Inger Mewburn, Director of Research Training at The Australian National University
Friday December 2nd 2016
12 noon-2pm (please bring your lunch)
Venue: Room G21 Paterson's Land, Holyrood campus
Conventionally the PhD has been positioned as training at the beginning of an academic career, but this original purpose is now under question in many countries. In Australia it is now more common for PhD graduates to leave academia than to stay. Policy-makers are putting pressure on universities to re-think PhD curricula to make them more ‘industry relevant’, however there is a paucity of data to guide this transition. Data about what non-academic employers want from PhD graduates is mostly anecdotal. This study aims to fill this gap by examining job advertisements – aspirational statements about the ‘ideal candidate’ the company is wishing to hire – to see which industry sectors have demand for highly trained researchers.
This research builds on an exploratory study of job advertisements for academic roles which showed that a content analysis of job advertisement was a fruitful approach for supporting curriculum development. We obtained a large data set (+27,000 job ads) from a major internet job site (seek.com), but determining which job advertisements to analyse was a difficult problem to solve. Many of the highly knowledge intensive jobs are hidden because most Australian employers do not have good exposure to PhD programs or knowledge of what PhD graduates can do. As a consequence, Australian employers do not routinely add ‘PhD’ as a qualification on their job ad postings. We turned to natural language processing to help us ‘read’ this large data set and find the smaller set of ‘phd shaped’ jobs that required high levels of research training. This presentation will report on initial results of the machine experiments and further research directions.
About the speaker: Associate Professor Inger Mewburn is a researcher, specialising in research education since 2006. She is currently the Director of Research Training at The Australian National University where she is responsible for co-ordinating, communicating and measuring all the centrally-run research training activities, also doing research on student experience to inform practice.