Professional development: how to become a global researcher

Join our live chat, Friday 7 September, to assess the success of researcher mobility initiatives and explore the skills needed to thrive in a global research environment

“British business offers its future leaders overseas experience, so why is the British PhD still such a stay-at-home affair?” This was the question at the heart of Tanya Filler’s blog for the Network earlier this year.

In her article, the doctoral researcher argues that time spent in research communities around the world is not only important for the individual (and especially the PhD candidate) but also for the quality of research output at an institution, which in turn has an impact on reputation. She says: “The PhD candidate, compared to others in the British higher-education landscape, is most at sea in terms of international opportunity … PhDs are supposed to push boundaries of knowledge, not encourage acquiescence; however free-thinking an institution may be, it is surely harder to think anew when fixed in one place, among one group of people”.

And Tanya is not the only espousing the benefits of global exposure. In 2010, the representative organisation for British HE, Universities UK, produced a report in which it makes the case for a more determined focus on global research: “The UK no longer sits at a unique hub between a global network in the Commonwealth, a link to European partners and a particular friend of the USA. The countries which will dominate the future global research base have altered the regional balance. Understanding their research culture and using their research language has a new priority”.

The following year Vitae which champions researcher development, developed the ‘global researcher project’ with Universities of Manchester, Southampton and Liverpool and at their annual conference which took place at the start of this week, facilitating researcher mobility was covered in a workshop.

But as some of the comments on Tanya’s blog indicate, there are disparities of opportunity between the humanities and the sciences (one commenter, ThePaladin writes: ” This is purely a failing of the humanities. Doctoral centres in science frequently have large scale cross university and institutional collaboration”); as well as a need to recognise the skills developed just by being part of an international institution in your home country – DrzBa says: “British HE – you may kick it, you may hate it, but, by God, it brings in the best and the brightest from around the world to their, and our, benefit”.

So what support and development do researchers need to become truly global – whether they stay in their countries of origin or are based overseas? How can they develop the international economic, political, social and cultural understanding that will improve them as researchers?

Join our live chat panel Friday 7 September at 12 BST, to share your experiences and explore the challenges and benefits of becoming a global researcher.

If you would like to be on the panel, please send me an email

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Eliza Anyangwe

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